‘It was a winter they would tell tales about. A winter that arrived so sudden and sharp it stuck birds to branches, and caught the rivers in such a frost their spray froze and scattered down like clouded crystals on the stilled water. A winter that came, and never left.’
When Mila’s snowy home is visited by a band of strangers, led by a man with strange and disturbing powers, her quiet life in the woods is unsettled. On waking the next morning, she discovers that her brother, Oskar, appears to have left with the mysterious visitors. What follows is an exhilarating quest as Mila sets out to find her missing brother and bring him home again.
One of the key delights about this intriguing tale is the central relationships between Mila and her two sisters, Sanna and Pípa. To have these three protagonists leading the chase is very refreshing, and we’re left in no doubt as to the bravery and strength of these young girls. Pípa is a wonderful character – she is the youngest, so young she hasn’t been given her real name yet, but she has some of the best lines and I’d love to see her appearing in another story.
The Way Past Winter has a timeless quality to it – it’s a story in which magical vengeance can shape the seasons and pull families apart. The violence at the heart of the novel manages to be both simple in its explanation and morally complex in its implications, meaning that this novel dances the line between traditional folktale and a more nuanced read with an assured tread. It’s beautifully written, creating a world of snow and ice that is both familiar and threatening. The girls’ journey takes them far from their small cottage and out into the wilds. I loved the sense that their worlds are expanding just as their very lives are threatened,
‘At home Mila’s view of the heavens was obscured by trees – slices of sky with trees overlaid like fingers over her eyes – but here it felt as if she were in a giant upended bowl, perforated with light. From horizon to horizon, she could see stars, and there, to what must be the north, something glassy shimmered. The frozen Boreal Sea.’
This is an excellent read for YAs and adults alike – highly recommended!