The quote on the back page, ‘When the fog rises, run for home, my child. Dead men rise with the mist’ got my attention. I love a good ghost story and this one, set in Norway, piqued my interest with a setting different to the usual British haunt (forgive the pun). I enjoyed plunging into the growing sinister environment the author created using features of the natural world I wasn’t immediately familiar with. It added a freshness to the narrative that I haven’t experienced for some time.
The protagonist Martha, with a mysterious injury in one eye that she thinks makes her look ‘ugly’, is on the run from England to Norway to see her grandmother, Mormor. From the outset Martha encounters obstacles that reveal she’s a plucky yet brittle teenager who has a tender heart. My feeling of anticipation really kicked in however, when Martha finally arrives in Norway and sets off to trek through the woods to Mormor’s cabin (already I was thinking of Little Red Riding Hood…wolves, anyone?). The suspense continues to unravel as Martha finds Mormor’s cabin empty. Or is it?
Nordic folklore is woven into the plot which has at its heart a young girl who feels indelibly cursed (both physically and perhaps supernaturally?) yet digs deep to find her courage and eventual acceptance of who she is. She is helped in part by a love interest which is intensified by the need of both of them to stay safe in the cabin and join together to fight what lies outside. In the forest. In the dark. And did I mention a seemingly sinister tree? Tension aplenty!
I was particularly inspired by the way Martha called on the help of her ancestors, women who although dead were not forgotten. I found this an empowering message that when times are tough and things uncertain, drawing strength from remembering where you are from and who you are from can help. At least is did for Martha and by the end of the novel the significance of this hit home for me to. This book not only got my attention at the start but held it fast, like the grip of a dead man in the mist, right until the very end.
Reviewed by Belinda