A Winter's Promise by Christelle Dabos
The Text Publishing Company, 2018. ISBN 9781925603828
(Age: 12+) Recommended. Themes: Fantasy. A mix of misfit and misunderstood genius, Ophelia possesses two special gifts: the ability to read the pasts of objects and to travel through mirrors. Her peaceful existence on the ark of Anima is interrupted when she is promised in marriage to Thorn, a member of a powerful clan from a distant ark, the cold and icy Pole. Ophelia must follow her fiance to the floating city of Citaceleste, where nobody can be trusted. In the company of her inscrutable future husband, Ophelia realises she is a pawn in a plot that will have consequences not only for her but for her entire world.
Dabos weaves a story of politics and manipulation in which the stakes are heightened by the fantastical setting and the characters' magical abilities; however, the story's messages still ring true for our society. The clever use of mirrors as a metaphor highlighted the need to search for truth in a society filled with subterfuge, manipulation, incredibly complex relationships, and social dynamics. The rich imagery was delightfully whimsical and was detailed enough to make the scene feel intimately real.
The main character Ophelia stands out in her mannerisms and attitudes; an unlikely protagonist at times, but as a mirror walker with a thirst for truth, she suits the story and grows along with it. The growth and development of her and many other characters in response to the trying times endured is thought provoking, providing a glimpse into the inner workings of our own society and how we as humans respond to pressures.
The pacing of the novel was overall steady, but sometimes slowed and became sluggish due to the long building of a revelation, or raced by as the characters whirled from place to place and emotion to emotion.
It was a great read with a wonderfully twisty plot as Ophelia unravels the secrets hidden from her. While the revelations were never expected, they always reinforced the poisonous nature of deceit and the need for candour.
This novel was a compelling analysis of society and gives rise to many questions about human nature.