Winterkeep by Kristin Cashore (528 pages)
In Winterkeep, Queen Bitterblue Voyages to a New Land
There is a new land in the east, and the closest nation is Winterkeep, a place where telepathic foxes bond with humans and people fly through the sky in wondrous airships. Queen Bitterblue of Monsea sends two envoys there and learns not long later that they perished under suspicious circumstances. When more perplexing news reaches her from Winterkeep, Bitterblue decides to venture there herself, bringing along her spy, Hava, and her trusted colleague, Giddon. In Winterkeep, Lovisa Cavenda is the teenage daughter of two powerful politicians. Her parents fall on opposite sides of the political spectrum, and, lately, their behaviour has been increasingly odd. With her knowledge of Winterkeep and powerful parents, Lovisa may be the key to uncovering all the mysteries of this new land for Queen Bitterblue.
An Escapist Fantasy With Real-World Elements
For Bitterblue, arriving in Winterkeep is like showing up in the middle of a chess game as one of the most powerful players. The story is thick with twists from this point on—full of political maneuvering and complications. Cashore crafts a story with character arcs that intertwine perfectly and plot points revealed at just the right time. One of my favourite things about reading this was the characters and their strength and perseverance while still remaining true-hearted. Also, I adored the fantasy creatures! There were telepathic foxes, dolphin-like sea creatures, and a mythical whale-like being that makes its home on the seafloor.
While Winterkeep is pure escapist fantasy, it also pulls real-world elements in through its politics. The steampunk-esque airships have proprietary gasoline, and fuel resources are a heavily contested issue. Some of Winterkeep’s citizens have a strong relationship with the environment, and others less so, and I couldn’t ignore how their world reflects our own. Thankfully, these are woven seamlessly into the plot and aren’t overly obvious.
The Bottom Line: 4.5/5 Brookie Stars
If you’re wary of starting with this one (the fourth in a series), I should mention that the Graceling Realm novels are all companions—one doesn’t need to be read before the others, they are all just swaths of a larger world. So pick this one up if you love full worlds with fantasy creatures and bold characters, lots of plot twists and turns, and a touch of romance.
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Jamie Mitchell is a writer, library assistant, former bookseller, and all-around lover of the written word. She’s currently working on her fifth novel, and if you’re wondering where the other four are, they’re safe on her laptop and in need of rewriting. She lives in Indianapolis with her husband, and enjoys traveling, bookstagramming and experimenting with gluten-free flours.
Favourite book: Graceling by Kristin Cashore
Favourite brunch spot: 1823 Bakehouse