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Missing Children and a Forbidden Forest Ruled by the Fae

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Patricia Elzie-Tuttle

Contributing Editor

Patricia Elzie-Tuttle is a writer, podcaster, librarian, and information fanatic who appreciates potatoes in every single one of their beautiful iterations. Patricia earned a B.A. in Creative Writing and Musical Theatre from the University of Southern California and an MLIS from San Jose State University. Her weekly newsletter, Enthusiastic Encouragement & Dubious Advice offers self-improvement and mental health advice, essays, and resources that pull from her experience as a queer, Black, & Filipina person existing in the world. She is also doing the same on the Enthusiastic Encouragement & Dubious Advice Podcast. More of her written work can also be found in Body Talk: 37 Voices Explore Our Radical Anatomy edited by Kelly Jensen, and, if you’re feeling spicy, in Best Women’s Erotica of the Year, Volume 4 edited by Rachel Kramer Bussel. Patricia has been a Book Riot contributor since 2016 and is currently co-host of the All the Books! podcast and one of the weekly writers of the Read This Book newsletter. She lives in Oakland, CA on unceded Ohlone land with her wife and a positively alarming amount of books. Find her on her Instagram, Bluesky, and LinkTree.

Today’s pick just came out, and it is the first book I’ve read in a few months that was hard to put down. Luckily, it’s a novella, so it could definitely be read in a single sitting.

Book cover of The Butcher of the Forest by Premee Mohamed

The Butcher of the Forest by Premee Mohamed

This is the exact proper way to write about fairies, which is to say, the fae are terrifying and demented and never to be trusted. As a child, I thought fairies were cute, like Tinkerbell and the tooth fairy, although a fairy that sneaks into your house at night and purchases your bones is maybe not actually cute. As an adult, I have become increasingly more horrified by the fae, and playing Dungeons & Dragons is only partially to blame. The Butcher of the Forest is a dark fantasy, borderline horror, about the fae, though the author might not even use that particular term.

It starts before sunrise at the home of Veris Thorn, a woman nearly 40 years old. Armored guards show up at Veris’s door and command that she get in the carriage. She is still in her nightclothes and doesn’t know the meaning of this, but she knows it’s bad because these guards belong to the Tyrant. The Tyrant is just as you would imagine: a terrible ruler who goes around “conquering,” and if a village doesn’t submit, he just murders everyone, which had included Veris’s parents. The only family she has left are her elderly aunt and grandfather. Veris goes willingly with the guards in order to protect her family, though, as I mentioned, she has no idea what the Tyrant wants with her.

The south woods have been tamed. They’re used for hunting and harvesting and planting fruiting trees for generations. The north woods, however, are a different story. Everyone in the village knows not to go into the north woods. Heck, everyone in several nearby villages knows not to go into the north woods. Anyone who goes into the north woods never comes back out. Except, one person had: Veris. Now, the Tyrant is ordering Veris to go back into the woods for a task. She has one day to get in and out, or else the creatures of the forest will claim her and what the Tyrant has lost. If she doesn’t complete this task, the Tyrant will raze her entire village to the ground.

Content warnings for violence, gore, harm to children, harm to animals, mentions of sexual assault.

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