Author: Jenna Burtenshaw
Release date: May 13th 2010 UK
Target audience: 12+
Summary from Goodreads:
Ten years ago Kate Winters' parents were taken by the High Council's wardens to help with the country's war effort. Now the wardens are back...and prisoners, including Kate's uncle Artemis, are taken south on the terrifying Night Train. Kate and her friend Edgar are hunted by a far more dangerous enemy. Silas Dane -- the High Council's most feared man -- recognises Kate as one of the Skilled; a rare group of people able to see through the veil between the living and the dead. His spirit was damaged by the High Council's experiments into the veil, and he's convinced that Kate can undo the damage and allow him to find peace. The knowledge Kate needs lies within Wintercraft -- a book thought to be hidden deep beneath the graveyard city of Fume. But the Night of Souls, when the veil between life and death is at its thinnest, is just days away and the High Council have their own sinister plans for Kate and Wintercraft. To help Artemis, Edgar and herself, Kate must honour her pact with a murderer and come face to face with the true nature of death.
Wintercraft is an atmospheric fantasy. The Wardens harvest the towns perodically to take the people as slaves to fight in an ongoing war with the continent. Kate Winters lives with her uncle Artemis. Years ago her parents were taken by force to fulfil the will of the wardens. The Wardens return to Kate's home town led by the dark and sinister Silas Dane. He is a man who is feared by all who look upon him. Silas is searching for more than just potential soldiers. He is looking for a girl who is gifted with the Skill. The Skilled are a dying race who are believed to see into the veil of the afterlife. They are persecuted for the threat they pose to the order and authority of the High Council.
Wintercraft is the sort of novel that builds slowly. Kate is oblivious to the truth behind her parents' disappearance and her own special identity. She is the reluctant hero who is about to embark on her journey of self-discovery. I felt it very difficult to get to know Kate. I had no sense of what she liked or disliked, what fueled her passion and what would strike fear into her heart. I think this could be because Kate does not really know herself or the truth about the world around her; however, it did make me feel rather removed from the beginning of the story.
Edgar was definitely my favourite character. I liked him from the word "go". I'm not sure I can explain why except as to say I could see to the heart of him from the very beginning and he was my champion throughout the story.
Silas was an enigma and perhaps the most interesting character in the book. The twists that created the centre of his character were fascinating and gave the book an edge.
Da'ru was in my opinion the flattest character. I think villian's must be the most difficult to construct. I do not believe that people are born evil and so I just do not except characters being portrayed in this way. Unfortunately I don't have any insight into how one avoids this. I can only say that it doesn't read well with me.
The most striking thing about this novel is the description of the world in which Kate lives. In particular I think I need to highlight the Night Train as a truly magnificent idea. The mechanical monstrosity of it all and the City of the Bone Men were really engaging and created a very industrial feel to the latter half of the book. In addition to this, the ending was brilliant. It was very well-executed and highly satisfying.
Overall, Wintercraft succeeds in creating a dark, industrial world at war with itself. There are definite shining moments in both description and plot twists. The characterisation could have more depth. I think this book will appeal to fans of high fantasy who are looking to widen their landscapes. I certainly hope their is more to come and that we get the chance to look deeper into Burtenshaw's characters.
Thank you to Headline for sending me the copy to review.