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From: Michael Straight <straight@email.unc.edu>
Subject: (urth) The Devil in a Forest
Date: Sat, 6 Jan 2001 23:15:07 

I just finished reading this book a second time and really enjoyed it.  I
thought of it at Christmas when I heard "Good King Wenceslas" (I'll never
hear that carol the same way again!).

A hard book to label: The cover calls it Fantasy, but I can't think of any
fantastical elements unless you count Mark's slightly prescient dream
about the Barrow Man (which could be entirely accounted for by having
listened to Mother Cloot) and possibly the Epilogue (although some of us
might not consider that fantasy either).  

I've also heard it refered to as a Young Adult novel, but it seems awfully
brutal for kids with all the death, torture and hints/threats of rape
(Cloot makes vague references to Joselle having been molested in some way
by the soldiers, but not raped).  I hesitate to recommend this book to my
wife, much less a teenager, but maybe I'm out of step with what kids are
reading these days.  The book is much more straightforward than many of
Wolfe's books, so it may be easier for young folks in that sense, but it
definitely has a lot of Wolfe's twists and turns; just when you think you
know what story he's going to tell, he veers off in some unexpected
direction.  And, of course, reading it a second time, you see a few hints
that he was going that way all along.

I think one of the most interestesting parts of the novel is how Wat
manipulates the villagers, dividing them into smaller and smaller
factions, promising them less and less for deeds that are more and more
evil.  The Devil indeed.  Interesting too how different the title "The
Devil in a Forest" is from "A Devil in the Forest" (which scans more
easily and is what I kept calling the book when I first picked it up), as
if the forest is the novelty here.

Does anyone think Wolfe was unfair to the pagans in this story?  There's
plenty of evil deeds among Christians and pagans both, and a lot of it is
unrelated to religion (e.g. Wat's greed), but the Christians are better
the more faithful they are to their religion while the pagans are the most
horrifying when they are trying to revive theirs. 


*More Wolfe info & archive of this list at http://www.urth.net/urth/

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