This book is all about atmosphere. Kiran Millwood Hargrave has wonderfully brought winter to life in her latest book, The Way Past Winter, making it perfect for snuggling up under a blanket with a hot drink. It’s fast-paced and gets to the action quickly, keeping you enthralled from the get go with each chapter ending on a cliff-hanger that leaves you wanting more, while being rooted in a world of myth and folk-lore that feels strangely familiar.
The story is told through the eyes of Mila, the middle one of three sisters who live alone with their elder brother Oskar in a house hidden in the depths of a giant forest. Their mother died giving birth to the youngest sister, Pipa, and soon after their father seemingly abandoned them, leaving Oskar and the eldest sister, Sanna, trying to look after the others. One night, a mysterious stranger and a group of boys arrives, seeking shelter for the night. In the morning, Oskar has disappeared. Sanna assumes he has been lured away by the stranger’s talk of treasure, but Mila and Pipa are not so sure. They set out to find out what has really happened and, with the aid of the local madman/magician, Rune, rescue their brother in what becomes a thrilling adventure.
As I mentioned earlier, Hargrave’s writing really brings winter to life in this book. Her prose is magical and really works with the fairy tale-esque world we find ourselves in, striking the perfect balance between description and pace. This really brings out the beauty and magic of the eternal winter that our characters live in, but also the harshness and danger that such a setting would provide as well.
Aside from the eternal winter wonderland we find ourselves immersed in, the characters and the real, believable relationships they have for each other are one of the highlights of this book. Their love for each other, as a family unit, really shines through with every interaction, even when they are bickering. In fact, this bickering and arguing is part of makes it so well written – who has ever met siblings who don’t argue almost constantly!
Overall, I would definitely recommend this book. I powered through it in about two or three days (which is pretty good for me!). It might be aimed primarily at children, but I think most adults will enjoy it for the adventure it is. Oh, and it is quite short, so you know, you can smash some reading goals with it as well!