I received this book from the publisher via Net Galley in exchange for an honest review.
‘The Sisters of the Winter Wood’ by Rena Rossner had a great premise.
Synopsis: Sister Laya and Liba were raised on the edge of a vast forest and it is here that they are left alone while their parents go on an unplanned trip. Before they left, their Mami spoke with them separately and told them that their family is different, their Tati can turn into a bear and their Mami can turn into a swan. Both girls will also have the power to change. But their Mami makes them swear promises to look after each other because they are not the only magic ones that lurk in the woods.
The book focuses around two sisters, Laya and Liba. Without giving too much away, they are both very different. Laya is a devout Jew and wishes to be taught the Torah and Liba is more flighty and wishes to explore the world. Liba is the pretty one, and Laya is the serious one. Liba’s POV’s were very different to Laya’s and it’s immediately clear who’s POV you’re reading from. Mainly because of the formatting (not sure of this with the physical copy) and Liba’s chapters were quite lyrical. However, I preferred Laya’s chapters as they were more easily followed and understood: they had descriptions, quote marks around speech etc.
I’m not sure if there was a message to this or not but it centred around Jews and how they have been prosecuted in history. This story, I believe, stems from a true story many decades ago and it adds a fantasy twist to it. I would have liked this book, had it not been so saturated with religious talk. I have nothing against anyone’s religion, I just don’t want it smothered in my face with every page. It felt like the author’s views and opinions on the way Jews were treated was heavily present and this came across quite pushy? Don’t get me wrong, to some extent she is on the mark with how Jews have been treated (Nazi’s anyone?) but her views were almost propaganda-like in their intensity.
There were many unfamiliar words to me in this book, and even though this came with a glossary, I just didn’t appreciate it. I don’t want to have to look up 10 words per page to find the true meaning to the sentence, just write it one language. With traditional fantasy books, I understand because the author has made a word up, but when you’ve basically melded two languages together with a sprinkling of another five, it’s just too much like work. I also found that the same themes or variations of the same sentences were repeated. I HATE REPETITION.
It’s got a good historical sense about it, and the base story line is appealing, however the execution could do with a massive rework. Another book that doesn’t deserve its cover.
“Sometimes you know when you don’t belong, but you don’t know how to leave.”
You can get it here