Monday 28 January 2019

Book Review: The Sisters Of The Winter Wood; Rena Rossner.

This felt like a good pick for Winter - I haven't been able to get hold of the last of Katherine Arden's finale for her 'Winternight Trilogy' yet so I wanted to read another book based upon Eastern European folklore and culture. I had some issues with this book though, which I'll get to in a tick.

SOURCE: NetGalley
TYPE: E-Read

TITLE: The Sisters Of The Winter Wood
AUTHOR: Rena Rossner
PAGES: 464
GENRE: Young Adult, Historical Fiction, Fantasy, Retelling

RATING: 2.5/5 Stars

In a remote village surrounded by vast forests on the border of Moldova and Ukraine, sisters Liba and Laya have been raised on the honeyed scent of their Mami's babka and the low rumble of their Tati's prayers. But when a troupe of mysterious men arrives, Laya falls under their spell-despite their mother's warning to be wary of strangers. And this is not the only danger lurking in the woods.

As dark forces close in on their village, Liba and Laya discover a family secret passed down through generations. Faced with a magical heritage they never knew existed, the sisters realise the old fairy tales are true...and could save them all.

What I Liked:
  • Rossner writes very well, and I liked the references to Rossetti's poem 'Goblin Market', one I really enjoyed studying at school all that time ago. This book is chock-full of magic and enchantment, and her ideas around the Goblins, the swans and the bears were pretty cool. I think that was probably my favourite aspect of the book.
  • There has to be a shoutout to the #OwnVoices aspect of this book, as the characters in this book fiercely represent Rossner's own history. I liked the Jewish representation, and the way that the magic of the story interweaved so well with the true story of unrest in Ukraine at the time.
What I Disliked:
  • As much as I liked the incorporation of Jewish culture into this book, the amount of italicised Yiddish and Ukrainian language became a bit of a problem. Every single page was full of it, and though there was a glossary in the back (I later discovered) my e-ARC prevented me from moving back and forth so I ended up looking so many words up and it interrupted the flow of the story so much. Educational, but irritating.
  • I really didn't like either of the sisters in this book. Considering that I was supposed to be rooting for them - this was an issue. Liba was stuck-up and naive about EVERYTHING and I found Laya so recklessly stupid most of the time. It meant that I had very little care for what actually happened to them?
  • I also think there was a bit too much plot to worry about - it felt as if Rossner had come up with this really great 'warring factions, bears vs. swans' idea with the parents and they were the main issue to watch out for, but then the Goblins were also something she wanted to include so they just popped up out of nowhere. It made keeping track of threats VERY confusing.
Overall Conclusion:
I didn't dislike this book. After all, it was magical, and written well, and I like to read fantastical, wintry fairy tales which this certainly was. But it had problematic elements that I couldn't ignore, and that made it only mediocre for me in the end. I wanted to be totally consumed and invested in what was going on, but instead I only found it mildly interesting. A shame, but still a quirky story.

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