Wolfskin by W. R. Gingell (2015)
Rose is an adolescent girl who’d rather be romping outdoors than sat at home sewing with her feminine sister. Her sister longs for romance and marriage – Rose would sooner be a cutlass-wielding pirate. So when the village witch picks out Rose for an apprentice, Rose is up for a new adventure, and off to the mysterious forest she goes to begin it!
Good thing our heroine is feisty and fearless, for she will need to use all her wits and courage in overcoming the unforeseen dangers that lie before her. Life in the forest can be exceedingly dangerous: vicious wolves, dark fairies, and powerful magical forces for good and evil are at work, and Rose will learn her apprenticeship the hard way.
Wolfskin is partly a Little Red Riding Hood retelling, and has some elements of Beauty and the Beast. I really liked Rose, and enjoyed her coming-of-age journey from tomboy to a powerful young woman who decides that romance isn’t such a bad thing after all.
The setting of the forest is truly magical. Gingell’s writing has a lyrical way of presenting abstract, supernatural experiences that seem to speak directly to some part of the imagination not often stirred. In this respect it was reminiscent of the fantasy writing of Robin Mckinley. No matter how strange and fantastical Rose’s adventures were, I felt I was swept up with her and carried along for the ride.
The ending was unusual, and not what I was expecting, but that is a large part of the charm of Wolfskin – you never quite know what twist or turn the tale is going to take next. It was an exciting story to be immersed into and I was sorry to leave such a fascinating world behind.