Book Review: The Will and the Wilds by Charlie N. Holmberg



A spellbinding story of truce and trickery from the Wall Street Journal bestselling author of The Paper Magician series.

Enna knows to fear the mystings that roam the wildwood near her home. When one tries to kill her to obtain an enchanted stone, Enna takes a huge risk: fighting back with a mysting of her own.

Maekallus’s help isn’t free. His price? A kiss. One with the power to steal her soul. But their deal leaves Maekallus bound to the mortal realm, which begins eating him alive. Only Enna’s kiss, given willingly, can save him from immediate destruction. It’s a temporary salvation for Maekallus and a lingering doom for Enna. Part of her soul now burns bright inside Maekallus, making him feel for the first time.

Enna shares Maekallus’s suffering, but her small sacrifice won’t last long. If she and Maekallus can’t break the spell binding him to the mortal realm, Maekallus will be consumed completely—and Enna’s soul with him.




I knew I’d probably enjoy this book because I’ve loved everything I’ve read by Charlie N. Holmberg so far. She just writes the type of stories I like–fantasy with a dollop of romance. This one very much reminds me of the first book in her Paper Magician series, although the setting and characters are completely different. I think it’s the themes expressed, and the way the romance plays out puts me in mind of it for some reason, with the journey near the end and the struggle to save each other because of love.

This is a book that above everything else is about the characters and their own personal journeys. I really loved Enna’s character. She and her father are not exactly outcasts but they certainly don’t have a lot of friends in their village/town. They’re thought of as a bit odd and maybe that’s true, her father isn’t always of sound mind and Enna is educated for a village girl and likes to study mystings and magic. Enna is tenacious, and I really appreciate that about her. She sees a goal and goes after it. She’s also a problem solver. But sometimes these things combine to land her in hot water, as they do in this book. Because she decides to go ahead with some magic and make a pact with a mysting in order to protect herself from other mystings she ends up in a worse situation. Then the rest of the book is spent trying to find a way out of that situation and the clock is ticking. As for the other main character, the mysting Maekallus, I rather liked him even though he is shown to be a trickster, a liar, and very dangerous. From the get go he lies to Enna, first intending to take more than he told her while striking their bargain and then later about the nature of their bond and what it means for her. This is explained away as his nature–he’s a soulless mysting and does not have human feelings so he can’t be expected to care. But as he absorbs more and more of Enna’s soul he has more and more feelings. It’s here that he begins to realize how much of a jerk he’s been and have regrets about his lies. I liked watching their relationship play out although I do also have some criticisms of it, more on that later.

The world building in this is not super detailed but we are given enough information for the story to work. We don’t see a lot of what the greater world looks like but we get a sense of things and the level of technology and what kind of society it is enough for the story to make sense within it. And honestly for stories that focus so much on the characters, like this one, this is just the right amount of world building. Sometimes I would like to know more about a world because my curiosity gets the best of me, but I also don’t want to get bogged down in too many details. For a story like this it’s just the right amount. We get little bits of information here and there from Enna’s journal on the mystings at the start of each chapter and as Enna goes on a fact finding mission we learn a lot more about mystings, the different types, and how some of their magic works. I also loved how the mystery of it all makes it feel a little more dreamlike, as if there are some pieces of the puzzle just out of reach.

My only criticism of this, and it’s more of a pet peeve more than anything, is the whole ‘exception’ thing for the ‘my monster boyfriend’ trope (or perhaps the ‘you sexy beast’ trope on tv tropes fits here too). Especially the ‘transforms him through the power of love’ bit. There’s nothing wrong with this trope, but perhaps it’s me and I’m just a little tired of it because I’ve seen it so many times. It’s like Buffy the Vampire Slayer where all the vampires are evil except Angel because he gets a soul or maybe even Spike is a better example in this case because he definitely starts out as one of the ‘bad guys’. I do think there are higher things at work than just the ‘power of love’ thing because there are souls involved as well and I’m sure there’s a metaphor here that I’m deliberately choosing to look past. I guess the thing that I don’t like about this trope is the implication that without that ‘love’ or ‘soul’ they’re still just a monster and unable to love which feels like BS to me. It also means, as I said earlier, that all of his being a jerk is kind of passed over as ‘well he didn’t know any better because he wasn’t his true self then’ and that doesn’t feel right to me either. Even so, like I said, this is just a pet peeve of mine and it didn’t have a huge impact on my overall enjoyment of the book because I love a romance, especially when it’s a forbidden type, and I’m willing to overlook some things that might otherwise drive me crazy were I to examine them in more detail while reading. 🙂

Overall, this was an enjoyable read for me. I really loved the main character and thought the world was interesting. Definitely looking forward to more of Holmberg’s work in the future. 3.5/5 stars.

