Published by HarperTeen
Published on 9 April 2019
Genres: Fantasy, Historical
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Katya’s power to freeze anything she touches has made her an outcast in her isolated village. And when she loses control of her ability, accidentally killing several villagers, she is banished to the palace of the terrifying Prince Sasha in Kiev.
At the castle, though, she is surprised to find that Sasha is just like her—with his own strange talent, the ability to summon fire. Instead of punishment, Sasha offers Katya friendship, and the chance to embrace her power rather than fear it.
But outside the walls of Kiev, Sasha’s enemies have organized their own army of people who can control the very earth. Bent on taking over the entire world, they won’t stop until they’ve destroyed everything.
Katya and Sasha are desperate to stop the encroaching army, and together their powers are a fearsome weapon. But as their enemies draw nearer, leaving destruction in their wake, will fire and frost be enough to save the world? Or will they lose everything they hold dear?
I received a copy of this book from Edelweiss in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.
Through the White Wood appealed to me because I love elemental-based magic, especially when it’s ice/water vs fire:
I also learned through reading the book that it’s based in an area of Russia centuries ago, except this version of Russia has real magic. I really liked that it was based here, and it was really cool to see this diversity in a Medieval-era fantasy. I loved the concept of Katya’s cold fire – a fire that burns by instantly freezing, and a power she has little control over to begin with. I really liked Katya’s journey, from frightened peasant to royal confidante. A lot of the Russian-inspired and elemental fantasy books I read start with a common magical girl leaving her village life and travelling to meet a royal, and even though it’s waaay overused, it’s still a trope I kind of love. Fight me.
However, there were loads of inconsistencies with it being based in Russia that bothered me. I didn’t like, for example, when a Russian word was used in the place of an English word (unless there was literally no translation). The book is being told in English, so the language used should be English, even though the characters are Russian and are speaking whatever version of Russian/Slavic existed back then. The use of Russian/Slavic in speech, and especially in italicised speech, was used only to Other several characters, to make them seem foreign or exotic (one of them was a no-name servant girl? That made no sense), when the character was just as equally Russian/Slavic as the main characters. They are literally speaking Russian/Slavic to each other, so how can you put the Russian/Slavic word in the book? It makes no sense. Just like Lumiere having a French accent in Beauty and the Beast. They’re all French! They should all have French accents, except that they’re all speaking French to each other (English to this audience) so they should all have the same accent?! I mean yeah, so that bothered me a little. I just wanted some consistency. If the character is saying Yes in Russian, the listener should hear Yes, not Da.
I also kind of lost interest about three quarters of the way through the book, not really for any reason except that I was bored. It took some effort to pick the book up and finish it. I felt like some kind of conclusion had been found at that point and I could easily have ended it there. It should have been exciting. There was international travel and a bit of romance and some espionage… but at this point, the characters from this book met the characters from Leake’s other Medieval-esque standalone, so I think she was relying on fans to be excited at this crossover and ride on that. However, I have not read Beyond a Darkened Shore, so I didn’t really give a shit about the characters (except that Mr Viking seemed really hot… I’m kind of into barbarians… hmm maybe I will read it). So our heroine kind of took a bit of a backseat at this point, which is where I kind of lost interest a bit.
Also, I wouldn’t say it’s romantic, but there is a love interest. I mean, I wouldn’t call this a romantic fantasy. It’s fantasy with a romance element. I wasn’t feeling it personally. It was obvious from the start that the prince fell in love quite early: he was exceptionally kind to Katya at all times and quickly drew her into his trusted, inner circle. Katya was more suspicious and took a bit of convincing that the prince wasn’t just faking it. I don’t feel like it was instalove, at least not from Katya’s point of view: even at the end of the book, she’s got more important things to do than hang around with the prince in his palace and make moon eyes.
This was a really good addition to the elemental fantasy genre, and I’m stoked that there was loads of Slavic worldbuilding. It built a convincing case for this book being non-English based and I loved seeing the world through Katya’s eyes. If you’re looking for something exceptional, maybe this isn’t it, but if you enjoy non-English based Medieval elemental fantasies then this might be a good choice to spend some time with.
This seems really appropriate: