Still catching up with my December reading here… I’d been hearing about this one since it first came out, but it didn’t quite make it home until the sequel, Summerkin, was nominated for a Cybils award. I read through both of these in short order.
Winterling by Sarah Prineas. HarperCollins, 2012
Fer, short for Jennifer, lives with her grandmother, Grand-Jane. She’s always assumed that Grand-Jane was just being gently euphemistic when she told her that her parents “went away.” But as the story opens, things start to happen that make Fer question the little she’s been told about her family history.
This story is about Fer going through the Way she finds she can open in a nearby pond. Winter reigns in the Summerlands, and the Lady there says she needs Fer’s help to bring spring back. Even though the Lady is beautiful and seems trustworthy, Fer can feel the land, and it’s telling her that something is very wrong. She wants desperately for Rook, the Puck whose life she saved at the beginning and who took her to the Lady, to help her figure things out – but he keeps telling her he’s not her friend and can’t answer her questions. He isn’t, and he can’t, because he’s been oath-bound to the Lady against his will. Still, he is the only one of the Lady’s followers who knows the truth about her.
The reader learns fairly early on that Fer is the daughter of the murdered True Lady. The story is about Fer’s finding out, about her finding slowly her own way to take care of the Summerlands and its people without the too-tight binding oaths and bloodshed that the false Lady brought. There’s a lot of herbal healing along with archery chase scenes, and Fer’s being a vegetarian is important to the plot.
But while being a Lady might seem so close to being a princess that it would turn boys off, it’s never about pretty dresses and romance, and Rook is a very interesting character in his own right, getting nearly equal page time with Fer. I read and enjoyed this, and checked it out on audio for my son while we were waiting for the next Narnia book to come in at the library. He enjoyed it a great deal, although I found myself disagreeing with the narrator’s interpretation slightly more often than usual because I had just read it in print. It might have a few too many stock elements to be a Highly Original book that Everyone Must Read – but Prineas does nicely new things with her stock elements, turning into a satisfying mix of adventure with thoughtfulness, good for kids of all genders and adult fans of children’s fantasy.
Summerkin by Sarah Prineas. HarperCollins, 2013.
In Book 2, Fer is the Lady – but now the High Ones wish her to face off against other, pureblood contestants for the crown of the Summerlands. Once again, Fer finds that the way that feels right to her isn’t what everyone else seems to think is the right way, and kindness and loyalty win over greed and authoritarianism. (I’m simplifying grossly here.) Meanwhile, Rook’s puck brothers think that he’s looking too close to friends with someone who isn’t a puck, and set him a difficult task to prove his loyalty to them. I enjoyed this one very much as well, and have asked the youth librarian here to buy it on CD so my boy can listen to it as well.
Moonkind, the last book in the trilogy, is out this month (though still on order at my library), for those who like reading completed series best.