This might be the most bleak thing I've read in years. And that's saying something. That's not necessarily a bad thing, but it's not what I was expecting at all. Van Arsdale does such a good job of forming a sense of oppression that the book is suffocatingly claustrophobic. Even after the story moves from the tiny farm and out into the larger world it still has a feel of a small enclosed space. The magic and storytelling in this one is very surreal and rooted more in feel than in any real explanation or hard and fast rules. The creatures were unsettling and haunting, and the world dark and creepy.
At it's core this is a book about a feeling more than a plot. It's themes of feminism and oppression are woven into the fabric of the story, and you can feel this world closing around the characters like a fist. All in all I liked this book, but it is in no way a fun adventure story. It's a dreamlike meditation on how intolerably the world shrinks when you're forced into the silent mould of the obedient and powerless daughter rather than being allowed to grow into a bright and fully realized woman.