Read The Walking-Stick Forest by Anna Tambour Online


Original fiction from the publisher's site (, Tor Books).“The Walking-Stick Forest,” by Anna Tambour, is a dark fantasy about a recluse who creates collectible walking sticks in post-WWI Scotland by manipulating the woods somewhat like bonsais. He refuses a commission from a very rich, powerful man, never considering or caring about the consequences.Like some otherOriginal fiction from the publisher's site (, Tor Books).“The Walking-Stick Forest,” by Anna Tambour, is a dark fantasy about a recluse who creates collectible walking sticks in post-WWI Scotland by manipulating the woods somewhat like bonsais. He refuses a commission from a very rich, powerful man, never considering or caring about the consequences.Like some other stories published on, “The Walking-Stick Forest” contains scenes and situations some readers will find upsetting and/or repellent. [—The Editors]This short story was acquired and edited for by consulting editor Ellen Datlow....

Title : The Walking-Stick Forest
Author :
Rating :
ISBN : 22249472
Format Type : Kindle Edition
Number of Pages : 19 Pages
Status : Available For Download
Last checked : 21 Minutes ago!

The Walking-Stick Forest Reviews

  • karen
    2019-04-17 21:33

    okay, i think i figured out the criteria i should be using to determine which of the free tor shorts i select to read. basically, if it warnsLike some other stories published on, “The Walking-Stick Forest” contains scenes and situations some readers will find upsetting and/or repellent. [—The Editors]then i will like it. a lot. this one is particularly dark and atmospheric and has all of the good shivery situations you find in real, unexpurgated, fairy tales and, yeah - some really picturesque violence. it's about art and nature and beauty and revenge and war and, in a casual anecdote, a character who slipped and fell, spearing himself through the eye on a split arm bone.yeah, it's like that. the only reason it's not a five is because there is a kind of inexplicable insta-love situation that is probably easy enough to write off because 1) short stories have to do a lot in just a little space and 2) fairytales aren't necessarily logical, but i felt a little eyerolly at that, so i did what i did. BUT!this story definitely revived my initial enthusiasm with the free tor shorts project, after a couple of so-so reads. so!! excitement!! revived!!read it for yourself here:

  • Fran
    2019-04-14 04:54

    In post World War I Scotland, a recluse, Athol Farquar crafted walking sticks by manipulating the wood of blackthorn trees. The pruned blackthorn trees were wired, sculpted, and twisted into one- of- a- kind walking sticks.Athol was a Robin Hood of sorts. He made working sticks for shepherds whose flocks were in the environs of the forest. He determined what he thought each shepherd needed and shaped the wood accordingly, gifting them with his creations. Not so for the rich. His sculpted sticks were prized and exorbitantly priced. Wealthy clients coveted them, adding to their ever growing collections. Athol required payment up front and demanded that his clientele meet him in remote locales to request his services. This arrangement insured his privacy since he continued to live a thrifty, unassuming life.As a master craftsman, he found one request for a walking stick to be distasteful His refusal to satisfy this request spelled disaster, but for whom? An excellent dark fantasy.

  • Tadiana ✩Night Owl☽
    2019-04-10 21:30

    4.5 stars for this dark fantasy horror short story, free on Final review, first posted on Fantasy Literature:This is an excellent dark and fantastical short story, set in 1924 in Scotland. Athol Farquar is a veteran of World War I who now lives a solitary life as a carver ― or, more accurately, a shaper ― of wooden walking sticks. Maybe something a little like these:He has a deep affinity for blackthorn wood and the forests around his home, and an equally profound distrust of people in general. However, his walking sticks are one-of-a-kind collectors’ items, incredibly expensive, and people will go to incredible lengths to obtain one.Farquar was so strict about meeting his clients in various remote inns and waysides he designated, that one tin-can magnate broke a leg leaping from a train and a moving-picture actress came down with quite useless hysteria.But ultimately his fame and talent lead to trouble, and a grave warning from a grateful woman.I loved the plot and feel of this dark and disturbing fantasy, and Tambour’s lyrical writing, which evoked a strong sense of time and place. Farquar has troubling memories of WWI: On one relatively good day, at a hellish place named in soldiers’ humour “the corner of Joy and Crucifix Streets,” where the ground squelched as much with rotting bodies as sucking mud, and bones poked up like stubble, Farquar was in the lead, pulling a horse he planned to shoe. Curlew was pushing from behind. Curlew slipped and fell, spearing himself through the eye on a split arm bone.There was an odd insta-love moment that came out of nowhere and didn’t go anywhere; I think the story would have been improved with either more or none of the romance element. Still, this was a highly appealing story. Despite the horror element (not something I typically gravitate to), this is one of my favorite short stories from Tor. Content advisory: One F-bomb and lots of disturbing imagery, including violence and sexual abuse.

