A Winter’s Promise by Christelle Dabos

A Winter’s Promise by Christelle Dabos, translated by Hildegarde Serle, follows Ophelia as she is given away to be married to Thorn. Thorn is from a different clan in a different part of the world. Ophelia must learn how to navigate a new place, which may as well be a completely different world. Ophelia has the power to see the history of an object by touch, she also has the rare ability to pass through mirrors. Thorn is cold, stand-offish and completely uninterested in Ophelia. The reasoning for their match is unknown to Ophelia and she struggles to come to terms that she is going to be married off. She can’t say no without risking a war between the two clans. Ophelia is forced to stay in hiding instead of entering Court life with Thorn, not only that, she fears that their secrecy bodes poorly for her future.

This novel has a lot of intrigue. The magic in A Winter’s Promise appears to be somewhat clan based. Ophelia’s clan can manipulate what they call Anima. Ophelia can ‘read’ objects and see the history of the object, she can also travel through mirrors. Talon’s Aunts however have the ability to harm people without touching them. It’s not fully explained how the magic came to be so divided but having it split this way is an interesting idea. I would guess that it has something to do with the mysterious Rupture that split the world into floating islands, but I’m not entirely sure.

There’s some strange translation going on here. There are random French phrases and words that are left in the novel. I understand the ones that are names, it makes sense to leave those alone but in conversations and descriptions it can get confusing. I wish they were directly translated so that I wouldn’t have to look up the phrases in the middle of reading. Along this vein there’s a lot of large vocabulary that I think makes this on the very high end of Young Adult books, but I would lean towards it being adult. Funnily enough a lot of those words are French in origin.

I really enjoyed this novel, even though it has some fairly prominent flaws. For one Thorn is a jerk. He doesn’t tell Ophelia about anything he does including his reasoning for marrying her specifically. He lets his Aunts abuse her, mentally and physically and does nothing about it. Even when he finds out about it he is very nonchalant about it. He claims to care about her but he doesn’t do anything to prove it. However, I find myself still liking him because he’s not perfect. The story doesn’t make him the most beautiful person in the world like many other novels do with their male protagonists. He is also socially withdrawn and doesn’t seem to know what he’s done to make Ophelia upset. I appreciate that Dabos doesn’t make him the picture of perfection and thank you for not making her be head over heels for someone who is terrible to her.

I have high hopes for the second book in this series and I can’t wait to read it! I would suggest this novel to people who like fantasy and don’t mind having to get used to the style of a book that is translated, as well as some more complicated vocabulary. This novel has a lot going for it from the characters to the setting and the plot.

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