At the northern edge of a land ruled by a merciless, foreign tyrant lies a wild, forbidden forest ruled by powerful magic.
Veris Thorn—the only one to ever enter the forest and survive—is forced to go back inside to retrieve the missing children of the Tyrant. Inside await traps and trickery, ancient monsters, and hauntings of a painful past.
One day is all Veris is afforded. One misstep will cost everything.
The Butcher of the Forest is a dark fantasy novella, inspired by fairytales, written by Premee Mohamed, and which will be published by Tordotcom. In its simple premise, this book envelopes an excellent exploration of trauma, while giving dark twists to some elements that are classic in the fairytale genre.
Veris Thorn is the only person who has rescued a kid from the dangerous forest known as Elmever; when the children of a foreign tyrant are lost in the forest, she's forced to walk another time into the Elmever and rescue said children, pressured by the perspective of losing her life if she fails, and with only one day to find them. She might just end trapped in the forest if she remains for more time.
From the start, we can feel the pressure and the doom Veris is experiencing, put between a rock and a hard place. She's not your typical fantasy character, a forty years-old woman, who is forced to act because of the circumstances, wise, with life experience and resilient in spite of how much she has suffered.
Mohamed's prose makes an excellent job building the forest and its lands, transmitting the sensation of dread and touches of cosmic horror that accompanies Elmever; and once the genuine nature of many of those demons is revealed, your mind is simply blown.
In this novella, trauma and grief are explored in masterful ways; slowly unraveling the truth behind the facades. It is true that pacing might be a bit irregular for my taste, but it is compensated with an outstanding and thought-provoking experience.
The Butcher of the Forest is an excellent novella, perfect if you are looking for a dark twist on fairytales, enhanced by Mohamed's great prose.
Premee Mohamed is a Nebula, World Fantasy, and Aurora award-winning Indo-Caribbean scientist and speculative fiction author based in Edmonton, Alberta. She has also been a finalist for the Hugo, Ignyte, British Fantasy, and Crawford awards. She is an Assistant Editor at the short fiction audio venue Escape Pod and the author of the 'Beneath the Rising' series of novels as well as several novellas. Her short fiction has appeared in many venues and she can be found on her website at www.premeemohamed.com. She is represented by Michael Curry of DMLA.