The shrike and the shadows

Publication Date: MARCH 3, 2020
Rating: 4/5


Men have gone missing before.

The village of Krume is plagued by a haunted wood and a hungry witch. It’s been that way for as long as Hans and Greta can remember, though they have never seen the witch themselves; no one has.

When men start to disappear once again in the cover of night—their bloody hearts turning up on doorsteps—the village falls into frenzied madness. Hans and Greta, two outcast orphans, find themselves facing accusations of witchcraft and are met with an ultimatum: burn at the stake, or leave the village forever.

With nowhere else to go, they abandon their only home. As they venture into the strange forest, their path is fraught with horrific creatures, wild and vivid hallucinations, and a mysterious man tied to the witch’s past.

The Shrike is watching, just beyond the deep darkness of the woods.

This is my first time ever reading a retelling of Hansel & Gretel, and let me just say that I was so entertain by it. Honestly, I never read any tales about Hansel & Gretel before, and I had no idea what their tales was about actually. So reading this retelling without having any idea about the original tale of this twin siblings only make it more interesting. I had a very big expectation for this book, and it left me wanting for more. I’m all in for a very haunting tale, especially when it has to do with anything witchy.

I can already feel the horror from the very first chapter alone. It was truly amazing how the story managed to scare me off since the start. From that moment I knew it’ll be a very long haunting journey reading the book. What Hans & Greta, along with the villagers living in Krume had to face was very scary. The tragedy that struck the village of Krume is one that should be taken seriously. There was a lot of question that I was asking myself while reading the story. I was like, “How did this happen?” “And what are the meaning behind these attacks?” “What’s the origin of the Shrike?” So many questions, but I was looking forward to uncover the secrets and find the the truth. Especially, what it had to do with Hans & Greta.

I liked how the authors make a new spin on the tale of Hansel & Gretel, especially the involvement of the evil witch called the Shrike. I did a little bit of my own research on the tale of Hansel & Gretel after I read this book, and to be honest, I much prefer this version. I feel like this is far more scarier, and very intense in so many ways. I get the eerie feeling a lot from this one. The storyline did flow so well, it was steady and clear. Some parts can be a bit confusing because I got distracted a few times, but I repeated the parts and understood it just fine after that. The pacing was fine by me, it wasn’t too fast and it wasn’t too slow either. The writing was so different than most books I read which makes it more unique.

The plot was very unpredictable, I didn’t see most of the things coming, so to me there are so many huge surprises that didn’t disappoint me. There are a few twists that was truly shocking, and it picks up my interest even more. Even though I get the answers I’ve been looking for, but the ending just left me with more questions. Talking about the ending, I knew it won’t have a happy ending because it was already obvious enough that the story has a darker tone and that there will be a continuation. The ending left me feeling so frustrated, sad, and heartbroken. I’m just gonna have to wait for the sequel, and hope for the best. The fate of Hans & Greta will leave so many readers heartbroken. I wasn’t prepared for that ending at all, I seriously need the second book like right now!

There are some very interesting actions in the story, mostly the Shrike’s part and some was Barin’s part. Learning how the Shrike’s magic works, how it can control the natural things around it, and what it did to its victims was very terrifying but also it was incredibly amazing to see the Shrike’s power. Barin who came in late to the story surprised me, especially knowing what he really is.

Aside from that, Hans & Greta’s mother also possessed a gifted talent, which made her a gifted fortune-teller. She can read someone’s fortune and tell them what will happen to them in the near future like she did with Greta. I liked seeing the connection between Greta’s fortune and what she currently face in her life, and everything from her fortune came true and that gave me a goosebumps. Hearing what her fate will be like from her own mother who happened to be a fortune-teller was one thing, but to experienced it when it finally arrived in her life was another. I really liked the foreshadowing of Greta’s fate, it really gave me chills.

The Shrike aka the witch is the real villain in the story. She was so threatening, and so wicked. She was terrorizing people’s lives by playing a very wicked game of her own, and she was just so powerful and strong. Defeating her will be very-very hard, and props to the author for writing a very powerful villain and including the villain’s backstory. Regarding the witch’s backstory, it was told through Barin’s POV. He revealed the origin of the witch since these two are tied to one another in the past. I finally understood how she became a witch, but what I still don’t know is what actually happened to her when Barin found her passed out unconscious on the ground with blood all over her body. Even Barin said, “there is more than just a witch in the woods.”

So…what makes the witch become a witch in the first place, and what makes her passed out? What was hiding in the woods? I can sense something is happening, but I read the witch’s origin part multiple of times and I couldn’t find the answer to that. Hopefully the sequel will reveal more about the witch’s origin, and perhaps Barin will make it more clear about the woman he’d known before she became a witch. I do admit that before she became a witch, she was a nice and beautiful woman who loved going to the woods, but when things suddenly changed with her, she became more sinister and gone was the sweet woman. I need the witch’s POV in the sequel, because I want to hear her side of the story. I wonder what she will do next considering that ending.

Hans is a great and amazing character. He has always been there for his sister, Greta, and he always protected her and put her first than anyone else. I truly liked Hans more than I do Greta actually. He has a lot of amazing skills and always been working to help himself and Greta. He acted exactly like how an older brother should act, so it was very necessary for him to be so protective of his sister. I truly feel bad for him, he was so conflicted ever since the witch came to him, and since then he wasn’t fully the same. Sometimes he was fine, and sometimes he wasn’t. He had to suffer a lot in the story, and his importance were made clear in the book. I hope he will be given some fighting skills in case he had to go up against the witch in the sequel. I’m wondering what his fate will be like next, and if he can escape from what happened to him at the end.

