I’ve checked our manifesto to make sure, but we actually never claimed to be a strictly book-review blog. Place dedicated to books we said, and, the way I see it, it doesn’t have to be a weekly exercise in literary criticism. Laying out our yet-unread books to form an inscription, or nominating other bloggers to reveal their top 11 is quite a lot of fun. Still, a book review every now and then is probably a good idea… so, I will postpone my top 11 for now to write a few words about a short novel full of magic and mystery, Winter Rose by Patricia A. McKillip.
My first encounter with her prose was in 2016, when I’ve read the Riddle-Master trilogy, a simple (but very engaging) high fantasy tale made unique by its wonderful, atmospheric prose. I like the worldbuilding, I follow the events with interest, archetypical characters were written with mastery that made me invested in the outcome, but the most charming thing was McKillip’s style. I’d describe it as a Tolkienian fantasy at its best, not what Brooks practised and Moorcock mocked as Epic Pooh, but a legitimate and worthwhile additions to the genre.
For me, she goes particularly well with Loreena McKennitt 🙂
Anyway, Bookstooge posted a favourable review of Winter Rose earlier this year and I felt I need to revisit this unique author. I’m happy I followed through!
It is, basically, a variant of one of the fairy tropes – the story of Tam Lin (and while researching that, I’ve ordered Diana Wynne Jones’ version, another writer I enjoy for her style). Mysterious young man, a captive of a fairy queen, and a special young maiden that will try to save him… featuring a traditional medieval village and two families torn by tragedies. An otherworldly, tempting mystery hides in the woods, but world of fairies and magic is a dangerous one, consuming victim after victim, ensnaring them with illusions of beauty and grandeur that turn out to be barren shadows of true – if short and tragic – human life.
But the details of that are for us to discover. What we start with, are: Rois Melior, a free spirited young woman, self-sufficient, wild, wonderer of the woods and collector of herbs, her older, domestic sister Laurel, engaged to a decent, hard-working childhood friend, and their father, a widower and a loving parent concerned about Rois’ unsuitability for marriage.
Then, reality, dreams and visions mix when Corbet Lynn, an heir to family touched by death and curses, returns to the village to rebuild Lynn Hall. Rois’ attempts to find out more turn to a desperate fight for survival of the people she loves.
She doesn’t have much time, as this is a fairly short novel, 262 pages in my small-format hardcover, 173 in an ebook Bookstooge read. I share his enthusiasm for this charming book, and that enthusiasm, unlike his, extends to this cover by Kinuko Y. Craft:
In a second-hand bookshop I’d probably buy this without any prior knowledge of the author…