THE WICKED WOODS
(Condensed Goodreads review available here: https://www.goodreads.com/review/show/562519975)
I hope you didn’t think Celaena would bring me down now, eh?
This book has been written by an author I’ve heard… things about, but we won’t go in to that now. No, today we’re just going to read one of her many works, which attracted me with its cover of a blurry girl in a turquoise dress standing near some blurry trees.
Ah, back to familiar ground. Our heroine’s name is ‘Briony Patterson’, and it’s dark. Very dark. So dark I’m getting Allstar Batman and Robin repetition flashbacks with all the ways the author is describing the darkness.
Briony is staying with her aunt after her family randomly vanished, as families so often do in these stories. Some nice exposition ensues, wherein we learn that the aunt’s husband vanished along with Briony’s parents and younger brother (if this brother comes back as a ghost who wants to be a teenager, I’m going to release the hounds), and if Aunt Sophie hadn’t taken her in, she’d be homeless.
Social services are?
Anyway, she’s apprehensive about starting a new school the next day, and then the doorbell rings. A couple dressed as 1940s Hollywood stars have come by to see if there’s any room at the inn, but they’re vampires so Aunt Sophie tells them to get da fuk out.
Briony is somewhat surprised to learn that vampires exist, but Aunt Sophie is like ‘yeah, life’s been easier since I became an ordained minister over the internet so I could make holy water’ and sends her to bed.
I think I love this book already. Though I’m not sure why this had to be a prologue…
Briony thinks about the fact that vampires exist for a bit, but then is distracted by the much more important subject of what she’s wearing for her first day at school. Rather than asking her aunt how best to protect herself against vampires, she just goes for all the traditional garlic-and-cross methods which make people at school think she’s a freak.
Anyway, lunchtime drama ensues, with lots of stereotypical cliques making Briony wonder where she should sit. Back in her old school, she was one of the popular girls—
Shit, this is Ever, isn’t it? So The Wicked Woods is a Twilight knockoff knockoff?
A girl named Pepper Freeman pops up to tell Ever—uh, Briony, that she’s the mean-girl cheerleader of the book who’ll be tormenting her for no reason, and then more people are mean to her for the rest of the day. Oh the humanity!
Aunt Sophie takes Briony to a diner, where she meets a man called George, who has hair so short, he ‘must have been in the military’. I remember the year my dear brother got a really short haircut, and was instantly shipped off to Afghanistan, despite his pleas for mercy. Good times.
Intense eating action ensues, with a side of boring conversation. The adults console Briony regarding her bad first day (those darn vampires scared her—they’re such a nuisance!) and Aunt Sophie says someone picked on her on her first day of school, and then they got married. I suppose that means she expects Briony to marry Pepper.
It could happen!
(Haha, this is bad YA, of course it won’t).
Things get serious when George pulls down one of the antlers of his decorative moose-head, revealing a secret room filled with vampire-fighting weapons. This is of course given all the significance that him serving their burgers was.
They then give her a crucifix and reveal she is now to become a vampire slayer.
*Insert Theme Song*
Apparently, the town of ‘Wicked’, has been around since the Mayflower landed; bringing with it a cache of musical theatre devotees. Since vampires and other supernatural creatures are history nerds, they all come to Wicked for their all-you-can-eat buffet, and people are just too dumb to notice anything weird.
Briony is confused, because her aunt doesn’t, you know, look like a vampire slayer. Aww, precious. But, upon learning that it was probably vampires who killed her family, she agrees to become a hunter.
Aunt Sophie tells her being strong and fast isn’t much use against a vampire because they’re always stronger and faster. Then she tells Briony it’s good she’s so athletic, what with all the hand to hand combat she’ll have to learn!
I see Wicked has a logic hole, as well as a Hellmouth.
Well, that’s enough about those dumb vampires—let’s hear more about Briony’s school life! Briony meets Tracey and Claire and they show her around. Her first day is entirely forgotten about and now everyone seems to like her, because she’s wearing a different outfit… or something.
