Ginger. Honey. Cinnamon. Flour.
Twenty years after the witch in the gingerbread house, Greta and Hans are struggling to get by. Their mother and stepmother are long dead, Hans is deeply in debt from gambling, and the countryside lies in ruin, its people starving in the aftermath of a brutal war.
Greta has a secret, though: the witch’s grimoire, hidden away and whispering in Greta’s ear for the past two decades, and the recipe inside that makes the best gingerbread you’ve ever tasted. As long as she can bake, Greta can keep her small family afloat.
But in a village full of superstition, Greta and her mysteriously addictive gingerbread, not to mention the rumors about her childhood misadventures, is a source of gossip and suspicion.
And now, dark magic is returning to the woods and Greta’s magic―magic she is still trying to understand―may be the only thing that can save her. If it doesn’t kill her first.
“After the Forest” By Kell Woods is an imaginative fairy tale, retold and revitalized by bringing the tale forward in time. This reimagined tale of Hansel and Gretal explores what happened to Hansel and Gretal after they escaped the witch in the forest. What I especially love is the focus on Gretal, how her character is so beautifully developed and realized in this novel. I also love how Kell Woods incorporates elements of other fairy tales to deepen and make a richer narrative.
In this story, Greta has magic. The story quickly sets up her background but as the tale deepens, readers are treated to more details and a complex story that develops how Greta struggles with trust. I also love the romantic subplot between her and Matthias and how integral that is to the overall story.
Kell Woods has little touches of description and other tales that add to the theme of blood and magic. She deftly weaves together multiple subplots into a cohesive tale that is wondrous and magical. I especially love how the narrative and the ending explore the temptation of darkness and resisting the easy path. This truly is an imaginative fairy tale, one that is woven from elements of other stories but will instill a sense of wonder and love like all the best stories.
If you like fairy tales, magic, and wonder, I highly recommend this imaginative fairy tale about Hansel and Gretal as they journey out of the forest but into deeper struggles and temptations that envelop us all in adulthood. This might become one of your favorite tales. I know it’s one of mine.
Rating: 5 out of 5 gingerbread cookies