Book review: Forestfall, Lyndall Clipstone

A lush and aesthetic YA Gothic fantasy.

Warning: this review contains spoilers for the first book in this duology, Lakesedge

Forestfall is Lyndall Clipstone’s haunting, high-drama conclusion to the World at the Lake’s Edge duology, which began with the release of Lakesedge last year. Violeta sacrificed herself to save her brother, Arien, and her lover, Rowan, and now she is a captive of the Lord Under in the world Below.

The Lord Under’s realm is a shadowy forest, and his purpose is to gather souls and put them to rest inside the red-tinged heartwood trees that populate that forest. But, although he showed mercy and did not lay her soul to rest as he was supposed to, Violeta knows she cannot stay with the Lord Under in the world Below forever. She may be technically dead, but she can still feel her connection to Rowan in the world Above, the connection she used to pull him back from the brink of his own destruction months earlier. Violeta will do whatever it takes to find her way home to him and Arien, even if it means bargaining with the terrible creatures that rule the other domains of the world Below.

Clipstone has created another lush, YA Gothic fantasy novel. It’s one where readers are kept on the edge of their seats as the stakes are constantly rising, wondering what terrible price Violeta and Rowan will pay next in their quests to reach each other. The gloomy, moth and mushroom-filled forest of the world Below is vivid and aesthetic, and is as much a character as the teenagers tearing worlds apart to be together. The other creatures that rule alongside the Lord Under are terrifying and familiar, and are shadowy forest creatures that will use Violeta’s desperation to their own sinister ends.

Overall, Forestfall takes the high emotion and Gothic and YA tropes of Lakesedge and dials everything up to eleven, creating a world that is somewhere between the upside-down of Stranger Things and the maze of The Labyrinth. It’s chilly and sinister, filled with strange, malevolent creatures and weirdness, and is as much a state of mind as a physical place.

As for Violeta, she continues her arc as the tragic heroine, sacrificing herself and making perilous bargains with dark creatures – her lacy skirts rustling and her auburn hair tangled with a crown of twigs and leaves as she gives more and more of herself away to the Lord Under and his creatures. She is Persephone, she is Morgana le Fay, she is Little Red Riding Hood (the one that outsmarts the wolf of course), and she will fight her way home.

Read: Exhibition review: Naadohbii: To Draw Water

I would recommend this book to lovers of high-stakes YA drama, all-but-doomed teenage love stories, and spooky Pagan-esque forest settings. An excellent Halloween read.

Forestfall by Lyndall Clipstone
Publisher: Pan MacMillan Australia
ISBN: 9781760985264
Format: Paperback
Pages: 416 pp
Publication date: 30 August 2022
RRP: $24.99

Jemimah is a Gippsland-based writer and editor working in fiction, creative nonfiction, and newsletters. She reads and reviews books, edits work for other writers, and publishes the fortnightly Substack newsletter The Brew. Find her on Instagram and Facebook.