Review: Out of the Woods by T.J. Land

There’s a corpse in the mushroom patch.

Ruth isn’t bothered; she collects dead things in jars under her bed. Her best friend, Hermana, is very upset, but only because the mushroom patch the corpse is lying in happens to be theirs, and the woods in which it decided to die happen to be their woods. Growing up shunned by the proper folk who live down in the valley, the two odd young women take a hard view of anyone who invades their quiet, wild world.

Their hopes that the problem will take care of itself fade when the corpse doesn’t decay. Worse, when they try to bury it they find it’s too heavy to lift into the grave; far heavier than a human should be. And when they try to burn it, its skin won’t catch light. But soon the corpse’s invulnerability and strangely pointy ears are the least of their worries. A fungus has begun to stain the ground around it, killing weeds and mushrooms, then trees and animals. When it reaches the river, people start falling ill.

As their home sickens and rots around them, the girls search for a way to dispose of the cursed corpse. At the same time, Hermana searches for a way to confess her feelings to Ruth, before her best friend is stolen away from her by the handsome nobleman who lives nearby.

To say this story is unique and strange is an understatement. T.J. Land has a very weird imagination and I think I’ll be looking for more from this author in the future when I feel like expanding my mind to the weirdly wonderful.

This story had me captivated by the oddness. The language was amazing, and I loved the ruggedness of it.

Ruth and Hermana live in the woods, away from the village and seem to have their own morals and rules. This is evident in the first few pages, and continues in this way throughout the story. They are outcasts of the village, and have only ever relied on each other (and Hermana’s gran). They have a really unique way of looking at the world, as is evident when they feel slighted that a corpse had the audacity to die in their woods. They’ll do whatever they can to get rid of it, but since it doesn’t seem to want to move, their options are becoming limited. Especially when the fungus starts spreading down to the village and people start dying from it.

This is told from both Hermana’s point of view, and two of the townspeople’s view so we get a pretty varied picture of how this world works, and how different Ruth and Hermana are compared to the people who grew up governed by the village. The progression of the story is quite bleak to be honest, but there is enough sharp wit and action to not make it depressing.

There is an element of horror and supernatural, but not in the world merging way. This has the feel of a folktale, set in an historical time, with a decent amount of world building and a good plot set up. There is no telling how this story will end. It gives you clues, but isn’t obvious. Some of the content is bizarre and at one point I had no idea where the story was headed. It didn’t bother me, because I was along for the ride, but I had to pause a few times and wonder how this would all end.

There was an attraction to Ruth from Hermana’s point of view, but it was almost a side thought as everything else became more important. I wouldn’t read this if you’re looking for a romance, because this isn’t one. This is a strange and complex and delightful with some skilled writing to support these strange ideas. A lot of moral questions come up for Hermana, and maybe even Ruth as they brainstorm and try different things to get rid of the corpse. There is a lot of character building, and this strengthens the development of the story.

When I finished the story, I was satisfied with how things unfolded, and was intrigued by where my imagination took me.

If you enjoy weird supernatural historical novels, with a hint of horror, then this is going to hit the mark.

A review copy was provided for an honest opinion

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