While the town of Morvane has become complacent, Kate Winters and her uncle Artemis have been waiting. They think they're ready for the day the wardens will return to harvest unwilling volunteers to fight against the enemies of Albion.
But when the harvest does happen, the wardens aren't merely looking for soldiers. They want the Skilled - those who possess a mystical gift that allows them to see into the veil that separates the world of the living from that of the dead. The High Council's Silas Dane knows that one of the Skilled is hiding in Morvane; a girl directly descended from those with the greatest power of all. He's determined to take her with him back to the city of Fume, where legend has it that the ancient book of Wintercraft is concealed in an underground cavern deep below the surface.
That girl is Kate Winters, and Wintercraft is her destiny.
When it comes to YA fantasy, I like mine dark, spellbinding and mysterious. So it was with no small amount of anticipation that I picked up Jenna Burtenshaw's debut novel Wintercraft this week. A world where all that separates the living and the dead is a 'veil' that some may cross? Now that's the kind of place I want a book to take me.
The story of Kate Winters takes place in a country called Albion - which, the internet tells me, just so happens to be the earliest recorded name for Great Britain. And certainly this Albion has the feel of a medieval Britain in many ways... but with curious additions like steam trains, occult influences and secret underground libraries. From village life to the shady politics of the High Council, there's a extraordinary sense that Jenna Burtenshaw knows this world inside out, making it a fascinating place for any avid reader of fantasy to visit. Vividly drawn and richly imagined, it's a world full of dark secrets and even darker magic.
I'm picky with my YA fantasy heroines, but Wintercraft's unusually gifted Kate instantly got me on side by risking her own skin to save her friend Edgar within the first twenty pages. She's loyal, brave and perceptive, and more than a match for her captor, the mysterious (and somewhat frightening) Silas Dane. She's also a bookseller in a place and time when books are very low down on most people's list of priorities - which means patching old books up to sell on, since there aren't any new ones.Arguably the most interesting and complex character in Wintercraft, Silas keeps the reader guessing until the very last page.
Wintercraft is an intriguing start to what promises to be a highly enjoyable new series. In Kate Winters, Jenna Burtenshaw has given us a strong female teen character who clearly has far to go, and I'll definitely be joining her for the next instalment of her journey. I'd recommend this one to readers looking for a darker YA fantasy packed with atmosphere and adventure.
Out: May 13th 2010, UK
Many thanks to Headline for providing a review copy of this book.