A Winter’s Promise
In A Winter’s Promise, the first English-language volume of French novelist Christelle Dabos’ award-winning fantasy quartet, The Mirror Visitor, the earth has been smashed into fragments (or “arks”), which rotate around the shattered remains of the original planet. Each ark is inhabited by a distinct society with its own unique history and culture. The tale’s young protagonist Ophelia, who lives on the Anima Ark, where every object is alive, was born with the ability to pass through mirrors and to divine the history of objects by touching them.
As the novel begins, Ophelia has been forced into an arranged marriage with Thorn, a powerful official from the neighboring Pole Ark. A cold, abusive, “barely civilized madman,” Thorn treats Ophelia with cruelty and contempt, hiding her away in solitary confinement at the manor of his aunt. Angry and defiant at the treatment she receives, Ophelia escapes the manor to investigate her dangerous new homeland, a corrupt society built on secrets, lies, and illusions. With its compelling characters, intricate plot, and strange, vividly imagined worlds, Dabos’ new novel has been favorably compared to other recent young adult fantasies, including J. K. Rowling’s Harry Potter books and Philip Pullman’s His Dark Materials series. But with its subtle accounts of courtly intrigue, frequent use of euphemism (“conjugal duties,” “consummation”), and obsessive attention to physical décor, A Winter’s Promise seems more suited for adult audiences than for teens. With a listening time of almost 15 hours, gifted voice actress Emma Fenney struggles valiantly to sustain the tale’s momentum, providing distinctive voices to each of the characters and bringing a breathless urgency to the narration.
David Shirley ©2019 Parents’ Choice
David Shirley’s recent nonfiction titles include A History of Brooklyn Bridge Park and Fix It Leroy! His YA biographies, Every Day I Sing the Blues: The Story of B. B. King and Satchel Paige: Baseball Legend were honored as the New York Public Library’s Best Books for Teens.