This Advanced Reader’s Copy was obtained during Book Expo 2018, in which this will be an honest review with both positive and negative points about the book.
Name: The Sisters of the Winter Wood
Author: Rena Rossner
Release Date: September 25, 2018
Raised in a small village surrounded by vast forests, Liba and Laya have lived a peaceful sheltered life – even if they’ve heard of troubling times for Jews elsewhere. When their parents travel to visit their dying grandfather, the sisters are left behind in their home in the woods.
But before they leave, Liba discovers the secret that their Tati can transform into a bear, and their Mami into a swan. Perhaps, Liba realizes, the old fairy tales are true. She must guard this secret carefully, even from her beloved sister.
Soon a troupe of mysterious men appear in town and Laya falls under their spell-despite their mother’s warning to be wary of strangers. And these are not the only dangers lurking in the woods…
The sisters will need each other if they are to become the women they need to be – and save their people from the dark forces that draw closer.
Book Cover Comments
IRL, my ARC copy gives off a beautiful gold shimmer: its so gorgeous and elegant, and even the final hardback print, in which the gold is brightened up, is just BEAUTIFUL!
The Actual Review
First thing to point out is definitely the formatting of the book; we get two perspective; Liba in prose, and Laya in modern simple poetry. It’s quite a new and innovative way that’s fairly rarely seen in YA books, and its very refreshing in the sense that you’re not always overwhelmed with lines and lines of words. I think it also takes skills to summarize the story in few words with the poetry, then have only half of the book to really take the time to describe and expand the world.
The book doesn’t start with too much build up, and immediately gets into a highlight plot point (a.k.a. Liba and Laya having animal forms) which is great because there’s no slow start to it. A few chapters in and we’re slapped in the face with Liba and Laya left alone in the height process of finding themselves, realizing that their animal forms are surfacing, and of course, adolescence.
Liba was more traditional and down to Earth, while Laya was more open and free; both have their goods and bads, and I won’t elaborate much on their personality types cus you pretty much get it. Liba is more calm and grounded, holds second thoughts despite her slight stubbornness, and Laya’s will to seek the new but sometimes a bit too curious.
Then, both characters will find their love interests and you’ll see the contrast in the two- not only through relationship but also through the plot context. I love how everything Liba and Laya do are similar, so that a contrast could be drawn out to the point where they truly go on separate roads as the story goes on.
As for the lore and the magical aspect, it plays a big role in the later part of the book, and I think Liba’s biggest struggle was to accept who she was within- in her eyes a bear was a beast- and learn that she too, has things that only she has that makes her special. Laya always yearned to be swan to bear wings and fly -she was born pretty and blablablabl i mean she’s a swan so- but through freedom, she pays the price for things, and through that, found the one most important thing that you can probably guess but I won’t say anything for now.
The way the two sisters care for each other is a nice touch: it sometimes can get too toxic and love will always need space, and seeing that both of them found their answers of what they seek in their sisterhood was very nice to see.
The author incorporated historical news and events into the book, as well as Jewish mythology that she heard while she grew up- and I think this idea is pretty cool, although I am completely unfamiliar with this field. A lot of Jewish culture aspects come into this, and while I simply don’t understand the hardships of that, praise for Jewish diversity nonetheless and if you know anything about it, do tell me and I’d love to learn.
A fun and innovative way of storytelling with both poetry and prose, the Sisters of the Winter Wood tell the tale of Liba and Laya, as they both seek their answers within their alternate forms, learn what love is, all while trying to look out for each others.
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