A house brownie and a shadow spectre.
After years at boarding schools, Tamsin returns to her small hometown to care for her grandmother. For years, she had managed to put her “imaginary friends” out of her mind. But now that she’s returned, Tamsin has to reckon with the house brownie who throws tantrums, a mysterious spectre named Leithe who appears in her shadow, and Hunter who wants her to leave.
It was so easy to become immersed in Tamsin’s struggle to remember her past and to save the surly but mysterious Leithe. Wherever he is…
Carlisle does a good job of managing the complicated relationship between Tamsin and her grandmother in the midst of the lore of Faery. While Tamsin can see and interact with the mythical creatures, her grandmother cannot. Fortunately, Tamsin has some allies along the way to help her along.
The ending also leaves the book with a satisfying conclusion that leaves you wanting the sequel!
And here is the fun conversation with Grace:
Jenn: How did the idea for The Forest of Forgotten Vows come about?
Grace: I always wondered that if, one day, a typical person discovered the existence of magic or magical creatures, how quickly would they be able to come to terms with it? Would they accept that new reality, or would they doubt their own experience if it went against everything they’d been told was true? I wanted to start the story with someone who struggled with that conflict—of disbelieving your own life experience because it didn’t match what you’d been told to expect.
With that in mind, I’ve always enjoyed stories about faeries and other spirits of ambiguous morality—sometimes helpful to humans and sometimes not, so I knew that was the kind of fantasy element I wanted to write a story around.
J: The mythical creatures and the “rules” of Faery are so delightfully complex. What was it like creating this world? Was there research involved?
G: I took a lot of inspiration from the way faeries are depicted in a lot of the urban fantasy stories with which I grew up, such as the work of Holly Black and Melissa Marr. But during my research phase, I also read some of the work of Katharine Briggs, a British folklorist who published several books on the folktales of Great Britain, including fairies.
With a foundation of both folklore and the zeitgeist of the last ten years, I wanted to create something that was inspired by what came before but not derivative. I wanted the dark, captivating flair of modern urban fantasy faerie tales, but that also harkened back to the centuries of source material before that.
J: The decision to omit a romantic storyline was so surprising! (My mind was set on trying to guess whether Tamsin going to end up with Zach? The Hunter? Someone else?) How did you decide to go that route?
G: I did originally intend for Tamsin to have a romantic subplot, but in the process of drafting I realized that wasn’t the “love story” arc that was calling to me. I think the most important relationship arc Tamsin has in this book is with her grandmother—it’s not a romantic love story, true, but familial love is no less important. I opted to bring that relationship front and center for this book instead of having it compete with a romance arc. Another factor is that I realized Tamsin wasn’t ready to be interested in romance yet. A lot of this book involved her self-identity and what it is she wants for herself. I think those questions need to come first.
That being said, I haven’t forgotten about romance! While it’s still in the drafting stage, I can say I have some plans in that regard for Book 2 . . .
J: How would you have reacted if a Leithe-like character appeared in your shadow (or bathroom… eek!)?
G: Move, haha.
J: How much of Tamsin do you see in yourself?
G: Writing Tamsin was cathartic for me in several ways. When I first started writing this story, I was much closer to the age that Tamsin is in the book. I was about to finish school and I didn’t know where my life was going to go after that. I was in the transition phase between college-adult and “real” adult if that makes sense. I still didn’t know how I would fit into the “real” world and worried constantly about measuring up to what I thought was expected of me as a “real” adult.
So I wrote all those feelings into Tamsin and allowed her to ruminate on them while I did the same thing. I’d like to think she finds the answers to some of these uncertainties over the course of the story, and I hope that others who read the book who might be in the same phase of life as Tamsin, in the beginning, might find some comfort in a character with these struggles.
J: The intricate book cover is so reminiscent of the classic, embossed fairy tale book covers. What did the design process look like?
G: The cover was actually premade by Spurwing Creative, with very few adjustments to the final design. I fell in love at first sight with the cover for the reasons you mentioned, though honestly, I hadn’t put those feelings into words before now. Perhaps it reminded me of the cover of the Blue Fairy Book my mother read to me when I was a child. I can’t wait to work with the designer to make similar covers for future books in the series.
J: What can we expect from you next? Would you mind sharing a hint about Book 2?
G: I’m very close to being done with the first draft of Book 2. I don’t want to say too much about it because I expect to make significant changes during the revising process, but the one thing you can be sure to expect is that there will be a lot of travel. Forest of Forgotten Vows took place in a single general location, but Book 2 will take us to new and (hopefully) fantastical locales.
I’m also in the process of outlining a completely new series in which I hope to play with a lot of the more famous urban fantasy story tropes.
J: What is your favorite fairy tale/mythical story?
G: I really like the Epic of Gilgamesh. Even Gilgamesh, who is two-thirds god, cannot escape the inevitability of death. He loses his closest friend and his ultimate quest ends in humbling failure. But even so, the epic ends with Gilgamesh returning to Uruk and realizing that the things humans build will endure long after the original builders are gone. I found it very uplifting.
J: Who are your author “heroes?”
G: I love Terry Pratchett for his righteously angry satire and incredible humor, as well as the way he incorporates myriad social issues into his work. Monstrous Regiment is one of my favorite Discworld books, alongside most of the books in the City Watch and Witches collections. I also really like Jane Austen for how she portrays romance in Pride and Prejudice. Elizabeth and Darcy have to work on their own flaws and reach a mutual respect for one another before their romance can flourish. These are all things I strive to one day depict in my own work.
J: What are you reading now?
G: One of my favorite stories that I’m reading right now is Kubera, a Korean webtoon. I’ve always loved graphic novels of all kinds, and Kubera has been one of my favorites for a long time for its expansive fantasy world-building and character development. I’m also reading Dune with a book club. It’s been very fun to read and discuss it chapter by chapter.
Okay, that’s all for now. Don’t forget to check out The Forest of Forgotten Vows and have a wonderful day, everyone!