  • Lyn
    2019-04-21 04:54

    “The Walking-Stick Forest,” by Anna Tambour is a short story set sometime soon after World War I in Scotland. The central character, not really the protagonist, is a war veteran who creates walking sticks from blackthorn trees, artfully manipulating the stalks like one would a bonsai. He crafts the ornate but natural sticks for wealthy clients and gets sideways of one, the story’s conflict.The power of a short story is that it packs a great deal of description into a focused, narrow account. Writers such as Ray Bradbury, Richard Matheson and Edgar Allan Poe were masters of this style, conveying a forceful message in an economic way. The horror genre seems to be an especially persuasive vehicle for the short work, likening back to ghost stories told round a fire. Tambour has channeled the imagery and subtle themes of Algernon Blackwood, making this a brooding and dark tale.This was published on and I think I have a new best friend.

  • Connie
    2019-04-18 03:34

    This dark short story is set in a tangled forest in Scotland. Athol Farquar, a veteran of World War I, now lives alone in the forest where he makes blackhorn walking-sticks for collectors by manipulating the growth of the branches. Danger and horror lurk as the forest almost takes on a life of its own with its trapping thorny branches. When a deranged rich collector enters Farquar's forest, strange things happen. 3.5 stars.

  • Karly *The Vampire Ninja, Luminescent Monster & Wendigo Nerd Goddess of Canada (according to The Hulk)*
    2019-04-12 04:34

    It was almost as if he enchanted the blacktorn. Thorns were his caressers. Branches bend to his will. This is a wonderfully written short. Truly beautiful. The way that Tambour breathed life into Farquar's forest was exquisite. It's lilting language and fairytale nature are extremely well fleshed out for a short story. I loved to hate the antagonist, Galveny almost as much as I loved the unlikely protagonist, Farquar. I love unforgivable characters.My one issue, insta-love..... It is NOT a good thing when the "love" aspect of your story is MORE unbelievable than the fairytale elements. And the love interest element was completely unnecessary. It just shouldn't have been there, I don't understand why it was put in at all. It's unnatural feeling, almost like an afterthought, and it puts a hiccup in an otherwise awesome story. Overall, I liked it quite a bit.

  • Jess ❈Harbinger of Blood-Soaked Rainbows❈
    2019-04-02 23:46

    This is another 3.5 star....not quite a 4.Another Tor shorty seriously lacking in title creativity but also completely making up for it with cover creativity.I liked this but not as much as some other reviewers. Not as much as I would have liked. I think that Anna Tambour' s prose was absolutely exquisite, but I felt sometimes as if she sacrificed story for style. This was a story I really wished was longer because details and characters I wanted to learn more about just didn't quite stick with me, and although this fable was dark and twisty and grotesque and ultimately satisfying, I still felt that something was lacking, or that I was missing some crucial point. The subtlety of the disturbing subject matter was very artistically and tastefully rendered and I enjoyed the nuances and intimations of a much darker understory, but just longed for parts of it to have a bit more substance. It's tough when the thing I loved most about this story--the writing--is also what made part of it not so successful. Though I loved the writing, sometimes I felt it was too stylistically grand and results in the story falling apart a little within it.I did not understand the character of Rose nor did I get the whole insta-love thing between her and Farquar. While the characters of Farquar and Galveny were more dynamic, I felt that Rose was not and I struggled with trying to understand her place. There were several phrases and pieces of dialogue that hinted at a story I never really got to hear, and overall I was disappointed. This is 99% of my problem with short stories and even novellas. Most of them seem unfinished, and this one was no exception.I did enjoy the descriptions of the forest itself and Farquar's mysterious connection to it. I loved his position as a manipulator of the forest and as a result, a sort of creator. The overall tone and atmosphere of this short are extremely dynamic and that coupled with the beautiful writing make me want to read something else by this author. Ultimately a 3.5 even though it left me unfulfilled. Beautiful writing always makes up for it.Read this one here:

  • Karyn Kar Mun (Thy Evil Queen)
    2019-03-27 00:32

    Oh, this is lovely, like its cover. Dark. Creepy. Intrinsically violent, but beautifully so. Farquar is a complex character. He evidently lives in the centre of a world of his own making. At one point I thought he could be kind. The next I thought he was a black-hearted scoundrel, with a soul as dark as his precious walking-stick forest at night. It's a cycle repeated several times over.About the girl, though : (view spoiler)[what's with the insta-love??? (hide spoiler)] Her name is Rose. She has a history that is only implied at. It's one of the several scenes mentioned in Editor's Note for which a trigger warning is necessary. Speaking of which, people who are easily triggered by acts of violent and descriptions of assassinations, no matter how beautifully/artfully executed, should avoid this novelette, because Farquar and Hannibal Lecter could sit at a table in a room of sweet-smelling flowers and drink tea together.

