Rating: 3 stars
Buy Link:
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Length: Novel


The art world may consider Eli Bane to be one of the premier woodworkers, but he certainly doesn’t let that go to his head. In fact, Eli has put considerable effort into eschewing the trappings of fame. He lives in a humble cabin in a secluded part of the Pacific Northwest and loves nothing more than to spend hours alone in the local forests, pondering his next work. Eli doesn’t normally have problems working alone in the middle of nowhere, but when he has an accident with a giant log and a sawmill, he begins to understand why his friend and mentor has been harping at him to take on an apprentice. Luckily for Eli, he is miraculously spotted and saved by Crea Franklyn, a San Franciscan who is scoping out his old stomping grounds in the area looking for a place to have a little reunion with his brothers.

Crea didn’t think twice about helping the obviously injured man he found in the hilly forest. He never thought that man would turn out to be a world-famous artist and insist on giving him a priceless work of art. Crea knows he cannot accept such an extravagant gift for showing someone basic decency, but when he tries to return the art, things go very bad very quickly. And Crea knows why. He’s instantly attracted to this talented, lumberjack of a man named Eli and if Crea has learned one thing, it’s that the curse his pagan father placed on Crea and his brothers some twenty years ago has ensured Crea will never find happiness in a man’s arms. But when Crea begins having dreams starring his recently deceased grandmother, he starts to hope there may be a chance at building something real with Eli. That hope begins to grow when Eli reveals he’s been having very similar dreams. Maybe the path forward is fraught, but together, Crea and Eli just may prove they’re stronger than a curse.

Emerald Earth is the first book of Adam J. Ridley’s The Witch Brothers Saga. The story starts with a brief chapter set twenty years in the past to provide details about how Crea’s family got broken, specifically about the curse Crea’s father casts upon his three sons. After that, the book unfolds in chapters that alternate between Crea and Eli as narrator. For me, the conceptualization of the two MCs was pretty clear. Crea was the one with the shitty parents and cursed to never find love with a man. Eli was the brilliant, reclusive artist who always talked about art and forests. On page, however, it was harder to keep the two straight. I felt this was largely due to how both of them seemed to have an affinity for paganism and, at least insofar as I could tell, indigenous rituals. It made a lot of sense that Crea, who’s family used to practice pagan arts and wielded curses, would have that magical touch. It made less sense that Eli also seemed equally affected by them. Case in point: Crea was the one who was actually cursed and it made some sense that he would be flooded with abstract rage (presumably, the rage of his father at Crae’s audacity at finding a good man to love). However, it was explicitly stated in the narrative that it was Eli who might act out in a rage.

The whole structure of the curse never really gelled for me. Page after page, the characters cope with dreams/visions that warn of dire times ahead. Setting aside the mental anguish of fearing the worst, the only tangible trouble that visits our MCs is an evil wolf…one whom Crea defeats pretty easily, all things considered. It felt like there was a lot of build up that focuses specifically on Crea and Eli dealing with rage and hatred, but what I understood as the catharsis scene was that battle with the wolf.

I also found a lot of distracting continuity issues with the story. One big one was a character named Jennie and her parentage. Jennie is first introduced as a potential apprentice for Eli, then it’s revealed that her mother is a high-powered art critic who has hounded Eli for an interview. Then it’s revealed that her father is a transgender man. Then it’s revealed that she’s Crea’s niece. Then I spent so so sooo long wondering how Jennie could be Crea’s niece. Crea and his two brothers were cursed to never find love. Until finally, it was revealed that Jennie’s “Sperm Daddy” (because “sperm donor seemed sort of gross”) was Crea’s older brother. Every time I saw Crea refer to his niece, I couldn’t help but stop and wonder how she was his niece.

Other continuity errors included mixing up which character was narrating a chapter. Eli ended up referring to himself as “Eli” instead of “I” a few times during a chapter he narrated. Again, given how the curse seemed to affect both Eli and Crea in very similar ways, I had to stop reading and go back and check it was just a couple typos. Another was flip-flopping between the names Lydia and Lacey/Lacie for the wife of a very minor supporting character. Finally, there was a big scene where Eli and Crea formally meet when Eli and Jennie surprise Crea with a thank you sculpture. After we hear Jennie saying she texted Crea about staying with him that night and having Crea comment on Jennie helping herself to the charcuterie he put together for her visit…Crea says multiple times he was completely blindsided by her (and Eli) coming by completely unannounced and uninvited.

Overall, I just had a hard time getting into the story. The ideas were there, but I found the execution lacking. The way the curse was described versus how it seems to affect Crea didn’t feel like a strong match. I wasn’t sure why Eli was being affected by the curse the same way Crea was, especially why Eli was having the same kinds of dreams as Crea. The convoluted interpersonal connections between Crea and Eli via Jennie were confusing at first, as well. The individual elements of the story were well conceived, but I just felt they were come together in a compelling story.