Cover Image: Two Storm Wood

Two Storm Wood

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Member Reviews

Due to a sudden, unexpected passing in the family a few years ago and another more recently and my subsequent (mental) health issues stemming from that, I was unable to download this book in time to review it before it was archived as I did not visit this site for several years after the bereavements. This meant I didn't read or venture onto netgalley for years as not only did it remind me of that person as they shared my passion for reading, but I also struggled to maintain interest in anything due to overwhelming depression. I was therefore unable to download this title in time and so I couldn't give a review as it wasn't successfully acquired before it was archived. The second issue that has happened with some of my other books is that I had them downloaded to one particular device and said device is now defunct, so I have no access to those books anymore, sadly.

This means I can't leave an accurate reflection of my feelings towards the book as I am unable to read it now and so I am leaving a message of explanation instead. I am now back to reading and reviewing full time as once considerable time had passed I have found that books have been helping me significantly in terms of my mindset and mental health - this was after having no interest in anything for quite a number of years after the passings. Anything requested and approved will be read and a review written and posted to Amazon (where I am a Hall of Famer & Top Reviewer), Goodreads (where I have several thousand friends and the same amount who follow my reviews) and Waterstones (or Barnes & Noble if the publisher is American based). Thank you for the opportunity and apologies for the inconvenience

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Haunting and compelling!
I am fascinated by WW1 stories, especially lesser-known stories which feature women at the centre, so this instantly appealed to me, I was instantly hooked by the intense emotion, and Amy's determination and courage to go out to France to find her fiance and take his body home, and to go where no one else will go.
Two Storm Wood is a riveting, compelling WW1 thriller, with realistic and haunting historical detail. At times it's not the easiest of reads, the trauma which the men go through, both physical and psychological is intense and believable, the coping mechanism some use such as drugs to try and alleviate the pain and the memories is hard but it's shines a light on an aspect of history which some may or may not fully understand.
I really liked Amy and her quest to find Edward really stirs all the emotions, she is determined to find I'm, but once faced with total agony and destruction and never-ending questions such as is Edward dead or is he alive?
This is a great book, yes it's dark and feels a little claustrophobic at times but it is one which will stay with the reader for a long time.

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I found this novel haunting with its themes of brutality and the consequences of that both physically and psychologically. I’m normally quite squeamish about war details and this was in many ways an uncomfortable read, with which I felt I needed to take my time. It is inconceivable, the appalling conditions of the battlefield and trenches- how anyone could come out of those circumstances undamaged- lives changed permanently, if one survived. I was totally ignorant of the fact that Chinese labour was employed in the trenches, and even to this day, there has been little acknowledgement of their contribution to the war. Many thanks to Netgalley for an arc of this book.

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A clever tense drama I was not expecting. It's not often the hype is lived up to, however here, it's more than. Read this, please.

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This is a great addition to the WW1 fiction already out there. This was the first book of that genre that I read which focused more on the retrieval of graves and the direct aftermath both physical and psychological of the war. This felt like a lot of hidden truths being dug up. A great thriller and a page turning read.

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<i>Two Storm Wood</i> is a historical fiction set just after the end of the Great War. It's about a woman's search for her lover, and also the bleak, unflinching horrors of war. I found the book atmospheric and immersive, and the characters intriguing. It's obvious the author had done his research because it felt like I was in the muddy trenches with the soldiers at times. I liked how the book shows the lingering effects of war, and how the deadliest wounds are not always physical.

However, I found the premise stretches credulity at times with regard to Amy's journey and how easily she slips into many different places. While the romance is sweet, I wish we had gotten more of Edward. There are surprising reveals at the end but I thought the story takes too long to get there. A few of the POVs could have been cut and it wouldn't have affected the storyline for me. I wish I had loved this more, but it would be perfect for fans of historical thrillers and war fiction.

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Set mainly in 1919 following the Armistice, Two Storm Wood is a fascinating book that explores an expect of the Great War that has almost been forgotten by history. Taking the form of missing person/murder mystery story, the book is set on the battlefields of France during their clear up after the guns fell silent.

There was a lot to like about this book. The setting and tone hit the right levels of dark and creepy. The author’s style of jumping between years helped build suspense and at the same time allowed the story to develop and move forward.

I feel like the ending wasn’t quite as surprising as it was built up to be, and fell slightly flat to me, however it didn’t spoil an enjoyable read.

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In 1919, on the desolate battlefields of northern France, thousands of soldiers undertook the immense and dangerous task of gathering up the dead for mass burial.

Two Storm Wood follows the stories of three British people whose lives have been affected by war in very different ways: a young woman who boldly sets out to find out what happened to her fiancé, who went missing in action; a soldier tasked with co-ordinating the retrieval of the dead; and a detective sent to investigate what appears to be a series of murders in the empty, devastated landscape.

