ARC Review: THE DARK BETWEEN THE TREES by Fiona Barnett

I received an ARC from the publishers in exchange for an honest review. It has not affected my opinions.

Title in white on dark blue below orange antlers and eye
Genre: Horror
Age Range: Adult
Star Rating: 4 stars
Series: standalone

Blurb:

Book cover for THE DARK BETWEEN THE TREES: title in white on green, navy and orange leave below antlers with an eye

1643: A small group of Parliamentarian soldiers are ambushed in an isolated part of Northern England. Their only hope for survival is to flee into the nearby Moresby Wood… unwise though that may seem. For Moresby Wood is known to be an unnatural place, the realm of witchcraft and shadows, where the devil is said to go walking by moonlight…

Seventeen men enter the wood. Only two are ever seen again, and the stories they tell of what happened make no sense. Stories of shifting landscapes, of trees that appear and disappear at will… and of something else. Something dark. Something hungry.

Today, five women are headed into Moresby Wood to discover, once and for all, what happened to that unfortunate group of soldiers. Led by Dr Alice Christopher, an historian who has devoted her entire academic career to uncovering the secrets of Moresby Wood. Armed with metal detectors, GPS units, mobile phones and the most recent map of the area (which is nearly 50 years old), Dr Christopher’s group enters the wood ready for anything.

Or so they think.

Blurb taken from Goodreads. Add to your shelves here.


Review:

THE DARK BETWEEN THE TREES is a dual timeline tale about a creepy wood where you are irrevocably lost and something moves too fast to see.

The monster in the dark is so creepy, picking off the various characters without ever being seen, just its effects. Slashed open corpses. Missing people. It stalks and follows, an uneasy prickling at the back of your neck, without once being seen. The dark oppressive woods work so well with this premise, the ever undulating woodland that seems to shift and thwart all technological attempts to map it.

The book follows both the Parliamentarians as they head through the wood and the modern day research team. In many ways, they echo each other. The researchers are deliberately trying to follow the Parliamentarians’ footsteps, but the wood takes them in a similar way, crippling them physically and emotionally. It leads to a deliciously creepy mystery about what happened in two different past time lines as an even earlier story is woven in in two different retellings.

The book also looks at academic obsession, the driving need to find out, to prove something you’ve pursued for years. It was very interesting to see that side of it. While it’s not dark academia, due to setting and the fact that’s only from the modern side of the book, I liked that angle. The historical side is more about superstition and survival, which balances Alice’s obsessive search for what happened, her fixation on the area.

While there are some injuries, this is not a gory horror. Instead the creepiness and spine-tingling nopes come from the atmosphere and intense feeling of being corralled towards something of an unnatural design. It’s the prefect read for darkening days and lengthening nights – though maybe read it after you go on a woodland hike…

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