Chris­telle Da­bos Hilde­garde Serle (Trans­la­tor) Eu­ropa Edi­tions (SEPTEM­BER) Hard­cover $19.95 (491pp), 978-1-60945-483-8

Foreword Reviews - - Contents - PALLAS GATES MCCORQUODALE

A cap­ti­vat­ing fan­tasy thriller rife with magic and in­trigue, Chris­telle Da­bos’s A Win­ter’s Promise is an ex­hil­a­rat­ing ven­ture into a world of float­ing cities, il­lu­sions, and lies, where ap­pear­ances and hon­eyed words mask a mul­ti­tude of evils.

As a mu­seum cu­ra­tor, Ophe­lia uses her gift as a “reader” to ex­pe­ri­ence an ob­ject’s history through touch. Dan­ger lurks when a diplo­matic mar­riage is ar­ranged, ty­ing her to Thorn, a surly north­erner. As she strug­gles to un­der­stand her role as Thorn’s fi­ancée, Ophe­lia be­gins to un­ravel a ter­ri­fy­ing se­cret be­neath the glit­ter­ing fa­cade of her new home, where en­e­mies and al­lies all wear false faces.

Trans­lated from the orig­i­nal French by Hilde­garde Serle, the book’s lan­guage re­tains a lyri­cal ca­dence and in­ter­na­tional al­lure. Unique cos­tumes and cul­tures emerge from the “arks,” a se­ries of mys­ti­cally float­ing is­lands that formed long af­ter the world broke apart. Each ex­ists with its own ex­cep­tional brand of fam­ily magic, cus­toms, and rul­ing an­ces­tors. Ophe­lia’s home, An­ima, and Thorn’s, known as “the Pole,” are both vividly ren­dered and fan­tas­ti­cally cre­ative.

Plainly spo­ken with plain looks, Ophe­lia seems a mis­match for the stone-faced Thorn. He in­spires hate and fear in equal mea­sure. But their chem­istry is pal­pa­ble, if com­pli­cated by the deadly pol­i­tics that sur­round their en­gage­ment. The book is nar­rated en­tirely from Ophe­lia’s point of view, and her trans­for­ma­tion into a de­ter­mined, self-aware user of magic co­in­cides with steadily build­ing ac­tion, sus­pense, and dan­ger. This ad­dic­tively twisty plot be­gins to ex­pose harsh truths be­neath the glim­mer, or the “var­nish over filth.”

The stage is set for the next in­stall­ment, and with mass ap­peal for mid­dle grade, high school, and adult readers, every­one will be clam­or­ing to find out what hap­pens next for Ophe­lia and Thorn. Chris­telle Da­bos’s A Win­ter’s Promise is an ex­hil­a­rat­ing jour­ney into an un­known world of magic and lies.

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