I should note before I go further that I do know Kristen, but this review was by no means solicited–I had Heart of the Winterland on preorder long before its release date because of how intriguing the plot synopsis was, and was downloading and reading it practically at midnight. It was well-worth the wait.
Heart of the Winterland tells the story of Cali, a 200 year old woman who is still quite naive, and her companion Voice, a floating ball of light and magic. It also is a story of Kota, a mute warrior who has fought hard for her current status as captain of Duke Bludgaard’s men. And interwoven throughout the story of the present is a story of the past, one told by Voice, detailing how Cali came to be alone, the only living human, in Tabor, a land that was once green and vibrant but now is a permanent winterland.
I was hooked from the first chapter and devoured the story as quickly as I could turn the virtual pages (traveling necessitated the Kindle version, although sometime I’m definitely getting a hard copy for my ever-overfull bookshelves.)
From the beginning, Cali comes across as naive, though through no fault of her own–until her 200th birthday she was caught in a state of apathy. Only when it breaks does she realize how strange her home is, and that is why she sets out on a journey to find answers. Her enigmatic companion, Voice, travels with her.
Cali and Voice soon find themselves caught up in another’s tale–Angel is pretty, but mysterious, and on the run. She is being pursued by Captain Kota, who is not about to stop hunting the young woman. Throughout the ensuing game of cat-and-mouse, Cali shows real strength and a lot of character, as well as compassion and kindness. Despite her naivete, she does her best to correct mistakes, and is determined to become the ruler her country needs her to be.
I came to like all of the characters, Voice perhaps most of all. The story itself was a tightly woven tale that made me laugh and cry and wish I didn’t have to wait for the sequel. Not that a sequel is needed–this story comes to a satisfying end with a twist or two I didn’t quite see coming (which is unusual…I’m rarely surprised by stories.)
To conclude, I’m definitely giving Heart of the Winterland five stars, and shall wait in great anticipation for the sequel.