Audiobook Review: Walk the Wild With Me by Rachel Atwood
I received a review copy from the publisher. This does not affect the contents of my review and all opinions are my own.
Mogsy’s Rating (Overall): 2 of 5 stars
Genre: Fantasy, Historical Fiction
Series: Book 1/Stand Alone
Publisher: Paperback: DAW | Audiobook: Tantor (December 3, 2019)
Length: PB: 320 pages | Audio: 8 hrs and 30 mins
Author Information: Website
Narrator: Matthew Lloyd Davies
It’s not every day I come across a Robin Hood retelling, and one infused with magical fantasy and faeries at that. I was therefore very excited to read Walk the Wild With Me, but unfortunately came away from it somewhat disappointed. Had it not been for the slower pacing and the nature of a few stylistic choices, I think I would have enjoyed it more.
Walk the Wild With Me brings readers to a quiet abbey just outside Nottingham, where orphan Nick Withybeck has spent his entire life raised by the monks. One day, while exploring the crypts, he comes across an ancient altar and the forgotten treasures it holds. Henceforth blessed by Elena, Nick becomes the human vessel of the Celtic goddess who uses her magic to reveal hidden truths to him. It is this gift which allowed Nick to recognize Little John, the companion of Robin Hood who served as his chief lieutenant of the legendary hero’s Merry Men, as a kindred spirit, a creature of the wood.
And indeed, it is Little John who takes center stage in this debut by Rachel Atwood. He is the Green Man, Nick learns, whose lover had been stolen away by Queen Mab of the Faeries. Banding together to get her back, the two of the embark upon a quest to gain entry to the Faery mound which would only open when its moon aligns with that of our mortal realm. Using his special connection with Elena, Nick offers Little John the goddess’ grace and wisdom to guide them.
I really wish I had enjoyed this one more, because on the surface, there’s a lot to like. If you are a fan of the Robin Hood legend, Walk the Wild With Me offers a refreshing take on the outlaw figure by, well, putting the focus on Little John. While that might sound a bit dubious, hear me out—this new point-of-view helps set this novel apart by shining the spotlight on Robin’s second-in-command, a clever and capable man who nonetheless could use a hand from his friends when it comes to going up against crafty Queen Mab and the Faeries. Speaking of which, I also loved the way Atwood combined magic with realism. She’s effectively written a historical novel that is also a fantasy, a genre mashup containing elements of Celtic folklore, culture, and religion. There is also a dash of mystery in the mix, especially powerful in moments where the atmosphere is thick with intrigue and suspense. Finally, of course, there is love—and a look at the lengths one would go to in order to fight for it.
But unfortunately, the style of the novel made it difficult for me to appreciate all these aspects fully. For one, the language was very rich, but also very dense. I have read books like this before which have not given me trouble; I don’t know why the writing felt so clunky and hard to get used to in this case. It could be due to the fact that the prose is somewhat wordy, which not surprisingly made the story feel quite slow. This one goes nowhere fast, and it’s a shame because even after all the build-up, we are left with a fizzle of an ending. After pushing through nearly three-quarters of the book filled with heavy exposition, mostly dealing with convoluted relationships and background information, I hate to say it—but I expected more in the way of explanations and answers, not to mention a bigger reward for all the time and patience I invested.
Still, if you like the sound of the premise, this might be worth trying. While my personal experience was not exactly what I’d hoped for, I also wouldn’t say it was completely negative. To Rachel Atwood’s credit, there were a lot of new and different ideas I enjoyed reading about in Walk the Wild With Me, and I think she is a skilled storyteller. But at the end of the day, the writing was simply not my cup of tea, and it’s too bad that a lot of the other issues I had with the pacing and ending mostly stemmed from that.
Audiobook Comments: I was fortunate enough to receive an audio listening copy of Walk the Wild With Me to review, and I thought that the format would help with the difficulties I had with the writing, but instead I think it might have exacerbated them. Matthew Lloyd Davies was a fantastic narrator and I loved the regality of his voice and accent which made him perfect for a rich, historical fantasy such as this. However, due to the complex nature of the story and the loquacious writing and language, I just had a hard time focusing my listening with this audiobook and really had to force myself to pay attention.