  • Sara J. (kefuwa)
    2019-04-16 03:52

    Pretty visceral descriptions. But not in a flesh and bone and sinew way... more like the heady smell of dirt in a freshly rained on forest way. Why have my random originals picks been so morbid these past few days? o_O

  • **✿❀ Maki ❀✿**
    2019-04-05 01:43

    The Walking-Stick Forest was dark, but the darkness is subdued a bit by the lyrical imagery this story is littered with. There are lots of terrible things hidden behind pretty words.This didn't feel as much like a story to me as it did a series of inter-connecting scenes.The beginning of the story tells the history of Farquar and his forest, and how his walking sticks came to be highly sought after. And then there was insta-love, completely out of nowhere. Then there was a revenge plot. And then there was...cringe-worthy death and mutilation while the main character drinks tea?There's a note at the start of the short that reads:Like some other stories published on, “The Walking-Stick Forest” contains scenes and situations some readers will find upsetting and/or repellent. [—The Editors]You don't scare me, story!...actually, I'm kind of surprised I didn't cringe at the end. The descriptions got kind of intense.

  • Margaret
    2019-04-03 00:27

    This story has an intriguing concept--a forest where walking sticks come alive, a recluse renowned for these walking sticks refusing to craft one for a psycho, the psycho venturing into the forest for revenge. And the writing on a craft level is amazing. However, I feel like this story would've benefited from a writers group. Someone needed to say, (view spoiler)[ "Hey, what does this girl add to the story? Why does she immediately fall in love with the guy for no reason? And please don't tell me it's because he 'saved' her, because that's not okay. And do we really need the whole rape thing? Isn't this really a story about the two men and their differing relationship with the forest?"(hide spoiler)] With some trimming and refocusing on the main conflict, this could have been a chilling and magical story.

  • Amanda - Go Book Yourself
    2019-03-29 00:44

    I read this story for free here: loved the idea behind this short. A man working with nature to craft walking sticks. He doesn't whittle, or sculpt. He manipulates the young saplings and branches as they grow. the customer sees what they choose to see.Athol's abilities are known far and wide. This bring a lot of business. Both good and bad.Wasn't one of my favorites although I did love certain elements.

  • Autumn
    2019-04-17 21:30

    I read this for free on I had this on my TBR, along with another Tor short, Brimstone and Marmalade. That one, I enjoyed, this one, not so much. I thought the Blackthorn cane theme was interesting but didn't feel this had any sort of plot to it, and it just didn't interest me.

  • Amit
    2019-03-27 02:50

    Nope! Didn't like it at all. Dull story plot with total boring tale. I wish I never read it. The tale seems to be in a hurry where the prime female character offer her love to that prime male character named Farquar! And to kill him there's has that character called Galveny the man whose only motive was to kill him...Never mind like again - better luck to me...

  • Michael Lloyd-Billington
    2019-04-16 00:51

    For all the books I read & rate here on Goodreads, I don't write a huge number of reviews, but this definitely inspired me to take at least a moment & thank the author. This was one of the more elegantly & intelligently crafted little short works that I've read (and I'm, like most of you I'm sure, no slouch when it comes to reading :)) -- amazing layers of description without being in the least bit over-wrought or trying too hard, and definitely one of those works that make me immediately say: "I simply must check out what else this author has written...." Cheers, Anna!

  • JM
    2019-04-21 04:57

    Good yarn, with enough detail to make it interesting. At first I thought it took place in a fantasy setting, but then it surprised me by taking place in the real world, in the time between the two World Wars. The ending was a bit unexpected, considering. Anna Tambour undeniably has a good ear for a turn of phrase and can sure as hell write dark without being explicit. Would read more by her, for sure.

  • Kinsey_m
    2019-04-02 01:32

    The idea and mood are right but I found myself disoriented with the shifting POVs and the ending was like "so that's it???". It deserved to be twice as long, and it needed to do a lot more than just glimpse at some ideas or possibilities.

  • Francesca
    2019-03-31 01:51


  • Jennifer
    2019-03-27 03:42

    Immensely intriguing.

  • Kimikimi
    2019-04-20 21:31

    Another short storyThis one was creepy, creepy.