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Beautifully and elegantly written, impeccably researched, full of facts and details about the Great War, a love story and a detective mystery all mixed up in one intoxicating brew.

This drew me in from the first page as the story slowly develops with flashbacks and fast forwards building the sense of time and place.

The characters were well and sympathetically drawn and the excitement was ratchet up as the plot developed.

This was a book that concentrated on a previously ignored aspect of war - gathering in, identifying and respecting the dead and it is beautifully done.

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Set months after the Armistice, Two Storm Wood delves into a period of history that is often overlooked in World War One stories; the reclamation of the dead and missing amongst the empty trenches and battlefields. As a child in history lessons, we never spent too much time on the immediate aftermath of World War One; focusing instead on the Treaty of Versailles and the eventual rise of National Socialism in Germany that led to World War Two. The idea that British troops and the Chinese Labour Corps stayed behind to recover bodies, locate unexploded mines and fill in trenches seems so obvious in hindsight, but I had no idea that it happened until I read this novel.

Using this forgotten part of history as a backdrop to his thriller, author Philip Gray explores the uneasy transition back to peace times; both for the soldiers who survived and were indelibly marked by the horrors of war and those that were waiting for them to return home. His lead characters find themselves haunted by the war by the very virtue of remaining in the ruins of Northern France, raking through the remains to find those who have been lost. Through his evocative prose, Gray manages to convey the otherworldly eeriness of these empty trenches and bombed-out battlefields as his characters find themselves held hostage by the memories of the events there. I was in awe with just how vivid some of the descriptions of these post-War environments were.

While the bloodshed of World War One casts a gloomy shadow over the entire book, it is the shocking atrocities that take place within Two Storm Wood and subsequent murders after the fact that gives the novel its distinctive tone. The murder mystery element of the book is extremely effective, although I did think some aspects of the ‘big twist’ were telegraphed a little too early. Unfortunately, it’s one of those situations where too little pre-warning would have resulted in an unfulfilling reveal and too much gives the game away too early. That said, it was still extremely satisfying when the clues came together and the final act began to form. Even though I guessed some aspects of the mystery, the novel is far from predictable; although I do feel it would have been more effective if a certain chapter had been removed, or placed much later on in the story.

Two Storm Wood’s protagonist is Amy Vanneck, the determined fiancée of the missing Edward Haslam, who travels to France to locate his body and find closure. Driven by guilt and grief, Vanneck’s arduous journey amongst the ruins of World War One throws her into the middle of a murderous conspiracy involving the slaughter of thirteen men, making her question whether the man she fell in love with could be responsible. Gray’s narrative focuses on how war and extreme violence can change people, leaving a stain on the individual no matter how innocent they once were. Through the eyes of Amy, we see the brutal aftermath of the conflict; both on the land itself and those men who survived – be it physical or mental scars.

The brutalities of the First World War seem so far removed from us over a hundred years later that I find reading historical fiction like this helps remember just how terrible it was for those soldiers. While the murders are fictional, Gray laces his story with realism in regards to the experiences of the soldiers; exploring the darker underbelly of warfare with opium, cocaine and prostitutes. These men, many of whom were just boys, were completely shaken to their core and Gray’s novel explores those ideas whilst also crafting a thrilling adventure. It reminded me a lot of the Charley’s War graphic novels I’d read a few years ago; an uncomfortable mix of entertainment and education as to just how dreadful conditions were for those soldiers back.

Rich with atmosphere and possessing a dark beauty, Two Storm Wood is a haunting historical thriller that explores the horrors of war from a different perspective. Intensely cinematic and emotionally-driven, it would make for a brilliant mini-series or movie one day, perhaps with Keira Knightley or Daisy Ridley as Amy Vanneck – someone with that juxtaposing mix of elegance, strength and vulnerability. Appealing to both fans of historical fiction and murder mysteries, Two Storm Wood is a powerful tribute to those who risked their lives after the war had ended and a staggeringly good read.

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There have been many, many books written about the First World War, from different perspectives, time and place, so I was surprised to see something taking a dissimilar route. This is an unusual WW1 story that includes mystery, horror, romance and the unexpected.

​In the aftermath of war the trenches in France hold remains and secrets. As the army try to locate and identify their fallen men, a woman attempts to find her fiancé to take him home, keeping a promise she made to him. However, there is a place called Two Storm Wood that is rumoured to hold deserters and others. It lies in no-man's-land in the trenches and sends out stories of danger, ghosts and unspeakable horror.

