Thursday, April 21, 2011

Winter's Shadow, by M.J. Hearle

First published by Pan Macmillan in June 2011

"Blake Duchamp
He's all that Winter Adams can think of. Ever since their fateful meeting at Pilgrim's Lament. Ever since he looked at her with those emerald eyes. Ever since he saved her life."

Sounds familiar, right? The usual paranormal romance set-up? Well, it is. I've read and reviewed so many in the past couple of years, they all kind of blur into the other. But great advance reviews and the Aussie/male author aspect made me pick this one up, and to Hearle's credit, I read it in a couple of days, which is indeed becoming a very rare thing for me to do!

So, Winter's Shadow. Chapter lengths are great - really incite you to read on, end on a high, aren't cluttered with too many things happening at once. I know this might be a weird thing to pick out, but it really enhances the reading experience. Hearle does some great scene setting, with some genuinely spooky moments (like Winter alone in Blake's house) and an undertone of creepiness that pervades the page. I know the word 'atmospheric' gets thrown around a lot, but it applies genuinely to Winter's Shadow.

I also enjoyed the mythological/historical take - there are some great ideas happening with the Skivers and Winter's ability to predict/see a person's life span through their eyes. I read Hearle is planning a sequel, so I hope he expands on this a little more, as it has fascinating potential.

Blake was the more interesting of the two main characters, and I actually really would have loved to read the book entirely from his perspective, or otherwise just cut his parts out. As it is, the story would still be fine and coherent without them.

Winter is okay, but I feel she is just a teeny bit like other paranormal romance heroines to really leave a mark. Sometimes I really just want these chicks to be stronger; in themselves and in the role they play in the relationship. I don't want them to surrender all of who they are to their love interest. And I also would have liked for Blake and Winter's relationship to develop further through actual interaction. There is of course a whole dimension added when there is a mythical or outside influence drawing two characters together, but to cement it, to enhance it, their still needs to be some face-to-face get-to-know-you time.

I also think a few show-don't-tell edits would have enhanced the compelling, creepy feel of the book.

But in general, Winter's Shadow is a strong addition to the para-YA fold, and a welcome effort from an Aussie. Hearle can more than hold his own against the Lauren Kate and Claudia Grays of this world (thank GOD!). A fun and fast read, and I hope it does well.


  1. Thanks for the kind review Samantha-Ellen.
    I understand your fatigue with YA heroines being defined by the men they love, as this was a concern of mine when I first started writing Winter. I had to start her in this place though so her character can grow through experience and become stronger in the second and third novels. I'm glad you enjoyed the rest of the book though, and rest-assured the sequel, Winter's Light, will be even better. Thanks again!
    M. J.

  2. I know, and you're right - if there weren't so many para-YA heroines already out there (and often badly done) then I wouldn't be having these problems!
    No, I think you did a great job, and best of luck for when the book is released in June.