Ever since she was young, Jane Silverlake has had a strange talent (or as she sometimes thinks of it, her “infection”) to see and hear the “souls” of manmade objects. It’s kept her isolated most of her life, until she meets Madeline and Nathan, who live nearby and befriend her. The three are mostly a happy trio, except for the fact that now that Maddy and Jane are young adults, they both care for Nathan, setting up a bit of a silent competition for his permanent affections.
Nathan has a fairly obsessive interest in the supernatural, and he spends a great deal of time investigating it and experimenting with Jane’s gift, which others can experience when touching her. His obsession leads him finally to a strange cult led by a charismatic and dangerous man, and despite his friends’ warnings, one evening after attending a “provocation” held in the cult’s headquarters, Nathan simply disappears.
The famed Inspector Vidocq of France is brought in by Nathan’s father to investigate, but Maddy and Jane try to evade his questions partly so Jane’s gift won’t be found out. The two friends instead try to do some investigating of their own. But all paths lead back to the sinister cult leader and his followers, and even back to Jane herself. She must finally come to terms with the magnitude of her talent and what it means for herself, her friends, and, yes, even the whole world.
The White Forest is a fascinating book that delves into the world of Victorian London and the types of strange phenomena that fascinated the rich and bored of that time. I expected mystery and a gothic story, but I didn’t anticipate just how much the book really hinged on the supernatural. It was actually a bit creepy at times. The people in the story were longing for a lost paradise, but the strange hidden world that Jane could access never seemed beautiful to me, just empty and unnerving. Even so, the book was interesting and well written and held my attention.
Rated: Mild. There is almost no bad language, in accordance with the era/setting, and there is one sex scene, but almost no details. The book contains some violence and some mildly disturbing scenes and themes. The characters, particularly the heroine, aren’t particularly religious, and themes revolve around old pagan beliefs and “pre-creation.”