Feast: Harvest of Dreams by Merrie Destefano

Feast: Harvest of Dreams

I grew up reading the original versions of the Grimm Brothers’ fairy tales, so I have a taste for stories that flirt with the darkness.  Not all fantasy novels can match their atmosphere—all too often, the tales will spiral off into violence or into sexual encounters.  But when a book captures the enveloping eeriness of those old tales, I fall in love with it.  Feast: Harvest of Dreams is just such a novel.

(Description nicked from the publisher website.)

“Halloween is a bad time to return to the woods . . .

Madeline MacFaddin (“Mad Mac” to fans of her bestselling magical stories) spent blissful childhood summers in Ticonderoga Falls. And this is where she wants to be now that her adult life is falling apart. The dense surrounding forest holds many memories, some joyous, some tantalizingly only half-remembered. And she’s always believed there was something living in these wooded hills.

But Maddie doesn’t remember the dark parts—and knows nothing of the mountain legend that holds the area’s terrified residents captive. She has no recollection of Ash, the strange and magnificent creature who once saved her life as a child, even though it is the destiny of his kind to prey upon humanity. And soon it will be the harvest . . . the time to feast.

Once again Maddie’s dreams—and her soul—are in grave danger. But magic runs deep during harvest. Even a spinner of enchanted tales has wondrous powers of her own . . .”

I admit that I initially had a little trouble getting into this book.  Much of what is happening remains a mystery until around halfway through the story, so readers shouldn’t expect to know what’s going on before then.  But it didn’t take me until the halfway point to get hooked on it, though.  Once I really dove into it and let myself be charmed by the lush, sensual atmosphere of the tale, I didn’t want to put it down.

The plot is slowly woven together from the points of view of several different characters.  Chief among them are Maddie and Ash, but others get their two cents in as well.  We get to hear from characters both good and evil, which isn’t something authors tend to do very often.  It gives the narrative a balanced feel—it’s pulled together in a most unusual fashion, but it works.  The other thing that this allows for is a strong resemblance to the traditional dark fairy tales: By including the more dangerous characters, and by showing the reactions to them, the author captures the feel of a Grimm Brother’s story, and even shades of Gaiman’s Neverwhere.

There is a romance between Maddie and Ash, but it’s not intrusive.  Rather, it has a quality almost like “Beauty and the Beast”, with the romantic aspects growing so gradually that they span the entire tale.  And I’m glad that the relationship was downplayed to this level, as too much of it would have detracted from the main plotline and the events relating to the rest of the town.  But Destefano hit the balance just right.

I wasn’t expecting this book to be as captivating as it was, but I ended up absolutely loving it.  The atmosphere, the story and the characters all combined to create a novel of lush beauty, as rich and compelling as a bite of dark chocolate and a sip of red wine.  Pick up Feast: Harvest of Dreams and be prepared for a wonderful dark fantasy that will sweep you away.

This review appeared on Owlcat Mountain on July 30, 2011.

Series: n/a
ISBN: 9780061990823
Publisher: Harper Voyager
Page Count: 320
Publication Date: June 28, 2011
Acquired: E-galley from NetGalley
Author Website
An excerpt and a deleted scene can be read at the author’s website, but due to the set-up of the site, I can’t link directly to them.