At times the book reads like a thriller, other times like a romance and sometimes it is quite plodding. Mostly though, it reads like a study of what humanity is capable of and what it endures. There is a theme of the psychology of war and how people learn about themselves and the humanity, or lack of it, that man draws upon when the need arises. Written in the third person from the point of view of a solider looking for the remains, a detective investigating possible murder, the woman and her fiancé, within a timespan before, during and after the war. The perceptions of the characters at the beginning of the book change as the story unfolds, with the dark remnants and remains of war: physical, human and psychological.

Something different to read centring around the Great War, worth a read.

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My favourite read of 2022 so far-I know it's only halfway through January but I'm on book 15 already so...
Gray is a competent wordsmith. The writing isn't flowery, and thank goodness for that. The plot is dark, enticing and entirely believable.
Reading this has been a wakeup call for me to read more WW1 fiction, which I've pretty.much ignored up to now.

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Two Storm Wood is an absolutely brilliantly written thriller. We meet Amy, a very strong heroine, who is searching for her fiancé in the aftermath of WW1 in France. As she scours the abandoned battlefields, the reader learns that there is a murderer and Amy’s life is in danger. This is a gripping, suspenseful read that is also emotional at times. The characters are well formed and the story had me turning the pages well into the night as I was pulled into this superbly paced story. Absolutely gripping read and I can’t wait to read more from this author.

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As I started to read this book, I wondered if I had made a mistake. Amy goes to France in 1919 in search of her fiancé, missing in action towards the end of the War. I just didn't accept this scenario - everyone who lost a son, husband, father, lover wanted to have a grave to tend for them, and the authorities were firm in setting up the Commonwealth War Graves Commission in order to commemorate as many of the lost as they could, in military cemeteries and on memorials, as it was just not feasible to repatriate all the bodies, so they chose to repatriate none. The idea of a young woman travelling there to find her missing fiancé was just not viable to me.

However, the book drew me in. I have read a lot about the First World War, but have never read about what happened afterwards - the efforts by men, both British and Chinese, to dig up and identify the many bodies left in the mud of Flanders Field. The author paints a very dramatic and clear picture of exactly what this was like. I had heard about the 'iron harvest' that still happens every year, as armaments are revealed in the ground, both ironwork and live ammunition. This book gave it all a new perspective.

Throughout the tale we are given glimpses of Edward Haslam, the missing fiancé. Was he a hero? A deserter? An addict? A killer? Or all of the above? Amy is determine to track down what has happened to him in Two Storm Wood, and her journey make for compulsive reading. The author paints an incredibly detailed picture of Picardy in 1919 - the reader can visualise the landscape through which Amy is travelling. Equally clear are his descriptions of warfare, and the effect it was having on the young men.

Overall a cracking read. Thank you to NetGalley, Random House UK and Vintage for allowing me access to the ARC in exchange for an honest review.

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This is a compelling read.

It is a fresh and original slant on World War I. A brutally realistic thriller set against the familiar backdrop of tench warfare on the Western Front.

Yet it is also a social commentary of that time. Class and gender are measured against the conflict, and the impetus to change a divided, unequal society.

I have read widely about these battlefields, both fiction and non-fiction. My knowledge and experiences have been enhanced further by visiting memorials and cemeteries in Belgium and France.

All Quiet on the Western Front by Erich Maria Remarque was a standout novel in my teenage reading and beyond the need for English Literature set exams I have always been drawn to the poets from Wilfred Owen to Siegfried Sassoon. Insightful first hand accounts like Robert Graves’ “Goodbye to All That.”

I was hooked immediately by Two Storm Wood and the sense of danger and threat that continues beyond the Armistice.
From ‘Spanish Flu’ to unexploded ordnance.
Yet this is a novel of remembered promises and unforgivable betrayal. Unresolved issues that show for some the war never ended in 1918.

A love story, trying to survive both family and personal loyalty, while being tested in the heat of battle.

I loved the unpicking of the letters to and from home that challenges and demonstrates the incompatibility of these two worlds, poles apart. The insights into coping with stress, fatigue and need to kill or be killed. The changes and doubts this brought about in officers and men alike but the different resources available to them.

Once started this book was compulsive reading; a drama and unfolding mystery you need to resolve and understand. The characters are well drawn and Amy Vanneck is as brave as any of the men defending their trenches. Her need to find and return the body of her fiancé, listed as “missing in action” drives her own. She is also the means to unravel the sinister discovery of an unspeakable horror from the disputed ground known as Two Storm Wood.

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An unusual book set in the aftermath of WW 1. The story is centred on a young woman searching for her fiancé among the battlefields. She hs to find evidence of him, dead or alive.
This book is well written and researched.
There are unexpected twists to the story and you could believe it ws possible for the events to have taken place.
A very absorbing read, very much enjoyed it.

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This book was one I felt I must read. It is set mainly at the end of WWI, but moving between 1914 and 1919. The author paints such a horrific picture of the lives of the soldiers and civilians in the ruins of Northern France, it is difficult to read at times mainly because you can’t believe that anyone could survive in such conditions or that man could act so badly to their fellow man.

