Book Review: The Wood Wife by Terri Windling
I first read The Wood Wife when I was in my 20’s. It had been slated to be published as Book 3 in Brian Froud’s Faerieland Series. When that series was scrapped after Book 2, I hunted down the Wood Wfe in a desire to put together all 4 books on my own. I loved it after the first read.
I don’t read many books several times, but the Wood Wife is one of the few I’ve read and reread, and read again. It wasn’t until I read it in my 30’s that I realized the main character, Maggie Black, was also in her 30’s. I experienced the book in a new way that read. But then, every time I read this novel, I find new elements from the poetry to the creatures. My first read, I’d focused on the elements relating to Froud. As I became interested in ceremonies, I loved how Ms. Windling combined Celtic and Native American myths. This is mature fantasy: deep and well written with something to offer at different phases and interests in life.
In the novel, Maggie’s mentor has died mysteriously in the Arizona desert, which surrounds his home. Inheriting his house, she searches for his missing manuscript of poetry as well as how he died while hiding from her privileged west-coast lifestyle. The mountains of Arizona prove to be different from classy California in ways not apparent at first glance and the mysteries of what is really going on in the wild hills of the desert weaves the unique plots into a surprising whole.
This story startled me the first time I read it: a celtic style myth wrapped in a desert setting. It was such a new idea to me at the time and one that I still love. Ms. Windling does a great job giving the flavor of the desert landscape, introducing interesting characters both human and otherwise. The story builds and unfolds in a believable way, never dropping the reader with an event unbelievable in this real world setting for a fantasy novel.
Do I have anything negative to say about this book? Actually yes. I’m a fan of a bit of romance: the play of falling in love, resisting, and ultimately giving in. The relationship between Maggie and Fox was too sudden for me. Maggie just suddenly ‘realizes’ she cares for Fox. Maybe it is the only way for her character to fall in love, but I would have enjoyed a bit more to that part of the story . . . and happily there is a snag that plays out a bit. But I don’t want to give that catch away!
This is a classic fantasy novel, one that lasts and captivates, lingering in the mind and heart. It remains, after over a decade, my favorite novel.