Two guys who are so generic that even Briony comments on it pop up and are… generic. Much waffling ensues until Pepper shows up to be the mean girl, but everyone tells her that Briony is cool now. Then Pepper tries to get a rise out of her by insulting her aunt, which makes Briony flounce.
Then she’s invited to a football game! Exciting!
The football game is won and much fun is had by all. As Tracey and Claire are so generic and indistinguishable, I rather wonder whether they’re not Buns and Brownie from Inescapable in disguise? Guess those two really were Inescapable (ba-dum ching!)
Then Briony gets attacked by a vampire, whom some call… Tim.
(now she’s doing unintentional Monty Python references like Delirium; this isn’t a Twilight knockoff knockoff—this is YA knockoff loaf!)
He’s a pretty crappy vampire though, and Briony is easily able to kill him with the crucifix-stake her aunt gave her for protection despite having no training.
Wow, what threatening vampires!
We’re… a quarter of the way through the book. I don’t believe it, we haven’t even met Generic Love Interest yet!
Briony is so disturbed by what’s happened that she commits several traffic violations (channelling Ever again, I see), and thinks: ‘Oh.My.God.’ without proper punctuation!
Then she crashes into a tree and gets attacked by werewolves. Just not her day, is it? Luckily she’s saved by someone who must have been separated from a torch-wielding mob because he scares the werewolves away with fire.
Ah. There’s our Generic Love Interest. His name’s Fallon, and Briony is immediately in love with him. Best developed romance ever.
But then he mysteriously vanishes, so I guess he’s a slasher killer as well.
Briony doesn’t tell Aunt Sophie that the vampire and one of the werewolves were classmates of hers because that might interfere with her school life! What. An. Idiot.
(see the spaces there, Briony?)
Anyway, the next day people are suddenly unwilling to stand up to Pepper’s dislike of Briony even though before they were perfectly willing to. I guess Pepper must have mind control powers? Thus Briony starts making friends with the uncool kids. The horror. Including Maisy, who’s afflicted with the very height of lameness—GLASSES. The horror.
And Steve, who has ‘sandy-haired that seemed to have a mind of its own’. That’s right. He has sandy-haired. Although from the construction of the sentence in its entirety it may be that his shirt is sandy-haired and has a mind of its own, which would have been closer to correct in the grammatical sense, but kind of dumb in any other. Was this thing proofread at any point?
Thus Briony learns, as Ever did, that the unpopular ‘geeks’ (one day I’m gonna get that filthy animal!) are good and pure—and then Fallon enters the cafeteria!
He sits with Briony, which makes Pepper mad ’cause she’s a jealous ho. That’s my girl! I’m sure you can guess what happens next. That’s right—a boring conversation!
Oh, and Fallon uses hypnosis-eyes to make Briony not tell anyone that he saved her from werewolves.
Training session! Briony whines about it being unfair that she’s expected to be trained by George, who’s an expert, because obviously she can’t defeat him. I see the concept of ‘training’ has surpassed her. Good to know.
Briony gets a job at George’s diner and boredom ensues. Characters too generic for me to remember are mentioned, and three people show up asking for raw burgers. Briony gives them rare burgers instead, and one of them completely flips out. I WONDER WHY?
Yep, she’s a werewolf. She attacks Briony behind the diner.
Great secret werewolf identity keeping!
Again, Briony is saved by a guy, this time a guy called ‘Kevin’, so I guess this book will have a Generic Love Triangle. Yay!
He expresses mild sympathy for werewolves being unable to control themselves, and Briony assumes that if her aunt heard such talk she’d go mental, even though we’ve seen nothing to suggest that Sophie has unstoppable rage towards people who are slightly sympathetic towards werewolves.
But Briony realises that the other two werewolves didn’t try to murder her in full view of the public, and thinks maybe they’re not so evil after all! Aunt Sophie says: no. That’s fucking dumb.
But then it turns out Kevin isn’t actually a member of the secret monster fighting club!
(CONTINUED IN PART TWO)