Mischief Acts (Bloomsbury, 2022) is a Sunday Times Book of the Year 2022.
It's a novel about many things: the myths we need, enchantment and disenchantment, the woods (and in particular Sydenham & Dulwich Woods in South London), mischief, freedom, and our complicated relationship with the natural world. For me, it's a celebration of wildness, inside and out, but also a warning about what we do with that wildness.
This is how Bloomsbury describes the book:
'Herne the hunter, mischief-maker, spirit of the forest, leader of the wild hunt, hurtles through the centuries pursued by his creator.
'A shapeshifter, Herne dons many guises as he slips and ripples through time – at candlelit Twelfth Night revels, at the spectacular burning of the Crystal Palace, at an acid-laced Sixties party. Wherever he goes, transgression, debauch and enchantment always follow in his wake.
'But as the forest is increasingly encroached upon by urban sprawl and gentrification, and the world slides into crisis, Herne must find a way to survive – or exact his revenge.
'With its intoxicating, chameleonic voice and boundless imagination, Mischief Acts is British folklore as you've never read it before: dangerous, sexy, troubling, daring, savage, an exhilarating race through time and space, weaving together the ancient and the contemporary.'
You can order the hardback at the links below for a little longer. The paperback, with a new cover design, is available from March 2023.
'Verbally dextrous, inventive, and hugely entertaining' – The Times
'A mesmerising journey down the byways of English folklore' – Mail on Sunday
'Weaving together prose and poetry, myth and history, the past, present and future, it’s a work of extraordinary ambition, brilliantly realised' – The Observer
'Mischief Acts is conceptually and stylistically ambitious... Gilbert’s acrobatic style, which ranges from seventeenth-century courtroom speak to stripped-back modern prose, is consistently engaging and mirrors the rich and multifaceted history it recounts' – Times Literary Supplement
'Wonderfully weird and exuberant... a polyvocal The Dark is Rising for Grown-ups' – Tor.com, Reviewers' Choice: The Best Books of 2022
'Mischief Acts is an extraordinary and ambitious book that hopes that its readers will understand the urgency of climate change and pay more attention to the natural world' – The Conversation, The Five Best Fiction Books of 2022
'An absolutely glorious work, which anyone who loves myth and legend and magic and folklore and beautiful poetic writing - and woods - will love' – Fortean Times
'Mischief Acts is charming, naughty, epic, adventurous, mystical, beautifully penned, and incredibly good fun to read' – Buzz Magazine
'A dark-dazzling archive of enchantments, pursuit, and desire' – Eley Williams
'This is the most adventurous, stylistically magnificent thing I've read for years. Nobody does fantasy like Zoe Gilbert' – Natasha Pulley
'Superb. A work of shimmering allure' – Irenosen Okojie
'A dazzling new take on an ancient myth, reminding us of the wildness within. I adored it' – Kerry Andrew
'Mischief Acts is brimming with magic ... The story of Herne, like the forest itself, transforms, entangles and enchants' – Lucy Wood