Winter, White and Wicked

The second I saw the comp of Frozen meets Mad Max, I knew I needed this book. But holy winter spirits I had no idea how badly I actually needed it.

Winter talks to Sylvi. Whispers to her, keeps her safe. And on an island cursed to ensure Winter eternally, having her on your side can’t be a bad thing. Especially when Sylvi drives a rig, delivering cargo and goods all across the island.

When her adopted sister runs off with the rebels, Sylvi has to make a deal with a dangerous smuggler to get her back. Except it’s late in the season, making the roads treacherous and she doesn’t trust Mars Dresden or his crew as far as she can throw them.

But the closer they get to the rebel camp, Winter’s ancient secrets threaten to come to light. And Sylvi will have to choose between the safety and favor of Winter, or the future of the people that call the island home.

There is so much to love here. Winter as an actual malignant spirit with moods and thoughts and agency all her own. Ice trucking. Rebels. Magic. Monsters. Found families and ragtag crews and tension that vibrates off the page.

From the very opening pages I was sucked into this world. And I mean fully immersed. I found myself thinking about it when I wasn’t reading it and now that I’m done, I crave going back.

The creativity of this world blew me away. I’ve mentioned Winter as a spirit, but this is an entire world of gods bringing forth the magic they wield. But the island itself is a sort of magic, made up of stone and a substance called kol that takes over people’s minds. There’s Winter’s wolves, the monstrous Abaki made up of the limbs torn apart by shipwrecks in the rocks, and the Shiv, people carved from the stone of the island who live with rock embedded in their skin.

For all the fantasy elements, this book also has a healthy helping of dystopian vibes. The island is ruled by the mysterious Majority, a group of powerful people who hold people in impossible indentured contracts to mine the kol, even while their sanity fails. They focus entirely on the future, refusing to allow history of any kind to be talked about or taught.

This is one aspect of the book I wish was explained a bit more. Who the Majority are and why they have these strange rules on forgetting history. But honestly, it’s only in the aftermath that I find myself wondering, so perhaps it isn’t really relevant to the story. It didn’t take away from my enjoyment.

And of course, we have the rebels. Here is where Dittemore’s command of the story shines. She is a master of knowing what hints to drop, how much information to give, and when to deliver a sucker punch reveal. They aren’t all unpredictable, but the tension combined with the uncertainty demands we keep turning the pages. With every mystery or clue that gets dropped, another one tangles at our feet. And this constant forward momentum makes this book a fast-paced thrilling ride.

The character dynamics are incredible. I love that Sylvi is her own person, and rather than turn her conflict with Mars into an enemies to lovers trope, Dittemore keeps their relationship platonic. The respect earned and half-truths discovered is a delicious journey, highlighting that not every difficult but attractive man needs to be swoon-worthy. Instead, we focus on the depth and complexity of how relationships build and grow. That bonds can be formed outside of romantic entanglements. Considering we will develop friendships and work-based relationships at a far greater rate than romantic ones, I appreciated the focus and vivid reality Dittemore placed on these.

Wrapped within the characters, Dittemore tackles the question of faith. There are gods and legends, histories and folklores. And in that aspect, the faith the characters struggle with is more straightforward. But she also writes the deep inner struggle many of us face regarding faith in ourselves, faith in humanity, faith in those we think we know best. It’s a complicated examination highlighted in Sylvi first and foremost, but touched on in each character in the small rebel crew she finds herself driving with. I think it’s a powerful message and is woven beautifully into both the story and the characters.

While I loved this book, and I mean LOVED, there are some trigger warnings readers should be aware of. This book is Dark––with a Capital D. It has copious amounts of violence, a heavy dose of gore, some animal violence, and non-graphic sexual assault. For readers who read a fair amount of dark fantasy, or dark fiction in general, the levels of these warnings are probably unnecessary. But as this is YA, and I often feel books are marketed under dark fantasy that aren’t dark fantasy, readers should be warned.

In all, this was an incredible rush of a read. I loved Sylvi. Loved how she grew to face her inner demons. And I loved how characters didn’t let her off the hook when she made awful decisions. It’s a lesson in boundaries. How to set them and how to respect them and I am here for all of it. I don’t know if there’s more in this world, but if there is, I’ll be first in line to read it.

Five icy stars.

Thank you TBR & Beyond Tours and Abrams Books for sending me a copy and including me on this tour. Be sure to check out the rest of the tour stops and grab your copy today!

Mad Max: Fury Road meets Frozen in this striking YA fantasy about a rig driver’s journey to save her friend

Twice-orphaned Sylvi has chipped out a niche for herself on Layce, an island cursed by eternal winter. Alone in her truck, she takes comfort in two things: the solitude of the roads and the favor of Winter, an icy spirit who has protected her since she was a child.

Sylvi likes the road, where no one asks who her parents were or what she thinks of the rebels in the north. But when her best friend, Lenore, runs off with the rebels, Sylvi must make a haul too late in the season for a smuggler she wouldn’t normally work with, the infamous Mars Dresden. Alongside his team—Hyla, a giant warrior woman and Kyn, a boy with skin like stone—Sylvi will do whatever it takes to save her friend.

Mad Max: Fury Road meets Frozen in this striking YA fantasy about a rig driver’s journey to save her friend

Twice-orphaned Sylvi has chipped out a niche for herself on Layce, an island cursed by eternal winter. Alone in her truck, she takes comfort in two things: the solitude of the roads and the favor of Winter, an icy spirit who has protected her since she was a child.

Sylvi likes the road, where no one asks who her parents were or what she thinks of the rebels in the north. But when her best friend, Lenore, runs off with the rebels, Sylvi must make a haul too late in the season for a smuggler she wouldn’t normally work with, the infamous Mars Dresden. Alongside his team—Hyla, a giant warrior woman and Kyn, a boy with skin like stone—Sylvi will do whatever it takes to save her friend.

But when the time comes, she’ll have to choose: safety, anonymity, and the favor of Winter—or the future of the island that she calls home.

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Shannon Dittemore is a young adult author, conference speaker, and mentor. Her books include the Angel Eyes novels (Thomas Nelson Fiction) and the forthcoming Winter, White and Wicked, to be published by Abrams Books in the fall of 2020. Since 2013, Shannon has taught mentoring tracks at a local school where she provides junior high and high school students with an introduction to writing and the publishing industry. She writes weekly for Go Teen Writers, a blog recognized by Writer’s Digest three years running as a “101 Best Websites for Writers” selection. Shannon’s stories often feature strong female leads grappling with fear and faith as they venture into the wilds of the unknown. In many ways, she’s writing her own life story.

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