This book is about Halli, a midwinter’s child who grows up on the epic tales of his ancestors. He is sick of the peaceful political haggling of his village, and longs to be a hero. He runs into Aud, a daughter of another House, who is even more trouble than he is. When a man is killed, Halli seeks vengeance – but heroism isn’t what it’s cracked up to be. When people start telling stories about him, he realises stories have a life of their own. (This paragraph focuses on the theme, which I find fascinating – but probably doesn’t do justice to the book’s many other qualities.)
This book has great characters, great scary action, and it’s very very funny. But the most extraordinary thing is Stroud’s voice. It is clear on every single page that no-one else could have written this book. The unique flavour is fantastic, and I want more.
Like “Larklight” by Philip Reeve, this is a book where I could literally open at any page and give you a brilliant quote. But Katla is one of my favourite characters ever, so I had to include her:
When he was older, Halli’s nurse, Katla, drew his attentions to the date of his arrival in the world. She clucked and whistled through her nose at the sinister implications. “It is a dangerous day, midwinter,” she said as she tucked him tightly into his cot. “Brats born then have an affinity with dark and secret things, with witchcraft and the promptings of the moon. You must be careful not to listen to this side of your nature, else it will lead without fail to your death and the destruction of your loved ones. Aside from that, dear Halli, there is nothing to worry about. Sleep well.”