Review: The Willow By Your Side by Peter Haynes

The Willow By Your Side by Peter Haynes
Unsung Stories (November 2018)

330 pages; $5.99 e-book
Reviewed by Meredith Durfy

The Willow By Your Side is a novel that plays with themes of war and humanity. It also uses conventions of fairy tales. The sister of the unnamed main character runs away from their abusive father who suffers from PTSD. The book is told in reverse order. The main character tries to return his sister home while facing multiple obstacles including a Red Cap.

The Willow By Your Side is an inconsistently written social commentary on the nature and cost of war in post-World War One England as relating to classic fairy tales and knights. The narrative is unclear. The sister is an interesting if underwritten character. The narrator is unreliable to a fault and comes off as a bit dim.

I could see quite a bit of potential in this story. There were many good ideas but they were either underutilized or dropped entirely. Parts of it were very evocative and beautifully written. The scenes that were well written often had very good ambience and perfectly captured what they were going for. They just made things over complicated and couldn’t sustain it for a long time. I could see what they wanted to do but they put too much on their plate.

I would recommend The Willow By Your Side to readers who don’t want to get too invested. Despite some scenes that are genuinely horrific and bone chilling, it also comes with an in-book children’s story that contains horrendous stereotypes which portray Native Americans as cannibalistic monsters who will gain your trust and kill your children. There was no reason plot-wise that they had to read this story and there was no knowledge gained from it.

Overall The Willow By Your Side does not work as a socio-political commentary, horror, fantasy or historical fiction. This is an unevenly written novel that isn’t what it wants to be.

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