Greta is a nice young woman, but I find her character to be lacking in so many aspects. She wasn’t just physically weak, but mentally and emotionally she was very unstable too, which is understandable due to what she and Hans witnessed when they were kids, and they had to lose their parents at a very young age, that alone made her feel very vulnerable. When she opened up about her depression, I wasn’t shocked, I’ve seen it coming because there was a lot of hints about her depression. But the authors nailed her depression and the portrayal felt so real. I do feel bad for Greta sometimes, but most of the times she can be irritating. I feel like her character went downhill the moment she and Hans met Barin. She was protective of her brother and always making sure he was safe just like he did her, but she get so distracted by Barin that sometimes she just forget about Hans’ safety. I want to see her character have a proper development in the sequel, and that she will stand up for herself more. It was disappointing to see her saying “I’m not just a girl,” or “I’m not a kid anymore,” but won’t be able to say it out loud, she kept saying that on the inside. I hope she manage to say it out loud in the next book, and show how she is capable of defending herself.

Barin on the other hand was different from both Hans & Greta, his secret identity surprised me because I didn’t see that one coming. He was the strongest amongst the three of them due to the witch’s curse. Since he was tied to the witch’s past, I couldn’t trust him, it was hard to trust him or even like his character especially since he doesn’t appear until the middle of the story. While I do warm up to his character in the final few chapters, but I couldn’t bring it to myself to like his character…maybe the sequel will change that, we’ll see. Barin kept a lot of secrets which is worse, but he slowly opening himself up to Greta, as if it wasn’t obvious enough he secretly likes her. Aside from that, he was also very helpful and always made sure Hans & Greta are safe from the witch—mainly Greta. He was kind and willing to help even though he knew he won’t be able to defeat the witch. It was stressful for me to see how he was so weak against the witch, he better get a major development and probably get even more stronger so he along with the twin siblings have a better chance in defeating the witch.

The story also showed a strong bond between Hans and Greta. These two siblings shared a deep connection that can’t be easily broken. That is, until Barin. I really loved how protective Hans and Greta was toward one another, and how they always stay together from the beginning until the end. All the sufferings they endured, all the struggles they faced, both of them managed to overcome those things. Their relationship was tested in the story, and the challenges they had to face was quite hard. I loved their siblings bond at the start of the story, but that bond seemed to vanish the moment Barin came into the picture. I get Hans’ jealousy, all his life it was just him and Greta, he always be there for her before and after they lost their parents. He always put her first than anything or anyone else, and suddenly Greta cast him aside for a stranger whom they just met and know nothing about. I get why he was irritated, he just wanted what’s best for his sister, but instead he got harsh treatment by his own sister in return.

I also get why Greta trusted Barin even when they just met for a few seconds, but I hated how she was cold toward Hans, and all the thoughts of keeping him safe vanished the moment she laid her eyes on Barin. I disliked how she trusted a stranger than her own brother. She get distracted a lot of times, especially the last couple of chapters. She was away from Hans and enjoying her alone time with Barin, but then she came back and saw Hans wasn’t there and was crying to get her brother back. If I were her, I wouldn’t dare leaving my brother behind, even though the temptation of going alone with the man I secretly have feelings for to enjoy our sweet time is very strong. It was sad to see their bond was broken that easily, and how they grew apart even after everything they went through together. Seeing how heartbroken Greta was over the loss of her brother at the end made her realize how strong her love is for her brother. I really felt that, and that was the moment I broke down too. I need this twin siblings back together again, and mend their broken bond because seeing these two aren’t close anymore because of someone else really hurts. I hope the sequel will give them an epic reunion and make these two working together to take on the witch.

The story also have romance in it. If it isn’t obvious already…Well, I wasn’t sure about Barin and Greta at first. It was obvious the moment they met, these two will become a thing which turns out to be true. They shared instant connection, and while I loved the slow-burn and the build up to their romance, I feel like these two should take more time before they ended up together. They don’t have a strong chemistry, and it makes their whole romance to be a bit unrealistic. I get why Greta fell for him, he look so young even though he is far older than her, he was alone and is cursed, and he was kind too, so I truly understood Greta’s reason. But part of me just didn’t want them to be together, mainly because I was hoping Greta to enjoy living her life with her brother more before she made a decision to stay with Barin, and also partly because I was still bitter that Barin distracted Greta from caring about her brother. She’s too good for him, honestly.

I want the siblings to settle down at a new village, enjoy their lives, and exploring the world together first before settling down with their own respective partners. Greta’s rush decision to stay with Barin really irks me. I do admit that Barin and Greta are good together, but I hope the sequel will develop their relationship more, and have these two focusing on how to get Hans back. I was happy that Barin found happiness with Greta, at least he wasn’t alone this time, but I wasn’t sure if he can make her fully happy after what went down with the witch at the end.

The book was great and unique, some parts can get a bit disturbing but I enjoyed it. This eerie and bloodthirsty tale of Hansel & Gretel was truly amazing, and I’m really looking forward to read the sequel. I know that waiting for it will take a long time, but I’m excited for what the authors has in store next. It has been a blast reading this story, and for those of you who haven’t, let me just say that you’ll love this one…only if you really like a very disturbing story that have major horror vibe and are full of bloods and murders.

see you soon

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