The Twisted Tree
Written by Rachel Burge
Published by Hot Key Books
Publication date: 10th January 2019
Summary (from Goodreads):
Part ghost story, part Nordic thriller – this is a twisty, tense and spooky YA debut, perfect for fans of CORALINE and Michelle Paver.
Martha can tell things about a person just by touching their clothes, as if their emotions and memories have been absorbed into the material. It started the day she fell from the tree at her grandma’s cabin and became blind in one eye.
Determined to understand her strange ability, Martha sets off to visit her grandmother, Mormor – only to discover Mormor is dead, a peculiar boy is in her cabin and a terrifying creature is on the loose.
Then the spinning wheel starts creaking, books move around and terror creeps in . . .
Set in the remote snows of contemporary Norway, THE TWISTED TREE is a ghost story that twists and turns – and never takes you quite where you’d expect.
A seagull cries overhead and I think about the last time I saw Mormor. he took me out to the tree the day before the accident, the gave me her gloves to hold and told me to listen. I tried, but all I could hear was the lonely cry of a gull.
‘Keep trying, my child, and one day you will hear,’ she said. When I asked what I would hear, she wouldn’t tell me. She had done the same thing when I was younger. Took me to the tree, put her shawl around me and told me to listen.
First impressions: Initially I was a little cautious about reading this as I have a very low tolerance for horror. Then, when I saw the mentions of folklore I couldn’t wait to get my hands on a copy! I am so glad I did as this was a fantastic book.
I read this while stuck in the airport for nearly 8 hours, which could have easily led to my experience of reading it being tainted by the impatience and discomfort. However, it was the opposite.
Despite external factors, this book managed to take me away, transporting me to a creepy, cold, Nordic landscape where strange creatures prowl through the woods and magic is tangible.
The story is fast-paced, sweeping you straight into the action. This was really effective, though at times, I would have liked to slow down and have a bit more information about the Nordic mythology that the story was inspired by.
Stig, Martha and all of the other characters were realistic and I particularly enjoyed the author giving an insight into why she chose the names for each one. I wasn’t fully invested in the romance, mostly due to the fact that Martha tended to think of romantic things when in dire peril and I was more focused on their survival!
This is a perfect read for cold evenings, when you’re tucked up warm and can enjoy the thrill of looking for monsters in the shadows…
A gust of wind throws grit in my face and I turn away. Then I catch sight of it. The twisted tree. At first it’s just a blurred shape at the bottom of the garden, shaking in the breeze. I squint and its black branches come into focus. It looks even more gnarled and ancient than I remember. I don’t blame the tree for the accident; it was my fault for losing my footing. Even so, seeing it makes me shiver.
I hammer on the door and scan the windows. Suddenly the light inside goes out, plunging the porch into darkness. MY heart leaps into my throat. Why would she turn it off? I blink as my sight adjusts to the pale moonlight. The wind is so loud Mormor can’t have heard me knock, that’s all. She must have turned off the light and gone to bed.
I peer through the dark window and see an oil lamp on the table, it’s flame dying. Mormor would never go to bed and leave a flame burning, even a low one. Something is wrong.
What I liked: Inspiration from Nordic folklore, the setting in Norway,the inclusion of Norwegian language and the pace of the story. I also liked how each cryptic chapter title was revealed in that chapter. It got me guessing what was going to happen and excited when I worked out how it fit together! Finally, the book was brilliantly effective at creating a slow, creeping atmosphere that made me feel chilled even when sitting in a room filled with lots of people. Fantastic writing!
Even better if: I wasn’t really sold on the romance, despite the fact that I loved Stig as a character. Mainly this was because Martha thought about romance at the most inconvenient times so instead of cheering on any cute interactions, my brain was too busy screeching ‘There’s something scratching outside the door! Run away!’
How you could use it in your classroom: It would be fun to compare the original stories from Nordic folklore with the symbols of them found in this story, as well as talk about various belief systems and folklore around the world, drawing out similarities and differences. I would recommend this for ages 14+ because there are character deaths and some quite creepy imagery which may upset more sensitive or younger readers. Saying that though, my 12-year-old self (raised on Goosebumps and Point Horror) would have devoured this! As always, know your reader before recommending!
What did other bloggers think?
Cora from Tea Party Princess said:
“From the gorgeous cover to the mesmerising writing, The Twisted Tree by Rachel Burge was an absolute delight to read. It’s dark and twisting and chilling, and perfect for a thrill when it’s cold outside.”
See her full review here.
Hâf from The Library Looter has this to say:
“I really enjoyed the aspects of folklore and history engrained into the story as well as the opportunities used to include the language as well as translations.”
See her full review here.
Thanks for reading!