The Way Past Winter by Kiran Millwood Hargrave (2018)
Updated: Jul 10
As soon as I saw the gorgeous cover of this book, I knew it was going to be a good read. However, I shouldn’t have read it in late May. It should have been read in midwinter; preferably with a snowstorm howling outside and a blazing log fire, steaming hot tea, fluffy blanket…you get the picture…
The setting is Scandinavia in winter, not just any sort of winter – a cruel, unending winter. The land is cursed, and the family of orphaned children in their cottage in the forest are struggling to survive, and things are about to get a lot worse…
I was reminded of Hans Christian Anderson’s The Snow Queen while reading this: a stolen boy, and a girl who dares to follow after him, enduring trials and tests on her quest. But this story’s heroine – Mila – doesn’t have to go alone, a mysterious mage and Mila’s plucky little sister are her companions, and she will need all the help she can get as she faces a powerful Bear Guardian, enchanted creatures, hostile elements, and her own fears.
I loved the imagery and settings in this story: a land of snow and ice, wolves and husky-sleds, magical trees, all beautifully described. And I really liked the bond between the siblings. This is a story about family. About trust betrayed and restored. And it’s about the relationship between people and the land. Betray the land by abusing it, and you bring a curse upon yourself and the generation to follow.
This is advertised as being for the 10-14 age group, but there is one somewhat gruesome incident that I wouldn't like to give to younger middle-grade readers. Apart from that one scene, it is a beautifully written, atmospheric fairy/folk tale, and as it ends in a springtime scene, I guess it was just fine to read it in May after all!