Saturday, January 28, 2012


Well, I didn't have high hopes for this book after noting on the cover of the last book I read a quote from this author, Sarah Prineas, saying that The Cabinet of Earths was the best thing she'd read in a long time. If you read my last book review, you know my thoughts on that book were far different. But, happily, Winterling exceeded my expectations. It is also a middle school novel, aimed at grades five and up, available this month. It's much more of a fantasy than The Cabinet of Earths, which is based more in the modern world and has only small fantastical elements in it, and maybe that's part of why I like Winterling better.

Fer (short for Jennifer) has never fit into her world, though she didn't know her world was even optional until the night she accidentally opened the Way into another. Now, armed with the herbal healing magic of her grandmother, she's on a quest to discover the truth about her parents' deaths. The beautiful Lady of the land wants her loyalty, and Fer is on the edge of giving it when she realizes that something doesn't feel right in this new world. There's a stain on it, and Fer is determined to find out why and what it has to do with her family. But her closest ally is a shape-shifting Puck with a powerful thrice-sworn oath to the Lady...the Lady whose secrets might be at the heart of the winter that's only overturned with a blood sacrifice. True spring may already be lost forever. And Fer is just a young girl, seemingly without power.

Although I really like romance, the nice thing about middle school fiction is that it often doesn't have any and, therefore, can focus on the story (not that it always does very well; see my last book review). Winterling is great storytelling. Interesting. Creative. Narrowly focused. An adventure with a heroine who grows up in some ways but is still a kid. It's age appropriate but not boring for older readers. I suppose the thought processes that guide this heroine are still a bit more simplistic than in young adult fiction; I don't particularly see a need to do that, but since the rest of the story is strong, I can call it "being focused" and let it go.

There are, perhaps, minor plot holes here and there. For instance, the biggest one I can think of is that Fer's grandmother, who seems to be fully of this world (unlike Fer herself, as we find out), teaches Fer healing magic, and you don't ever know where the grandmother herself got it from. It's just something you're supposed to accept.

I've already said the book is clean by virtue of completely eliminating any romantic storyline. For younger readers, just be aware that the evil Lady (or Mor, as she is called) is sort of witch-like, though she isn't ever called that, and she kills creatures that aren't fully beasts. The book is also obviously magical, and Fer does healing "spells." These magical elements seem harmless to me, but I know some people are conscientious about the use of magic in books. If you don't know what I'm talking about, then I'm not talking to you here.

Anyway, Winterling is a hitch in my theories about middle school fiction, and I'm glad for it. If you are looking for a simple, good adventure without all the romance to potentially muck it up, this is a decent one.

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