Amy Vanneck travels to Northern France, against her parents wishes, to try to find her fiancé Edward Hallam who was listed as missing there. She needs to see where he fought and possibly died, and to give him a proper burial, if she can. She isn’t wanted by either the Army or the local people but won’t give up her search, getting snippets of information along the way, finding out more about Edward and what he had done to survive than she really can take. She sees people who have lived through the worst horrors imaginable, seen bodies in numbers no one should ever see. While searching she comes across a story of 13 bodies found in a tunnel, with atrocities committed that no one can explain, but it begins to seem as though Edward may have known about them.

It’s hard to say too much more about the story, as you need to read it yourself. I was drawn into the nightmare conditions, the scenes written so powerfully that you could feel the tension amongst the soldiers, Amy being beaten down by the things she sees and hears. But it’s also a story of great courage, the fact that all of these young men were ‘doing their bit’ for their country, when all they wanted to do is go home, but so many never made it, dying trying to hold on to tiny pieces of ground on the orders of generals miles away from the front line. The fact that many were shot for cowardice when they had shell shock, or what would be PTSD now. It’s so well written that it makes you need to read to the end. The author has put so much into this book, the research, believable if horrifying conditions and actions and the stupidity of such loss of life, a war to end all wars, but which just erased a whole generation. There is a powerful story line in here too. A must read.

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This is not an easy or heartwarming read: it's dark, talks about people who died in a terrible war and in a terrible way.
There's no joy, no colour: only memories and questions.
This is one of the best books I read about the aftermath of WWI and one of the most impressive.
Great storytelling, historical background, characters and plot.
Highly recommended.
Many thanks to the publisher and Netgalley for this ARC, all opinions are mine

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I find it difficult to review this book without revealing parts of the plot - which would certainly spoil it for other readers.
The story takes place over a three year period, 1016 to 1919, and portrays the many faces of conflict; that of war, forbidden love and conscience.
As Amy and teacher Edward fall in love during 1916, they fight against class prejudice and the meaning of a Just war.
When Edward does not return from the front and is listed as missing, Amy vows to search the battlefields and honour Edwards request in his last letter , to bring him home.
The horrors and intensity of the actions of man against man at times seemed to overwhelm the senses, as if the author wanted to draw the reader into the madness of war and the madness of the mind.
This is a powerful novel which the reader will not forget.. It deserves to be discussed at length.

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This was a really cool book; I don't usually read historical fiction, but this was different enough to pull me in. I especially liked the desolation and eerieness of the setting; you don't usually hear much about the direct aftermath of WW1, so using this weird historical no man's land as the setting for a thriller was an interesting approach.
That said, I wasn't a huge fan of MC Amy, the girl whose sole purpose of being was finding her missing fiancé. She was like a cross between Supergirl and an especially tenacious terrier in that respect. Also, apart from her fixation on this one guy she didn't bring much in the way of character to the table. Yes, she's *such* a rebel for loving someone who's not up to speed station-wise, and her mom doesn't approve, but other than that, who IS she? What does she say, think or do that isn't Edward-related? If you take away Edward's tiepin, Edward's letters, the memories of Edward's soft, soft skin, what else is there to Amy? I felt that a whole lot more could have been done with this character. Why not let her experiences on the former battlefields have her actually *change*, to the point that she feels that maybe there is more to life than just, well, Edward, or the opinions of her mom?
Also, I felt it pretty unrealistic that Amy is very, very worried about the "impropriety" of sleeping with lowly Ed, but doesn't seem to give any thought whatsoever to the (pretty substantial) risk of falling pregnant. I have a hard time believing this would not have been on her mind. I mean, she won't agree to marry him when he asks her, simply because she isn't sure enough that she really wants the kind of life he has on offer, so realistically she would have been highly preoccupied with NOT becoming pregnant instead of waxing poetic about Edward's ivory shoulders. Yet, not a single mention is given to whatever kind of contraception these people would have had available to them. This to me felt like a very male description of a female POV.
Of course the whole "thriller" part went a bit over the top, complete with some pat coincidences, sudden epiphanies and likelihoods that are anything but. But the atmosphere more than made up for it, IMO. I could have done without that final revelation though, because to me that was just inching too close to soap opera territory. And the letters -- all those maudlin letters of Ed's that apparently are all Amy ever reads. They just went on and on, page after page, slowing the narrative pace down so much that more than once, I did not pick the book up again after I laid it down. Personally, that was probably the aspect of the book I enjoyed least.
Still, "Two Storm Wood" was a good read, one of my favorites this year, so if you're interested in the Great War at all, I'd definitely recommend it.

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