The Way Past Winter by Kiran Millwood Hargrave

So, the first book of 2019 is completed. It was a gem to start the year – especially as we are all probably looking for a way past winter as we enter January.

Although we all know we should not judge a book by its cover, how can you not be drawn to this stunning cover? Classical and stylish in white, gold and green, it oozes winter fantasy. There is also the figure of the girl which is another delight of this novel: strong female leads (well, they do not have a choice, as all the boys appear to be mysteriously disappearing).

The story is set in perpetual winter, the only season many have known, with spring and summer almost a myth. Mila and her sisters have already lost their father in a mysterious disappearance that, when their brother, Oskar, also disappears on the same night the family have some strange visitors, they decide something is to be done. It leads them on a magical adventure with Rune, the boy mage.

This is a beautifully written tale that whisks you off on a fantastical adventure. Strong female leads can give inspiration to many young readers – after all, we can all go on adventures in our own way.

Which book have you started your 2019 reads with?

The Island at the End of Everything by Kiran Millwood Hargrave

I do my best to try new authors as much as I can and not necessarily rush to read the same authors in quick succession. However, very much like Patrice Lawrence, I discovered the writing of Kiran Millwood Hargrave earlier this year when I read ‘The Girl of Ink and Stars’, and when I spotted ‘The Island at the End of Everything’, I knew I had to give it a go.

The attraction of this book is that (very much like her previous book) the adventure takes place on exotic shores, and there is a strong female lead who does not let anything hold her back. In fact, Ami uses her experiences to make her the strong and independent young lady that she is, even though, for many of us, her experience could be beyond our imagination. For me, there was a strong Dickensian feel to this story, as the cruel Mr Zamora arrives and changes her life for ever. Along the bumpy road of life that unfolds, it is love that is central to her motivation and determination. As the reader of the novel, you go through a roller coaster of emotions – always rooting for a happy conclusion.

A very clever feature of the story is the use of the butterfly; to describe this in too much detail could spoil the read for others (similar to oversharing the setting), but it is such a clever link throughout the tale. For me, it is mainly a reminder of the importance of the fragility of life and the sheer beauty that the adventure of life can be.

This is a beautifully written story that will keep you gripped from start to finish – you will not be able to stop yourself from getting drawn in.

The Girl of Ink and Stars by Kiran Millwood Hargrave

I am not always one that selects prize-winning titles, but this is a well-deserving winner of the Waterstone’s Children’s Book Prize 2017.

The art work on the cover of this book is absolutely stunning and immediately catches your eye, even before you reach the magical sounding title. This is a story that takes you on a real adventure and, most importantly, there is wonderfully strong and independent female lead character in Isabella. She is a girl who will fight with real courage and fierce loyalty for the people she loves and the beliefs that are important to her.

When Lupe, Isabella’s best friend, goes missing, it is Isabella who uses her great knowledge of the stars and maps to support the search party. As you follow the characters on their adventures, there is a great use of myths and stories to influence the decisions made by those living on the island. It really reflects on how the ideas that can be with a nation of people for as long as they can remember, passed on to each generation, can lead some to have fear and misunderstanding and others to have the courage to fight for what they care for. You see the characters really form as each part of their adventure influences them personally.

You are on the edge of your seat throughout the story, never sure what is going to come next. You feel the danger and excitement as you turn each page; it is impossible to put this novel down. It may be a children’s book, but it is one that adults will enjoy just as much.