Wednesday, March 21, 2012
Winterling by Sarah Prineas
The basic storyline is similar to many we've heard before: teenage girl living with her grandmother feels like she doesn't belong; she finds a porthole to another world, rights its wrongs, and finds a place in life. But oh my goodness, the details and characters of this book make this hackneyed storyline seem brand new!
The ball really gets rolling when Fer (short for Jennifer) feels trapped inside her grandmother's house and rebels by going outside late at night. She discovers a boy/dog (that's clearly not quite human) being attacked by wolves by a strange circular pool not far from their house. She saves him and brings him back to their house, where her grandmother reveals that she has hidden knowledge by refusing to help the wounded boy! So of course, Fer keeps asking until she finds out that the boy/dog person comes from the place where her father disappeared to and where her mother was from all along! Fer prepares and transports herself to this land through the Way (the circular pool.) There, she discovers that there is something terribly wrong with the people and the land. Spring refuses to come. People are reverting back to their wild states, turning into the animals with which they find kinship. Fer persists until she is convinced that the Lady of the land is an imposter and did some unspeakable evil to hurt the land so terribly. And Fer is just the person to put things right...
One of my favorite things about this story is Fer's character. She is brave and impetuous, but I love that she is compassionate and always eager to help people or animals when they are injured. She helps anyone. Because of the rules of this new land, oath of loyalty are almost physically binding. And this tricky thing makes it difficult to know whether we should trust any of the people that Fer encounters. But whether or not she trusts them, Fer is always eager to help them. And fortunately, another great thing about her character is that she isn't foolishly trusting. She does trust some people more than she should, but as she learns more about the land and has more and more questions, we see that she has a pretty square head on her shoulders.
I also love how she gradually discovers how to work with magic. She sees clearly that she is a healer. The knowledge that her grandmother drilled into her suddenly takes new life in this strange land and magically heals all that she treats. She also learns something about the difference between seeing the surface and seeing the truth. People in this land have a magical external appearance covering their true self. Fer learns to look for people's "inner" self by glancing at them out of the corner of her eye.
The "supporting cast" is also full of interesting characters! The "pucks" are supposedly roving creatures, not bound to anyone. But Rook, the boy/dog that Fer first encounters is a puck thrice-bound against his will to the imposter Lady. Fer learns to ride on a horse that is Rook's "puck-brother". And I personally think that the grandmother is a fascinating character, and hope that she plays a bigger role in the next book! All in all, this is a wonderful story, full of engaging characters and new places--be sure to go check it out!