If there is one thing that Ernshaw excels at, it is creating an eerie atmosphere. Winterwood opens with Nora entering the Wicker Woods, woods alive with malice in their roots.
Entering under the safety of the full moonlight, Ernshaw creates a delightfully eerie setting. Combined with Nora’s narrative, Ernshaw lures the reader into the entrancing story.
Winterwood is a compelling read with a dark atmosphere and a sinister magical edge. However, the pacing for the first third of the novel is a little slow.
Focusing on developing the sinister Wicker Woods and establishing the character dynamics slows the story down. Ernshaw does an excellent job with her characterization and building the dynamics, nevertheless, the cold eeriness of the story gets a little lost.
That being said, the characterization is excellent.
Take Nora, for instance, ostracized for being a Walker, a witch, Nora keeps to herself, collecting lost things she finds in the woods. As an introvert, perfectly happy in her loneliness, Ernshaw gives Nora a sharply defined and fierce narrative.
Her voice is strong, never trembling as it keeps the reader engaged. It also serves as the perfect balance for the cold and eerie atmosphere.
Oliver also has a strong narrative, but he is softer.
Abandoned at the camp for wayward boys, Oliver is an outcast himself as the new boy, and he keeps to himself as much as Nora. Their dynamic brings out the best of both characters, giving the story some warmth to contrast the cold setting.
Winterwood is a novel full of surprises, bursting with magic and darkness, captivating the reader and luring them into the dark and mystical woods.
Looking for more great reviews?
Check out my review of Deeplight by Frances Hardinge.