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May book review — A Winter's Promise

By Matthew Hope
May 7, 2024

“A Winter’s Promise” by Christelle Dabos and translated by Hildegarde Serle is available at McNary’s library, along with the other three books in the Mirror Visitor Quartet. “A Winter’s Promise” is a sci-fi/fantasy story set in a shattered world — literally. “A Winter’s Promise” is about love and independence, but there’s also an intriguing mystery woven throughout.

The book is set in the future, after a world-breaking event called the Rupture. The Rupture demolished most of the planet, leaving 21 major “arks” hanging above a storm-swathed core—all that’s left of Earth. The inhabitants of each ark have several different powers, based on the family spirit that lives on their ark. Ophelia, the main character, is an Animist. That means she can make objects come to life briefly. With enough time, Animists can animate objects permanently — or at least until the Animist dies. 

Ophelia is a small woman, with color-changing glasses (based on her mood) and a three-colored scarf that she’s animated permanently. Ophelia has turned down two marriage proposals, but the third one she must accept. But when her fiancé shows up, tall, silent, and mysterious, Ophelia has second thoughts about going to The Pole — another ark. On the airship ride to The Pole, she learns that her fiancé’s name is Thorn. 

Once Ophelia arrives at The Pole, she is spirited away to her mother-in-law’s mansion, and kept almost as a prisoner. Eventually, Ophelia manages to escape, using one of her Animist powers to travel through a mirror. She gets caught, escorted back, and is severely punished for her escapade. 

Then Ophelia must disguise herself as a valet, using a magic suit to change her appearance into that of a man. Ophelia uncovers an intriguing mystery — somebody is killing people.

I would give “A Winter’s Promise” a 4.7/5. It is very well translated, and probably well written too, but I can’t read French. The plot is well-paced while slowing down and speeding up at the appropriate parts, and the character development is rich and flavorful. Along with that, the worldbuilding is deep and shows that Dabos clearly has mastery of her world. Or rather, the fragments of her world. The other three books in the quartet don’t disappoint either, continuing the story without a seam. If you’re a fan of fantasy, sci-fi, and mystery, I would definitely recommend this book to you. In fact, I recommend this book (and the rest of the quartet) to everyone.