Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Review: Winterkill by Kate A. Boorman

Tuesday, August 26, 2014 with 10 comments
Title: Winterkill
Author: Kate A. Boorman
Series: Winterkill Trilogy, book #1
Publisher: Amulet Books
Publication Date: September 9, 2014
Source: from publisher via Netgalley
Purchase: Amazon | Barnes & Noble

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Emmeline knows she’s not supposed to explore the woods outside her settlement. The enemy that wiped out half her people lurks there, attacking at night and keeping them isolated in an unfamiliar land with merciless winters. Living with the shame of her grandmother’s insubordination, Emmeline has learned to keep her head down and her quick tongue silent.

When the settlement leader asks for her hand in marriage, it’s an opportunity for Emmeline to wash the family slate clean—even if she has eyes for another. But before she’s forced into an impossible decision, her dreams urge her into the woods, where she uncovers a path she can’t help but follow. The trail leads to a secret that someone in the village will kill to protect. Her grandmother followed the same path and paid the price. If Emmeline isn’t careful, she will be next.

Alright...show of hands. Who among us didn't add this book to our TBR strictly based off of that awesome cover and font treatment? That's what I thought. I myself was immediately drawn to the book based on the fence spelling out the title of the book and the Red Riding Hood-vibe I was getting from the cover. And it served me well because I really enjoyed this creepy tale of the unknown and what lurks there. Even if I did go into it thinking it was a stand-alone, only to find out it's the first in a planned trilogy. (Don't you hate when that happens?)

Anyway, I wasn't exactly sure which genre this book fell into when I started it, and I'm even less certain after finishing it. There's definitely an end-of-the-world-as-we-knew-it feeling, but the society in which Emmeline lives is cult-like rudimentary in nature. As in they've reverted to the way of life before electricity or any of the conveniences we know today. They don't even have some of the animals standard to that time, including horses, because they were wiped out, purportedly by the beast that roams the woods. These people don't exactly worship or revere the mysterious malmaci that resides in the woods surrounding their fortification, but they give it credence with their fear of it and the unknown. Considering no one's actually seen proof of its existence besides the Takings, they've given it a lot of power with their faith that it's real, that it's just biding its time until it snatches up its next victim. All that aside, I see this progressing as more of a survivalist story in future books, so I'm going to go with my first instinct and declare this a post-apocalyptic story, considering what I know now of the nature of these people.

It's not immediately apparent where this story actually takes place, if it's even a place that exists today or some version of it, but my best guess is Canada based on the fact that La Prise is unbelievably cold and dangerous -- hence the name winterkill -- and the fact that many of the villagers are fluent in French. Plus, the author is Canadian, so there's that. (On a side note, many conversations in this book mix English and French with little to no translation but it's easy to discern the gist of the dialogue based on the context. I actually found it refreshing to see the dialogue written in this manner, with no parroting back the translations each time French was used in conversation, but I'm sure it will annoy some readers, not knowing exactly what's being said.) At any rate, the descriptions of the setting weren't lacking, and I was immediately able to place the characters in the frozen tundra of Canada -- or near enough to it -- and far from any other civilization.

Emmeline is an outcast in her society, carrying the shame -- the Stain -- of her grandmother's past transgressions, transgressions for which her grandmother was sentenced to die. Em is also of "binding" age, which means it is time for her to agree on a life mate and be bound to that person in a special ceremony in a matter of days. And lo and behold, the society's leader has become smitten with Emmeline, against the Council's, well, counsel. But Em is right skittered by his affections and his plans for their people. Not to mention that she is Wayward, not unlike her grandmother, on a daily basis with no inkling to bind herself to anyone at this point.

Except maybe Kane, but his curiosity for what's outside those fortification walls is only surpassed by Emmeline's, making them the perfect match. Em risks certain danger every time she enters the woods, and Kane tries to keep her safe, keep her from the punishments that her would-be fiancé would be responsible for doling out. Their romantic interlude was sweet, but I'm glad it didn't become all-consuming. All Emmeline is concerned with at this point is discovering the truth: about her Stain, about the First Peoples, about the malmaci, about what lies beyond the fence, about everything. Her own curiosity is insatiable and she'll risk her life for the answers. But what she finds just may set her world crumbling down around her.

I loved how the fear of the unknown proved to be such a powerful motivator for the characters in this story. Life inside those four walls is all any of them have known, and they all crave even a shred of hope for something better, though no one's throwing them a bone. Winterkill is intense and full of suspense, and it kept me thoroughly engaged. While I was hoping for a stand-alone of this nature -- finally! -- I am equally pleased to revisit this world in future installments, as my curiosity has been piqued as much as Em's ever was in this book. So many unanswered questions and so much more to learn about this world and how it came to be. I can't wait to discover more!

GIF it to me straight:
There's something out there...

About the author:

Kate is a freelance writer and artist from the often-frozen Canadian prairies. She has a nice family and a well-indulged travel bug. She also has an irrational fear of birds, so when you visit, please leave your bird at home. But do visit.

Find Kate:

Website | Twitter | Goodreads


  1. This is the first I've seen of this and you're right- that is an AMAZING cover! It makes me think of Red Riding Hood too. And that movie several years ago- The Village? Super curious about what's out there...

    1. I've heard that, too, that it sounds reminiscent of The Village, but I've never seen that movie so I can't vouch for that.

  2. So glad you liked this. I have been very very curious about this one. I got the red riding hood vibe too and duh I never noticed that was a fence. Wow. The cover is cool and so is the title and yest that is what drew me to the book at first. Have to admit I didn't add it at first then I saw it on your blog and took another look at it and added it. So I am so glad to hear you loved it.

    1. I really enjoy stories like this, where the settlement is remote and civilization is all but lost. Does help that it has such an intriguing cover, though. ;)

  3. ohhhh You've got me even more excited now!! I didn't know it was a series either!! Can't wait to read it! Thank you for the awesome review!!

    1. For some reason, I thought you'd already read this Jaime. I hope it works out for you. Also, I think I should just start going into every book expecting a series these days, lol.

  4. I can vouch for the fact that some readers may find it annoying to have French dialogue that's not translated word-for-word, since it exists in PLUS ONE and I've seen bewildered commentary about it. What these readers don't realize is what you've discovered: that the contextual meanings--including subtle translations via the responses of other characters, or internal musings of the main character--are actually there, if they'd just go with the flow!

    1. Exactly. I didn't mind it in Plus One and I didn't mind it here. It gives the story a more authentic feel, at least to me. Everything will make sense in due time, so there's no use feeling put out just because something isn't immediately explained.

  5. I love books with snow, and that is why drew me in right away!

  6. Ahhhh! I just read Jen @ YA Romantics review of this book and now with yours, I may have to set aside my current book to peek into this one this evening. It just sounds so up my alley. It definitely evokes The Forest of Hands and Teeth for me and that is one book I just can't say enough good things about. So excited to give a try soon!


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