TITLE: Wolf Winter
AUTHOR: Cecilia Ekbäck
SERIES: Svartåsen (#1)
PUBLISHER: Weinstein Books
GENRE: Adult, Historical Fiction, Crime, Mystery
RATING: 3/5 Stars
Swedish Lapland, 1717.
Maija, her husband Paavo and her daughters Frederika and Dorotea arrive from their native Finland, hoping to forget the traumas of their past and put down new roots in this harsh but beautiful land. Above them looms Blackåsen, a mountain whose foreboding presence looms over the valley and whose dark history seems to haunt the lives of those who live in its shadow.
While herding the family’s goats on the mountain, Frederika happens upon the mutilated body of one of their neighbors, Eriksson. The death is dismissed as a wolf attack, but Maija feels certain that the wounds could only have been inflicted by another man. Compelled to investigate despite her neighbours’ strange disinterest in the death and the fate of Eriksson’s widow, Maija is drawn into the dark history of tragedies and betrayals that have taken place on Blackåsen. Young Frederika finds herself pulled towards the mountain as well, feeling something none of the adults around her seem to notice.
As the seasons change, and the “wolf winter,” the harshest winter in memory, descends upon the settlers, Paavo travels to find work, and Maija finds herself struggling for her family’s survival in this land of winter-long darkness. As the snow gathers, the settlers’ secrets are increasingly laid bare. Scarce resources and the never-ending darkness force them to come together, but Maija, not knowing who to trust and who may betray her, is determined to find the answers for herself. Soon, Maija discovers the true cost of survival under the mountain, and what it will take to make it to spring.
What I Liked:
- The atmosphere that Ekbäck builds in this book is incredible, and she is clearly a gifted writer. The fusion of trying to untangle the web of lies and deceit created by human behaviour, and dealing with the potential otherworldly threat of the spirits and mountain itself made for a very compelling read, and there is something about the wild, raw force of unpredictable environments such as this one that is fascinating to read.
- For the most part, Ekbäck created a very good story-line. She crafted her characters well, and it was interesting (and at times disturbing) to find out the 'secrets' of each. I liked that the female characters were so strong in this story, and that they were the ones doing a lot of the detective work. Ekbäck also did a wonderful job at making every conversation count. In order to fully unravel this plot, you have to be paying attention to the details.
What I Disliked:
- While I liked the intricacy of the story, there were some plot threads that felt unnecessary. In fact, I felt that they had only been inserted in order to keep the story moving, which was a little disappointing. I also wasn't a huge fan of the ambiguity of it all. Many loose ends weren't tied at the end, and the finale was a little anticlimactic and vague. It was sad to see so little pay-off, when the 'getting there' had been so eloquently constructed.
This was a fairly good read. At times it was hard to get through, but for fans of the genre I think this will be a gripping read thanks to it's haunting nature. That being said, I like my murder mysteries to be well concluded and if a book is going to have so many sub-plots I expect them all to mean something. The spiritual side of the story from Frederika's POV was probably my favourite aspect, but at the same time I don't think it was explained very well. I just wish things had been a bit less vague.