Ready for something different from the usual horror tale or overly clever teens solving mysteries? Maybe you need to check into the writings of R.R. Smythe, a writer who works with an unusual twist, and things that go bump in the night. Nothing is what it seems at first, but rather something much more sinister and with a sprinkling of magic—voila, you've got the literary stylings of R.R. Smythe.
Into the Woods, Smythe’s newest novel, takes place in 19th century Scotland and features an intrepid young hero, Callum McClure.
Callum’s life takes a turn for the weird when his mother faints while hanging out clothes. He and his grandfather carry her into the house. Instead of his mother awakening, tree roots slip into the room, vining up the bed and over her body keeping her warm. Callum knows it's magick and his fault somehow. It is up to him to save his mother.
Ellsbeth McClure feels a cloud pass over her filling her with fear and the urge to flee—all so odd when she is in the middle of hanging up clothes. Her attacker seems to be a glowing Maple tree, perhaps a product of an overactive imagination. Still, she seeks safety by curling up at the tree base. The touch of the tree bark reminds her of the caring touch of her long-dead mother. The sound of hoofbeats makes her realize she has been tricked because instead of regular hooves, they are cloven.
Erlidihl is Callum’s best bud—friends since they were babes. Since their mothers are friends, it was natural to spend a great deal of time together. Erlidihl is tolerant of Callum’s wild mood swings. As a fellow charity student at the Alexander School for the Gifted, she can empathize with the trials of the poor, gifted student competing with the rich, ungifted bully. Some days it is enough to make a person not want to go to school. In addition, having your mother entombed alive by tree branches is a bit much too. Even though she and Callum are tight, she’s aware that there is something important, he isn’t telling her.
Into the Woods has a rich tapestry quality that is found in old fairy tales. The words and rhythm give it the feel of a fable. The tale hints at what is to come, but never gives you a true look, rather like the inhabitants of the woods luring you into the woods before you’re aware you moved. Having the mother who is encased in roots have a voice is a nice touch. It allows us to see what is going on in her world and to understand what Callum will need to do to save her. The tale is a complicated one, but any eager reader should be able to unravel it.
Into the Woods is an interesting and exciting tale for the intermediate reader. I would recommend it because it operates on many different levels, includes the richness of imagery and fully developed characters.
Reviewed by Morgan Wyatt
October 3, 2007