23 thoughts on “Book Review: The Will and the Wilds by Charlie N. Holmberg

    • waytoofantasy says:

      I know, I thought of you when I wrote that bit lol. Hmmm, his character is Spike-like in the set up, I don’t know if he has the same charm thoug . I think you’ll see what I mean when you read it. I hope you like it! It wasn’t my favorite of her books but it was still very much in my wheelhouse. 🙂

  1. Mogsy @ BiblioSanctum says:

    Hmm, sounds like there are some strong and not so strong points! I’m still deciding whether or not to read this and the decision hasn’t gotten easier, but I think I would probably like this more than Smoke and Summons!

  2. maddalena@spaceandsorcery says:

    As I read your review I kept thinking that there were some “Beauty and the Beast” vibes there, and your later comments confirmed that it is indeed a tale of “redemption through love”: even though the story seems to follow that trope, it sounds intriguing – and as a fairy-tale of sorts maybe it ‘needs’ to bow to some conventions…
    Thanks for sharing! 🙂

    • waytoofantasy says:

      Oh, it’s definitely got some Beauty and the Beast things going on. I think the thing that didn’t work for me in particular is the implication that without this one particular thing happening the ‘beast’ character would be incapable of love which somehow feels…wrong to me in some ways. Like there shouldn’t be a mechanism for it? Regardless, I still did enjoy the book. 🙂

  3. Sarah says:

    I agree about the monster boyfriend trope or the transforming through the power of love stuff. I think it makes me crazy for different reasons though. I think it puts the wrong idea in readers / watchers heads that this is a totally reasonable thing and loving someone is enough to make them change. As someone who’s been there- It’s my experience that a person has to want to change for themselves before they’ll ever bother doing it for someone else. Maybe that other person keeps them on track, but it’s rarely the reason they change ultimately. Just my two cents. 🙂 Glad you mostly enjoyed it.

    • waytoofantasy says:

      Right. And you know, i don’t *always* mind the trope if it’s done well, like you said, the person has to want to change themselves! But the thing in this one that really irked me is that it wasn’t just love (although because of the nature of the mechanism I guess in a round about way it was love) there was a mechanism that allowed them to feel that love in the first place and without that thing happening they would have just remained a monster. Like….what?
      Also, I sometimes wonder, because I know the author is religious, if some of the things in her books are metaphors for religious stuff (nothing wrong with that) and in this case it would work really well for the concept of being saved, and that the love they are able to then feel would be a metaphor for God’s love…but then I think maybe I’m reading too much into things and it’s just a fantasy love story. 🙂
      Either way, I did enjoy it despite that one hiccup. 🙂

      • Sarah says:

        Oof- that does sound bad! I’m also not a fan of organized religion as a whole so I’m thinking this might not be for me even a little. Although I’m not really trained to see those sorts of metaphors so who knows, maybe it would go right over my head. lol

      • waytoofantasy says:

        Same, I’m actually a kinda sorta pagan doing my own thing so…lol.
        I don’t mind reading stories that have religion worked in (for instance I loved Narnia) as long as it is embedded enough that I can overlook it and just enjoy the story for what it is, but sometimes when I know an author is religious I always wonder if there are themes coming through in their work. So, like i said it could be me just reading into things here…lol.

      • Sarah says:

        Well- it’s one kind of perspective and it will inevitably Seep in somewhere. Nothing wrong with that per se, just when I know about it I’m more likely to look for it and that will make me crazy. lol I never got the religious implications of Narnia either so you aren’t alone.

  4. Dany says:

    Will and the Wilds ended up being a huge deal breaker for me. I’ve only read Charlie’s Numina series , but Will and the Wilds felt dwarfed out in the world building and the writing somehow. Great review❤️

    • waytoofantasy says:

      Thanks. It’s a shame because I’ve liked her other stuff much better. Seems like she was writing this before or just after Paper Magician so maybe this was a much earlier manuscript and unfortunately I think it shows. :/

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