Review: The Way Past Winter by Kiran Millwood Hargrave
‘It was a winter they would tell tales about. A winter that arrived so sudden and sharp it stuck birds to branches, and caught the rivers in such a frost their spray froze and scattered down like clouded crystals on stilled water. A winter that came, and never left.’
When Mila’s brother Oskar vanishes, her older sister Sanna is sure he has abandoned his family just like their Papa did years before.
But Mila knows Oskar wouldn’t do that, and she’s pretty sure it has something to do with the mystical man who stayed on their property the night before he disappeared.
A mystical man who didn’t sink into the snow.
A mystical man who knows their names.
Setting off on a journey across a land trapped in an eternal winter, Mila must enlist the help of a mage called Rune if she is to have any hope of finding her brother, let alone saving him.
There isn’t actually much to say about The Way Past Winter. I enjoyed it to start with, but the journey across the frozen lands quickly became stale and repetitive and stopped holding my attention. I found myself grateful for the book to be over, rather than dreading the story coming to an end.
I loved The Girl of Ink and Stars and hoped that The Way Past Winter was going to captivate me just as much, but this novel had less of a spark than Millwood Hargrave’s debut.
However, there were some aspects that were written brilliantly, and they’re the reason that I decided to write a full-length post.
The way Millwood Hargrave writes about grief is highly accurate. Mila’s Mama dies in childbirth and her Papa can’t handle it, so he walks out on the family and never returns. It’s not the best way of dealing with the situation, but that’s the thing about grief: it’s messy and personal and everyone copes in a different way.
I also loved the fact that the focus was entirely on family. Mila tries to leave her family behind when she goes looking for Oskar, but Pipa knows her well enough to know what she’s trying to do, and it isn’t long before Sanna follows her as well.
However, the characters didn’t feel all that well-developed, so I didn’t emotionally engage with any of them. This is particularly true about Rune, the mage who helps Mila on her journey, who we learn hardly anything about. I was so interested in his story, which made the focus on family both a blessing and a curse – if it doesn’t directly relate to Mila or her siblings, it’s hardly developed.
If you haven’t read any of Kiran Millwood Hargrave’s novels yet, I wouldn’t recommend starting with The Way Past Winter, but it is still a enjoyable and rather short story that you’d probably be able to read in one sitting.