Review: ‘Winterlong’ by Elizabeth Hand

102888It is big and it is worth praising …Winterlong is a dense, graceful, bullying book of great length and much skill; it is a live tale, told in a live voice, by an author of muscle and drive and ambition; it shows the depth of talent available in science fiction. — John Clute, “The Washington Post” Elizabeth Hand’s darkly sensual debut novel took the science fiction and general reading public by storm and now, seven years later, it is available again in a handsome trade paperback edition. Heralded as a considerable stylistic and imaginative accomplishment, as noteworthy in its way as Margaret Atwood’s The Handmaid’s Tale, by “People” magazine, Winterlong explores the disturbing remains of humanity irrevocably altered by genetic engineering run amok.

Amid the ruins of a once great city, a girl and her beautiful long-lost twin brother are drawn to the seductive voice of a green-eyed boy whose name is Death. Together they must journey through a poisoned garden filled with children who kill and beasts that speak–all the while resisting the evil that compels them to join in a nightmare ritual of blood that will unleash the power of the ancients and signal the end of humanity.

[Goodreads]

Book details

Genre: Fantasy

Series: Winterlong, #1

Publisher: HarperCollins

ISBN: 9780061057304

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Review

I picked up Winterlong in a second-hand bookstore a couple of months ago, covered in dust and almost falling to pieces from being read and reread by its previous owner. I’ve always held the opinion that the best fantasy books are the ones with yellowing, dog-eared pages, tucked away in the corners of used bookstores. Sure, more often than not you stumble upon some weird shit that probably went out of publication for a reason. But every now and again, you’ll find a treasure, practically inhale the story off its pages and think, “God, how did it take me so long to find you?”

Winterlong is one of those books that I wish I’d read five years earlier simply so that I’d have an extra five years of my life to spend rereading it. It has everything I love in a fantasy novel – a dismal fallen empire, poetic writing, a dizzying plot, and characters so bizarrely, seductively realistic that they threaten to fall off the page into this world. Most of all, it’s weird. It’s the type of story that could only have been birthed from some hallucinogenic-induced fever dream – and if it wasn’t, then I’d sell half my soul to have just one conversation with Elizabeth Hand, because she must be a phenomenal woman to sit down to tea with.

Beautifully strange and hauntingly disturbing, Winterlong is perfect for anyone looking for something different and entrancing.

5 stars
(Not really, but you get the picture.)

Rating: 5/5

Recommended to: Fantasy lovers who need more N. K. Jemisin in their lives.

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