NSFW Book Review: The Dark Wood by Zadie Black

Title: The Dark Wood

Author: Zadie Black

Publisher: Zadie Black

Publication Date: May 23, 2020

Genres: Erotica

Shelves: Female-authored, Female-fronted

This was such a surreal read, such a seamless blend of fairy tale and fetish, that it does indeed feel almost magical. In leading us into The Dark Wood for the first time, Zadie Black puts a darker, more erotic spin on familiar tropes, and does so with an endearing heroine and an amusing storytelling device.

From that framing device to the language and dialogue, this whole story sounds and feels like a lost fairy tale. It has that narrative power to it, that ability to engage and entertain the reader, to draw us in and surround us with the mundane village of Fanny-on-Poke and the enchanted forest of The Dark Wood. It’s because of that narrative power that the erotic elements feel more naughty than nasty, somehow managing to be scandalous without being shocking. Right from the opening scenes, when we read of young Mabel and her fascination with sex, it’s not the unspeakable taboos that speak loudest but the naive wonder.

Mabel and Galen are everything you’d expect of a fairy tale couple – for good and bad. By the time the Duke swoops in with his indecent proposal for beautiful (and very pregnant) Mabel, we’re able to appreciate the dilemma it poses for the couple, to hope for the best because we know her motives, and yet fear for the worst because we know Galen’s. It seems like one fairy tale romance stepping into another, but then we get to know more about the Duke and suddenly it’s the reader with the dilemma.

Even when they’re base and animalistic, the erotic scenes here are beautiful, but it’s when they’re heartfelt and tender that the story is strongest – except, of course, this is a fairy tale, and sometimes the darkest of horrors are hidden beneath the brightest of joys. I loved how the story kept growing, evolving deeper into the fantastic, with unicorns and werewolves rhyming tricksters coloring the tale. With the promise of dragon harems in Book 2, I am eager to continue Mabel’s journey.

Rating: ♀ ♀ ♀ ♀

My sincere thanks to the author for sending me an ARC in exchange for an honest review.

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