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Title: Winterling (#1 Winterling)
Author: Sarah Prineas
Published: 5th of February 2013 – Harper Collins
Format: Paperback – 272 pages
Hello Hello! How are you?
I had a little break from my usual Down the TBR Hole post yesterday but I decided that it was high time that I take advantage of all the posts in my drafts while I’m as busy as I am, so here we are ahah. I have 2 weeks off university so I will finally be able to concentrate a little more on my thesis and other assignments. How did your week go?
The Middle Grade Marvels book club read Winterling by Sarah Prineas in December and it was one that I actually really enjoyed, especially the writing style and overall atmosphere. If you want to find out my full thoughts, keep on reading!
P.S. Don’t forget to join the Middle Grade Marvels if you love reading middle grade books and discussing them with a bunch of other MG lovers!
“We live here, my girl, because it is close to the Way, and echoes of its magic are felt in our world. The Way is a path leading to another place, where the people are governed by different rules. Magic runs through them and their land.”
With her boundless curiosity and wild spirit, Fer has always felt that she doesn’t belong. Not when the forest is calling to her, when the rush of wind through branches feels more real than school or the quiet farms near her house. Then she saves an injured creature—he looks like a boy, but he’s really something else. He knows who Fer truly is, and invites her through the Way, a passage to a strange, dangerous land.
Fer feels an instant attachment to this realm, where magic is real and oaths forge bonds stronger than iron. But a powerful huntress named the Mór rules here, and Fer can sense that the land is perilously out of balance. Fer must unlock the secrets about the parents she never knew and claim her true place before the worlds on both sides of the Way descend into endless winter.
Sarah Prineas captivates in this fantasy-adventure about a girl who must find within herself the power to set right a terrible evil.
Trigger Warnings: absent/dead parents, death, illness, blood, gore, animal death, murder (mentioned and implied), violence.
Winterling by Sarah Prineas is the first book in the Winterling series that follows Jennifer – or Fer – as she discovers a whole new world that is just waiting for her, and one in which she more than belongs. We read this book with the Middle Grade Marvels book club in December and it was just the perfect pick for December. It was dark, gloomy and cold, but it was also really enjoyable.
This book is first set somewhere in the United States (I think, because I read it so long ago I can’t fully remember). And then Fer literally falls into another world, one which harbours secrets about herself and her family. This world is tainted by evil and someone there is a fraud (I can’t say who or what) but, this really comes across in the setting and atmosphere.
You’ve heard me say this loads of times before, but if a book can get atmosphere right, then unless something really unenjoyable happens, I’ll most likely love the book. The Way is the path that Fer takes into the other world, and once she gets there, it is such a unique and detailed place. The author did an amazing job of infusing character, darkness, the pervading evil and sense that something is wrong, forged into what once was a beautiful land, and all brought together in what I call an “atmospheric” atmosphere. In other worlds, the author nailed this element for me.
When I started writing this review, I was worried I would remember any of the names or themes and that I would be stuck just gushing without any kind of “justification”, but I did remember, and I’m so happy because now I can gush even more ahah!
Fer: Jennifer, or Fer, is the main character of this book and right at the start, I didn’t think too much of her, but now I can’t remember why exactly. I think it had something to do with the fact that she literally threw herself into danger although her grandmother told her NOT to. Fer’s parents are gone, we don’t really know if they are missing, dead or have abandoned her, but her grandmother, Grand-Jane looks after her and teaches her the craft, that is, what we would basically call witchcraft and herb/plant magic (or what I’m guessing it is anyway!). I really liked the kind of tense but still loving relationship between Grand-Jane and Fer, and just how determined Fer is to do what she wants. As the book went on, I started to really warm to Fer and in the end, I think I loved her, because she is so kind, she wants to do what is right and help whoever she can from the wilding, but also discover the truth about her parents and eventually herself and her place in the Way. She was a really intriguing character.
Rook: This is a character who took me a little bit by surprise because I didn’t really know what to make of him. Rook is a shifter. He appears as a boy, but can also turn into a dog and a horse thanks to bones he puts under his tongue. I thought this was a fascinating take on shapeshifters. I can’t say much about this character because it will be a spoiler for the rest of the book, but his motivations were fairly unclear to me at the start, I’m glad of how it turned out though. I ended up liking Rook too and I’m very excited to read more about Rook and Fer.
