Review of Winterkeep

by Kristin Cashore
High School    Dial    528 pp.    g
1/21    978-0-8037-4150-8    $19.99
e-book ed.  978-0-6981-5890-0    $10.99

Cashore returns to the world of Graceling (rev. 11/08), Fire (rev 9/09), and Bitterblue (rev. 5/12) for the first time in some years and introduces Winterkeep, a nation distinctive for its higher education, democratic government, and telepathic foxes and seal-like “silbercows.” When two of Queen Bitterblue’s envoys vanish there, Bitterblue, her spy Hava, and her friend Giddon make the sea voyage to Winterkeep — ostensibly on a diplomatic visit, but really to investigate the envoys’ disappearance. A catastrophic accident drastically changes their mission. But this is also the story of Lovisa Cavenda, teenage daughter of two wealthy politicians from Winterkeep’s opposing parties. Under the shadow of her domineering mother, Lovisa has often had to bury her anger, intelligence, and deep love for her siblings; but, always an investigator, she now uncovers a secret that sets her free and utterly alters her sense of purpose. Delicately, inexorably plotted, this is a captivating novel of action and ideas (a two-party democracy motivated by wealth; the diverse interdependence of humans and other creatures; the ethical challenge of lucrative but environmentally filthy resources; the compromises of statesmanship), an accomplishment all the more admirable in that Cashore achieves it largely through characterization. The warmth of relationships (even testy relationships) suffuses the story, and Cashore depicts Lovisa’s hurt and emergent healing with an abundant compassion that reaches out to readers and to the complex, compromised world in which they find themselves.

From the March/April 2021 issue of The Horn Book Magazine.

Deirdre Baker
Deirdre Baker
Deirdre F. Baker, a reviewer for The Horn Book Magazine and the Toronto Star, teaches children’s literature at the University of Toronto. The author of Becca at Sea (Groundwood), she is currently at work on a sequel—written in the past tense.

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