Spoiler Free Summary: Little Wren and the Big Forest by Michael J. Sullivan is the eighteenth story in the Unfettered II Anthology. Everyone knows not to go into the forest. Everyone. But Wren’s lost a sheep, and her brother needs to find it. When he doesn’t come back, her parents leave. When they don’t come back, she goes looking. What she finds is a terrifying situation that forces her to pit her wits against an ancient creature bent of bringing something terrible to life.
Character: Wren was one of the more memorable characters in this anthology. There was a good amount of fear and bravery. Being young, she couldn’t be that competent (unless she was a prodigy, which she wasn’t), but she makes up for that with sympathy and proactivity.
Exposition: This was also fantastic. The story flowed seamlessly and was very hard to stop listening to (I listened to the Audible version). I don’t remember any point at which this story slowed down at all for me.
Worldbuilding: This is probably where the story fell short a bit for me. The reader honestly gets everything he needs, but this world seems so fascinating, and we don’t get much information on how this world operates. This might be from a larger story or series, which would mean fans already familiar with the world already know what’s happening. Even though I did get what I needed, I wish I had a bit more of this world to enjoy.
Dialogue: I can’t put my finger on what this story reminds me of, but a significant portion of the story is Wren’s battle of wits with the creature she meets in the woods. That conversation was very well done and is probably why I enjoyed this so much.
Description: I was satisfied with the description in this story if not impressed. Perhaps one of the reasons I didn’t put this story in my top three from the anthology was because I would have liked a bit more sensory data here. Levels of description in order of desired outcome: 1) The reader knows what’s going on. 2) The reader can imagine some of the scene or characters. 3) The reader can imagine all of the scene and characters. 4) The reader has vivid imagery and imagination of the story. However, the highest level is this: The reader FEELS like HE is the character in the story and FEELS like he is in the story. I have the description for this story somewhere around 3, which is good, but not great. A story this fantastic deserved a bit more.
Overall: This was a rather disturbing fairy tale. It’s compelling in its conflict and imagination. While I wouldn’t call it one of the greatest stories ever, it’s certainly deserving of being read or listened too. If you like your youth fairy tales a bit on the darker side (I.G. Witches or The Watcher in the Woods), this is probably right up your alley.
Thanks for reading