- Paperback: 482 pages
- Publisher: Elizabeth Alger (25 October 2018)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 0648172503
- ISBN-13: 978-0648172505
- Product Dimensions: 15.2 x 2.7 x 22.9 cm
- Boxed-product Weight: 739 g
- Average Customer Review: 5 customer reviews
- Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 144,933 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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Winterhued Paperback – 25 Oct 2018
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'Lavishly conceived and vividly described, Winterhued brings to life all that is intriguing and picturesque about medieval life subtly interwoven with magic, romance, and a dash of poetic wistfulness. Alger's debut novel is a triumph!' - CECILIA DART-THORNTON, author of the Bitterbynde Trilogy
'Winterhued by E H Alger is a tale in an epic tradition. Writing in beautiful lyrical prose, E H Alger has succeeded in creating a world of rare beauty. No book I have read recently has given me greater joy than Winterhued.' - ELISE McCUNE, author of Castle of Dreams
‘In this debut novel, a princess’s life changes after a dragon attacks her castle.
The land of Manydown lies between the sea and Iron Crag mountain. In Castle Lawhill, Princess Winterhued is beloved by the people of her kingdom, but she’s a lonely, restless soul. Her father, King Gers, is a fatuous gourmand who leaves the intellectual portions of his rule to his daughter. Winterhued, who loved someone once in her youth, wonders if she’s now too old to find a worthy match. One morning, after she has another dream about malevolent wings beating from above, she bathes with the assistance of Lady Ulidia. When Eudora, a young scullery maid, spills a bucket of water, Ulidia scolds her, but later Winterhued shows the maid kindness by giving her oranges. The girl, overawed in the princess’s chambers, takes the opportunity to secretly snatch a moonstone necklace. This brazen act is quickly overshadowed by a sudden attack by a vast, winged beast, which turns much of Castle Lawhill to flaming rubble. The dragon then takes up residence in the castle’s keep. The king seeks a knight to slay the beast, planning to offer Winterhued’s hand in marriage as a reward. Meanwhile, an errant knight—who already has a connection to the princess—and his squire roam the lands just below Iron Crag, and they’re watched by what may be the last living unicorn. In her debut, Alger evokes dreamy classics, such as Lord Dunsany’s 1924 novel, The King of Elfland’s Daughter, while blessing her characters with a modern wit that lets them stand beside figures created by Neil Gaiman. Fantasy fans will consistently enjoy the lyrical prose, as in the line, “[The wings] washed at the verges of her mind like twilit waves upon a strand, leaving at their ebb a scum of fear.” The dragon, which seems impossible to see clearly due to its ferocity, provides a chaotic backdrop against which secondary players, such as Stench, a young dung-scooper, perform heroic deeds. The unicorn, meanwhile, is used as a subtle metaphor for being lost or being denied one’s true path.
An epic fantasy marked by passionate prose and courageous characters.’ - KIRKUS REVIEWS
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5 customer reviews
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While I did like Winterhued, it was the story of Ancaios that I enjoyed the most. Despised by almost everyone, he remained true to himself and found the bravery to do what the courtiers and knights had found impossible, face the dragon. As his bravery is revealed, he becomes one of the most important characters in the story, even though he does not realise how momentous his actions will come to be. I also enjoyed the sections with the knight as he traversed the land, greeting everyone with courtesy and good cheer, behaviour that is sorely lacking in most of those he meets of noble birth.
It was wonderful to read about such courtly and decent characters, to watch as they dealt with those who look down on them because of their supposedly inferior lineage. There were characters that were designed to be disliked and I cringed at some of their scenes and waited for them to receive their comeuppance. In all, I felt this was a story of hope, of doing the right thing and remaining true to oneself. Set in a medieval world, it is written in an old world style that enhances the fairy tale feel and left me with a smile on my face as I turned the last page. I must admit, I was not ready to leave this world behind and wouldn’t mind reading more about the characters I had come to like so much.
Princess Winterhued lives with her father in Castle Lawhill. Though she is wise and just, loved by her people, her father is self-centred and bitter, clinging to the throne to the detriment of all. King Gers is a despot, unable to accept his waning faculties. Worse, his advisors are trying to turn him against his daughter. He is even considering taking a new wife in hopes of fathering a male heir.
When an unseen creature attacks the castle matters the conflict between Gers and his daughter worsens. Half the castle lies in ruins and many of its people are dead. Strong leadership is needed, but Winterhued’s father can think only of himself, and undermines any of his daughter’s efforts. It soon becomes apparent that the whispers are true. The castle was attacked by a dragon, and the beast is still in the area. Trapped within the broken castle, Winterhued seeks help from a lowly servant-boy. Her plan might be their only chance to escape alive.
Questions arise as the elements of the story are laid down. What is the significance of the moonstone necklace? Who is the unnamed knight who is making his weary way towards Lawhill? What is the hidden grief in Winterhued’s heart? Finally, in the most satisfying way, the whole becomes clear.
The beauty of the writing quickly drew me in and I found myself immersed more and more in the tale. I wasn’t reading to reach a destination, the denouement of the story or the solution to the mystery. I was reading because I cared deeply about Winterhued and Brenn, Ancaios and the unnamed knight. Because the land of Manydown had come alive in my mind. And because every word, every chapter was a joyous pleasure. And that, I think, is true magic.