I received a galley of this novel from NetGalley for review. This in no way affected my opinions.
I love historical fantasy (that doesn't have vampires, zombies, and werewolves) and The White Forest was a perfect example of historical fantasy done right. We get the feel of the time period, but with an added mystical atmosphere.
The specific date the story takes place in is never mentioned, but it takes place after the Crimean War. The story revolves around Jane Silverlake, who has a gift, a gift I don't want to even begin to explain because I'll just ruin it. Jane is friends with Maddy and Nathan, forming a sort of trio. When Nathan comes back from the war, he's a different man, and soon joins a cult which causes him to fall farther and farther away from his old life. One day, Nathan goes missing, and Jane must learn everything there is about her gift if she wants to help bring him back.
The descriptions of a dark and gritty Victorian London are told with such flowing prose. I got lost in the words and the pages just flew by. The characters were just great – well written and deep, even the side characters. The villain of the story, Ariston Day, the leader of the cult, was such a perfect villain. He was a villain who used his words to brainwash people, and brilliantly enough, we only see him for about two scenes, but by the time we meet him, we've already formed a determined opinion of him. His reputation proceeded him, so to speak.
A fantastically told story, and at some points it reminded me of Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrell. Very unusual, but in a good way.