Wildwood Whispers by Willa Reece – Review

Published: August 17, 2021

Publisher: Redhook

Series: Standalone

Genre: Fantasy

Pages: 384 (Hardcover)

My Rating: 4.0/5.0

A copy of this book was provided by the publisher in exchange for an honest review.


A heartwarming novel of hope, fate, and folk magic unfolds when a young woman travels to a sleepy southern town in the Appalachian Mountains to bury her best friend.

Mel Smith has always known life isn’t easy. After all, she was abandoned as an infant and raised in foster care. But still, when the only bright spot in her life, her best friend Sarah Ross, unexpectedly dies, it’s a heartbreak unlike any other.

A final promise to lay Sarah to rest in the Ross wildwood garden draws Mel to Morgan’s Gap, a small town nestled in the shadows of the Appalachian Mountains. Yet Morgan’s Gap is more than a land of morning mists and deep forest shadows.

There are secrets that call to Mel, in the gaze of the gnarled and knowing woman everyone calls “Granny,” who seems to have expected her; in a salvaged remedy book filled with healing tinctures and salves; in the strange connection she feels to the Ross homestead and the wilderness around it. In fulfilling her promise, Mel might end up finding home—and remain connected to Sarah—in a way she least expected.

The wildwood is whispering. It has secrets to reveal—if you’re willing to listen…

Oh how I love finding a good fantasy book set in the Appalachian mountains! It’s always so interesting to see how the author turns the mountains into a magical place, especially since this is the area I call home.

Mel Smith grew up in foster care and was alone until Sarah Ross arrived from a small Appalachian town and became her adoptive sister. They look out for each other and Mel is helping pay for Sarah’s nursing degree until tragedy strikes and Sarah is killed in a hit and run. Mel brings her ashes back to Sarah’s hometown of Morgan’s Gap where she is welcomed and brought into a community of strong, caring mountain women who might have a touch of magic in their veins.

Of course, not everything is as lovely and welcoming as it appears. There’s a religious sect (that is most definitely a cult) nearby who oppress the women members and are generally bad all around. I found them to be an interesting if predictable antagonist in the story.  Fortunately, there’s plenty of good and a whole cast of wonderful side characters like Granny, who takes Mel under her wing and begins to teach her to make salves and curatives. There’s also the ruggedly handsome Jacob Walker, a local biologist, who spends most of his time hiking around and stopping ginseng poachers. I imagine you can guess where this is going… if not, let me give you a hint.  He and Mel spend most of the book rather intrigued by one another, but mostly try not to admit it.

This was a really great tale of magical realism with a lovely found family vibe and a great deal of cathartic, somewhat sad moments. I loved it way more than I expected so it has definitely earned its place on my bookshelf. It’s atmospheric and has a strong cottagecore/witchy element so check it out if that’s your thing – it seriously made me want to go harvest berries and make apple butter. There’s a few reveals towards the end that really satisfied all my questions though some weren’t all that unpredictable. Overall, it was a really great read and I’m going to be keeping an eye out for more books from Willa Reece.

5 thoughts on “Wildwood Whispers by Willa Reece – Review

  1. I’d not heard of this book before now. Happy you enjoyed it! And liked a book set close to home so much! I usually end up hating books set in the northern Rockies.

    Do they really have ginseng in the Appalachians?


    • Yes!! And quite a few people who harvest it both legally and illegally! There are an abundance of cool plants in the Appalachians 😁 it’s actually a hotspot for biodiversity (especially salamanders!)


  2. Pingback: Stacking the Shelves: 8/28/21 | Powder & Page

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