"The Rabbit Back Literature Society"
Review by Caitlin Postal
Editor's Note: This is one of those books I dearly wished I'd had time to review personally, with the use of folklore motifs and fairy tale-like echoes in the characters. Fortunately, partnering with Timeless Tales Magazine means we're able to begin building a "review posse" so Once Upon A Blog can post book reviews far more regularly (and Timeless Tales Magazine's Editor in Chief can get to know some new writers as well). Today, Caitlin gives you a glimpse as to why you might just be intrigued by The Rabbit Back Literature Society too.
Only nine people have ever been chosen by renowned children’s author Laura White to join the Rabbit Back Literature Society, an elite group of writers in the small town of Rabbit Back. Now a tenth member has been selected: a young literature teacher named Ella.
Soon Ella discovers that the Society is not what it seems. What is its mysterious ritual known as "The Game"? What explains the strange disappearance that occurs at Laura White’s winter party? Why are the words inside books starting to rearrange themselves? Was there once another tenth member, before her? Slowly, as Ella explores the Society and its history, disturbing secrets that had been buried for years start to come to light. . . .To put it simply, The Rabbit Back Literature Society is not a fairy tale, nor does it claim to be. Instead, author Pasi Ilmari Jaaskelainen serves up an intriguing mystery woven with elements of folklore, which make the reader just as contemplative as the protagonist, Ella Milana.
The tale begins in the small town of Rabbit Back, best known for its renowned author Laura White and the nine students she hand selects to groom into writers. When Ella becomes the Society’s tenth member, she finds herself drawn into a fantastical conspiracy shared only by the nine other members.
Upon Ella's induction to the Rabbit Back Literature Society, however, Laura White disappears into thin air, like an enigmatic Snow Queen, leaving only flurries of snow behind. Willing search parties cannot find her and they refuse to venture into the forest. It's nearly impossible to discuss the folklore elements of this novel without spoilers, but suffice it to say, things are not what they seem. At first, I saw Laura White as an eccentric benefactor but I couldn't have anticipated the truth.
Many folktales use the wild mysterious forest as a contrast to the safety of town life. But this novel subverts that trope. Jaaskelainen’s woods are certainly mystical, but the town is also inexplicably touched by magic. From the garden gnomes in Ella’s front yard to the wild dogs who patrol, Rabbit Back is not a normal town. What has returned to Martti Winter's garden? Why is Ingrid Katz burning books? How did Laura White disappear? What happened to the Society’s first tenth member?
What the forest takes, it doesn't give back and Ella comes to realize that "Under one reality there's always another. And another one under that." And so the reader is drawn into teasing out the mystery, just like Ella herself.
The Rabbit Back Literature Society’s patented small town charm has a deliciously sinister undertone, thanks to the shadowy presence of the woods. For readers looking to add a touch of the Fae to their cozy mystery collection, this novel is sure to be a hit.
Disclosure: A complimentary copy of the book was provided by Thomas Dunne Books in exchange for an honest review.
Caitlin Postal is a marketing specialist who loves literature, history, and pop culture. When not writing, she can be found sewing costumes and donning medieval armor. You can find her on twitter: https://twitter.com/