The Keepers of Metsan Valo

By Wendy Webb

The spirits of Nordic folklore come calling in this entrancing tale of family secrets and ancient mysteries by the #1 Amazon Charts bestselling author of The Haunting of Brynn Wilder.

In Metsan Valo, her family home on Lake Superior, Anni Halla’s beloved grandmother has died. Among her fond memories, what Anni remembers most vividly is her grandmother’s eerie yet enchanting storytelling. By firelight she spun tall tales of spirits in the nearby forest and waters who could heal—or harm—on a whim. But of course those were only stories…

The reading of the will now occasions a family reunion. Anni and her twin brother, their almost otherworldly mother, and relatives Anni hasn’t seen in forever—some with good reason—are all brought back together under one roof that strains to hold all their tension. But it’s not just Annie’s family who is unsettled. Whispers wind through the woods. Laughter bursts from bubbling streams. Raps from unseen hands rupture on the walls. Fireflies swarm and nightmares stir. With each odd occurrence, Anni fears that her return has invited less a welcoming and more a warning.

When another tragedy strikes near home, Anni must dive headfirst into the mysterious happenings to discover the truth about her home, her family, and the wooded island’s ancient lore. Plunging into the past may be the only way to save her family from whatever bedevils Metsan Valo.

I’m no stranger to Wendy Webb’s books. I’ve read them all. So when I was given a change to read the eARC of this book by NetGalley and Lake Union Publishing (in exchange for an honest review), I jumped at the chance. I read the whole book in under 24 hours. 

This book took me by surprise. I’m used to high levels of creepiness, dark corners, shadows taking on a life of their own and weird dolls with insane smiles on their faces. Wendy Webb knows how to write an intensely dark novel with enough scare to keep you up at night. 

So you can imagine my surprise to find not a whole lot of that in this book. The story was good – really good. There are some eerie moments and some minor shivers down the spine but nothing to what I’m used to coming from this author. I’m not going to lie when I say I was a bit disappointed. There is a bit of a supernatural element to it along with a fair amount of folklore but the scare factor wasn’t there at all. 

That being said, the folklore and antiquity of this family was nicely written. As with most Wendy Webb books, the house is its own character and you’re left with a few questions here and there. You also really get to know the Halle family and experience their nuances and get to dig deep into their relationships.

This story is about family. It’s about family history, particularly the Halla family history. It’s about ancient stories laced in the supernatural whose magic has survived the generations. It’s about a young girl stepping into the role she was born to play superseding those that came before her and taking the reins of an ancient magic that surrounds her home. It’s about the folklore weaved in and out of her past and moving her into her future. 

And it’s about forgiveness, love and the ability to overlook the flaws we see in those close to us. 

One thing I really loved was the way characters and places from Wendy Webb’s previous stories were laced throughout this book. It felt like a little “thank you” to all of us who’ve read all of her previous books. I almost felt like I was coming home to visit some of my favorite haunts of Wharton. That was a really nice surprise and I loved every bit of it. 

If you’re looking for a traditional ghost story, this book isn’t it. If you’re looking for dark and sinister, this isn’t it. If you’re looking for a light read with some mild shivers and a quick read, this book is for you. 

The Vanishing

by Wendy Webb

Julia Bishop is recently widowed and left penniless by her husband who engaged in fraud as a means of making money. A stranger shows up one day offering her more than just a job, but a new life and a chance to disappear. Moreover, it’s a chance to work taking care of her favorite author, Amaris Sinclair….who is supposed to be dead. 

First, let me say this book opens with a creepy scene of a séance-gone-really-wrong which happened many years before our story takes place. It sets the scene, so to speak and instantly drops hints at the type of ghosts we may be dealing with. I was instantly hooked and couldn’t wait to find out who these entities were and why they were haunting.  

What I really love about Wendy Webb’s writing, especially in this book, is that while I was reading it, I felt each ghost leap out and brush against me. I heard the whispers in the dark hallways. I could almost see myself, like Julia, feeling against the wall hoping for a light to turn on to dispel the darkness. It wasn’t so much that this book was scary as much as it was intensely eerie. I found myself wondering who Amaris Sinclair was and got quickly drawn into her story as it unfolded. I also loved the dogs, who were fiercely protective of Julia pretty much from the moment she entered the house and almost where characters in their right in the story.

I also loved the setting. Who doesn’t love the idea of an isolated, historic mansion in the middle of the woods. Add a snowstorm causing all the main characters to be snowed in and my anxiety levels increased while reading this book. I wanted a way out and I read this during the winter when it was snowing.

Now, I’ll admit, I raised an eyebrow or two at a few things – like why Julia would be so willing to trust a total stranger with her whole life and future after being so brutally betrayed by her husband. Or her quick romance Again, after being betrayed by her husband, it’s hard for me to believe she so easily fell into the arms of someone else so quickly. There’s almost a brushing aside of the natural grief and uncertainty in the face of Adrian Sinclair’s offer.

Also, I was unsure of the endings. I say endings as there seemed to be two of them. One ended the ghost story which honestly was over much quicker than I anticipated. I felt a little let down. But then the epilogue happened and my literal reaction was, “Wait….WHAT?” So was it a dream? Is it real? And even though I initially hated that ending, I also loved that ending because it DID leave me wondering if any of it was real or not and if not, at what point did it stop being real. That is true, talented story-telling, in this reader’s opinion and it made me want to read more of Wendy Webb’s books. 

My advice – read this on a rainy afternoon, with a blanket on your lap and a dog at your side. A cup of tea (or hot chocolate) should be at the ready. Then, immerse yourself in this story and don’t let go. 

⭐ ⭐ ⭐ ⭐