The Lady: The Lady was one of the character that really added to the whole gloomy and dark atmosphere of this book. She is a beautiful and powerful woman, called the Mor and she rules over the land beyond the Way. However, something is wrong with her magic and beneath her beauty, darkness crawls. I really enjoyed learning more about her not because I liked her because I didn’t, but because she was interesting.
Grand-Jane: And the last character I will talk about today is Grand-Jane, Fer’s grandmother. I didn’t really understand some of her motivations and I wish she would have tried harder to hold Fer back, but I suppose a girl’s got to do what a girl’s got to do! I loved hearing about everything she taught Fer, and you can tell that she loves her dearly. She also misses her son Owen immensely even though she doesn’t talk about him to Fer. I’m looking forward to seeing if we learn more about Grand-Jane in the next book.
Darkness and a gloomy atmosphere: This is probably one of my favourite parts of this book. From the cover, you would expect a really kind of wintery wonderland almost and it doesn’t look dark, but that’s where covers are tricksters, because it really is dark. I wasn’t expecting such a dark and gloomy atmosphere, but that’s what we got an I loved it. I can’t keep gushing about this forever, but just so you know, I loved it and the author really pulled it off well.
Magic and healing with herbs: This was another element that I really enjoyed reading about. Grand-Jane has been teaching Fer all about plants and herbs, their properties, what they are used for, how to make poultices, teas and remedies for various ailments. My little herbalist heart was loving this because I love learning about plants and what they can do to help us. I loved that Fer kind of had to hit the ground running and had to work out how to use her herbs in the best way to cure the people that were wilding.
A tainted land and wilding people: This topic goes hand in hand with the atmospheric setting and plot and I found it so interesting to learn small little parts of this. I can’t say much because again I would be spoiling you, but I found the wilding people both fascinating and creepy, and learning about how and why they were wilding, why the land was tainted, why magic was starting to fail and why the land was still firmly in the grip of winter – all these elements were so good and I really enjoyed all the little reveals.
Secrets and lies: Of course, in any kind of book like this, there are always secrets and lies, and Fer has her work cut out trying to discover who her parents were and where they are now, if they are still alive, why they left her with Grand-Jane. But she also has to work out things about the land beyond the Way, the people wilding and who the Mor is. We didn’t get answers to everything, but what we did get was really nicely executed and it made me want to pick up the sequel very soon.
A brave and resilient main character: Finally, I just have to quickly mention how resilient and brave Fer is. She has basically been thrust feet first into this enchanting world, where words have power and where you have to be careful what you say, how you say it and who to. I loved these subtle elements about the power of words, how Fer has power in this land but no one knows why and what she has to go through to figure everything out.
MY THOUGHTS AND RATING
Overall, I think you can guess, I really enjoyed this book. It was much darker than I was expecting, but I think that it will get a lot less dark in the next book and that we will learn so much more about the land, the people, the past and all the secrets that grip the Way.
The pacing was actually really good and while it did maybe go a little bit fast, I like that this book was fairly short and that this is (so far) a 3 book series. I also loved all the elements about the seasons and how the Mor can change winter into spring with the sacrifices she has to make. The atmosphere, the setting and the plot were all elements that I really enjoyed and I think that with the author’s beautiful writing style, she pulled this all off really well.
I gave this book 4.5 stars, you can find my full ASPECTS rating below. This was just missing that tiny spark I need to give a book 5 stars, but since this is a series, I’m sure the 5 stars will be awarded to one of them. I thoroughly enjoyed Winterling, I was engaged, intrigued and fascinated by everything, and I loved the different characters, the reveals and the knowledge that so much more is coming.
If you love middle grade stories that are more on the dark side, with resilient and determined main characters, intriguing and possibly evil side characters, a very strong and gloomy atmosphere, an interesting plot and beautiful writing, then this is the book for you. I highly recommend it.
That’s all for now, I hope you enjoyed reading this review, see you soon, stay safe,
Atmosphere – 7.5
Start – 6.5
Pacing – 7
Ending – 7.5
Characters – 7
Theme – 7.5
Style – 8
Total = 51
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If you would like to purchase this book, you can find it here: Amazon UK – Amazon FR – Amazon US – AbeBooks – The Book Depository – Audible FR – Waterstones – Barnes and Noble – Scrib’d – Blackwell’s – BetterWorldBooks – Wordery