The Dark Between the Trees by Fiona Barnett – Review

Published: October 11, 2022

Publisher: Solaris

Series: N/A

Genre: Horror

Pages: 304 (Hardcover)

My Rating: 3.5/5.0

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

Synopsis:
An unforgettable, surrealist gothic folk-thriller with commercial crossover appeal from a brilliant new voice.

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.

Todayfive 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.


I am unable to not request books featuring haunted, monster filled forests and thus when presented with The Dark Between the Trees I didn’t even try to resist. The synopsis is full of atmospheric appeal – mention of the devil stalking the wood, disappearing soldiers, and modern day women determined to find out what really happened. 

This is a dual timeline, multi-perspective story that highlights the parallels between the soldiers in 1643 and our present day group of women who set out to uncover why those same soldiers disappeared. They trek into Moresby Wood, only to be confronted by disappearing trees, the inability to navigate, and a folk monster of legend with a desire to kill. The soldiers’ chapters were fraught with tension, and had considerably more in-fighting than one might expect from people on the same side. There were a few mutinous men, a couple of local lads who were utterly terrified of the wood thanks to local legend, and of course men kept disappearing or being left with their bodies torn open. The modern day group started out as a cohesive team, but as stranger and stranger events occurred they became argumentative and put blame on their group leader. The two groups were surprisingly similar, though one group resorted to violence more readily than the other in their desperate quest to escape Moresby Wood.

This story is one of psychological horror and creeping dread, with just enough gore to really keep you on your toes – who will survive? I love a good haunted forest, and a man-eating folk monster is just icing on the cake! To be honest, I found the group of soldiers to be far more sympathetic than the researchers because I just didn’t care for any of them! Somehow the soldiers managed to tug on my heartstrings whereas Alice Christopher in particular was just asking to get eaten by the Corrigal. She was an utter space cadet, completely wrapped up in her own mind and without regard for the safety or wishes of her companions. 

Overall, this was an interesting, atmospheric read but suffered a bit because of my distaste for half of the characters. I dearly wish Dr. Christopher’s companions would have clubbed her over the head and left the woods immediately rather than put up with her foolishness, but I suppose there wouldn’t have been much of a story if that happened! Despite my dislike of some of the characters, I would actually love to see a movie adaptation of this – some of the scenes would be incredible!

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