“Winterkeep” by Kristin Cashore
Source: PenguinTeen exchange for an honest review
Genre: Young Adult Fiction, Fantasy
Four years after Bitterblue left off, a new land has been discovered to the east: Torla; and the closest nation to Monsea is Winterkeep. Winterkeep is a land of miracles, a democratic republic run by people who like each other, where people speak to telepathic sea creatures, adopt telepathic foxes as pets, and fly across the sky in ships attached to balloons.
But when Bitterblue’s envoys to Winterkeep drown under suspicious circumstances, she and Giddon and her half sister, Hava, set off to discover the truth–putting both Bitterblue’s life and Giddon’s heart to the test when Bitterbue is kidnapped. Giddon believes she has drowned, leaving him and Hava to solve the mystery of what’s wrong in Winterkeep.
Lovisa Cavenda is the teenage daughter of a powerful Scholar and Industrialist (the opposing governing parties) with a fire inside her that is always hungry, always just nearly about to make something happen. She is the key to everything, but only if she can figure out what’s going on before anyone else, and only if she’s willing to transcend the person she’s been all her life
I’m always hesitant about additional books in a series that are published years later. It can sometimes feel like a money grab. These additional books in a series also sometimes do giant time jumps so we can ‘see’ our characters years later and see how they’re doing. It’s SO easy to miss the mark when tackling those kind of stories. Thankfully, Cashore wrote a series of stand alone novels where time jumps between the books is normal so Winterkeep easily fits in with the other Graceling Realm books.
Like the rest of the Graceling Realm books, this is a stand alone book that takes place in the same universe. Readers can technically read the books in whichever order they prefer (though I do personally recommend reading them in ‘order’). It’s been several years since I’ve read the books and I was able to keep up with everything fairly well with my fuzzy memory. I do wish I had read through the glossary of people at the back of the book before reading the book just to jog my memory of who some of the semi-familiar names were in connection to past books.
Cashore does YA fantasy really, really well but I do think it’s for a specific type of fantasy reader. Winterkeep clocks in at over 500 pages. I know that is a daunting length. The books are paced on the slower side and focus quite heavily on world building, characters, and politics. I personally love getting lost in this world, meeting & loving the characters, & attempting to figure out the politics. For readers who need action packed stories, they might struggle with the book.
As usual, the politics where my absolute favorite part of this book. Everything weaves together beautifully. It was like a great mystery trying to figure everything out, where loyalties lie, & who to believe. I really do love how each book in the series takes place somewhere a little different so the reader gets to see a wide variety of political landscapes.
For readers who need to know: yes, there’s sex in case that’s a turn off for you. It still mostly fades to black which keeps it in the YA category. It does feel like there’s a lot more of it (and with more people) than I remember in the other books (but I could be off with my memory). Might not be the best YA fantasy pick for some of the youngest fantasy readers.
All in all, I’m pleased that Winterkeep kept the spirit and feel of the rest of the series all these years later.