A Winter’s Promise
By: Christelle Dabos
Published (In English): September 25, 2018
From the Cover
Lose yourself in the fantastic world of the arks and in the company of unforgettable characters in this French runaway hit, Christelle Dabos’ The Mirror Visitor quartet.
Plain-spoken, headstrong Ophelia cares little about appearances. Her ability to read the past of objects is unmatched in all of Anima and, what’s more, she possesses the ability to travel through mirrors, a skill passed down to her from previous generations. Her idyllic life is disrupted, however, when she is promised in marriage to Thorn, a taciturn and influential member of a distant clan. Ophelia must leave all she knows behind and follow her fiancé to Citaceleste, the capital of a cold, icy ark known as the Pole, where danger lurks around every corner and nobody can be trusted. There, in the presence of her inscrutable future husband, Ophelia slowly realizes that she is a pawn in a political game that will have far-reaching ramifications not only for her but for her entire world.
The World of the Arks
Long ago, following a cataclysm called the Rupture, the world was shattered into many floating celestial islands, now known as arks. Over each, the spirit of an omnipotent and immortal ancestor abides. The inhabitants of these arks each possess a unique power. Ophelia, with her ability to read the pasts of objects, must navigate this fantastic, disjointed, perilous world using her trademark tenacity and quiet strength.
I usually don’t read a lot of Young Adult books because sometimes I find them to be difficult to relate to. Therefore, I am pretty picky when I’m looking for YA books to read. The things that drew me to this book: it was originally published in French, it is the first book in a “quartet,” the setting is a unique dystopia, it has a female lead, and the cover looked cool. I had some high expectations going in to reading this book, because the synopsis really drew me in, and I feel like I was let down a little bit.
Much of the book seemed like Dabos was laying the foundation instead of building the plot and developing characters. When this lasts for nearly 500 pages, you can see how one might feel a little disenchanted. However, I will say that I read this book in roughly three days (which is fast for me for a book of this length). A Winter’s Promise reads fast, which might be because I was so expectant for the plot to begin.
I felt disappointed by the development (or lack thereof) of the main character Ophelia. What I assumed would be a story with a strong female lead, ended up being one with Ophelia left beaten, abused (physically and emotionally), manipulated, and coerced. I hypothesize that Dabos likely felt like she wanted to make Ophelia start in a “depraved” state, which would only add to a future total role reversal. If this is the case, I don’t think the violence is necessary, especially in a YA novel. There were glimpses of Ophelia’s courage and autonomy coming out towards the end of the book, which made me optimistic for the next book in the series.
The last 50-100 pages provided the first glimpses of conflict and character development. Let’s just say, when I finished the final page I was so angry that I was left at a cliffhanger, especially since the next book in the series won’t be released in English until April 2019. Here’s my advice: save this book for your reading list for April 2019. Buy both the first and second book (when it becomes available), and read them as if it was one book. I feel the series shows promise, but I felt let down by the first book. If I had the second book at my disposal, I might have more to say about the prospects of this story. Until then, I will remain optimistic and patient.
Book Covers We all know the saying, “Don’t judge a book by its cover.” But let’s be real here, a beautiful cover can go a long way. That’s how I felt about A Winter’s Promise. The book cover completely drew me in, and helped me visualize the strange and unique world Dabos crafted. Here are the covers of the currently published books in the quartet: