Book Reviews

Review: A History of Wild Places by Shea Ernshaw

I finished A History of Wild Places a whole day earlier than expected. I could not stop reading once it got to about 60%. A History of Wild Places builds intrigue from the beginning. It’s an examination of the secrets we keep from ourselves, those we love, and our community. Keep reading this book review for my full thoughts.


Travis Wren has an unusual talent for locating missing people. Hired by families as a last resort, he requires only a single object to find the person who has vanished. When he takes on the case of Maggie St. James—a well-known author of dark, macabre children’s books—he’s led to a place many believed to be only a legend.

Called Pastoral, this reclusive community was founded in the 1970s by like-minded people searching for a simpler way of life. By all accounts, the commune shouldn’t exist anymore and soon after Travis stumbles upon it… he disappears. Just like Maggie St. James.

Years later, Theo, a lifelong member of Pastoral, discovers Travis’s abandoned truck beyond the border of the community. No one is allowed in or out, not when there’s a risk of bringing a disease—rot—into Pastoral. Unraveling the mystery of what happened reveals secrets that Theo, his wife, Calla, and her sister, Bee, keep from one another. Secrets that prove their perfect, isolated world isn’t as safe as they believed—and that darkness takes many forms.


(Disclaimer: I received this book from Netgalley. This has not impacted my review which is unbiased and honest.)

A History of Wild Places is a book that will make you question everything. It delves into the lies and truths we tell ourselves at night. The ones we can’t seem to utter out loud because we aren’t sure if they will sound true. There’s an immediate sense of suspense and tension from the beginning. My favorite element of Ernshaw’s past YA books (The Wicked Deep & Winterwood) has been the atmosphere, so I knew I’d be in for a treat. Not only that, but A History of Wild Places has some truly lyrical writing in some moments.

It’s a book about the stories we make up within the spaces between words. Beginning with the premise of objects telling a story. How these dust laden fragments of memories expose clues to our past, I was hooked. From the synopsis alone, we know that these lives will fade into shadows, but we read Maggie and Travis’ POV without that knowledge. I already knew from the beginning I wouldn’t be able to stop reading. And this current really never let me go.

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While there’s a very distinct sense of mystery and intrigue, at the same time A History of Wild Places is about these almost universal tendencies for curiosity. How the amount of ‘wild places’ seems to be shrinking every day. And how it seems almost essential to humanity to test the boundaries, to challenge what we know. This common thread of wanting to unravel a mystery before us, makes Theo, Calla, and Bee relatable in a way that they might not have been. We fall headfirst into these secrets and intrigue in the very fabric of the story. In the characters, the lies we tell ourselves, and each other.

If you like the idea of a mysterious disappearance and layers of secrets, A History of Wild Places needs to be on your fall TBR. I wasn’t sure what to expect, but I fell head over heels in love. Find A History of Wild Places on Goodreads, Amazon, Indiebound, & The Book Depository.


What is the last book you finished before you thought you would?

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