Stealing Into Winter brings us the tale of Jeniche of Antar, a young female thief caught up in a world descending into war. Everything starts with a bang, literally, as the cell in which Jeniche is held collapses allowing her to escape only to be accosted by another inmate. Fortune favouring her she makes it to freedom only to find that the city in which she is held is under siege from the Occassan nation. Hiding from the enemy, Jeniche befriends a group of monks and nuns from a distant land, led by Gyan Mi, God King of the Tunduri, and agrees to help them journey back to their temple accompanied by the mysterious Alltud and Jenicheâ€™s friend Trag; probably my favourite character.
What follows is a fantasy adventure travelling through vast swathes of country as the group attempt to get to their goal. Along the way we are introduced to a variety of characters and hints of a civilisation that has long been forgotten (as a genre, Stealing Into Winter fits into future fantasy). All the while the signs of war are spreading around them and an old enemy of Jeniche keeps making unwelcome appearances.
Talboys grabs you from the get go with his action packed opening and Jeniche is a character you engage with immediately. Within the confines of the city Jeniche is constantly on guard, hiding from the armed soldiers patrolling the city as she tries to understand what is happening before befriending Gyanâ€™s party. Sadly, once we get outside the city walls, the action becomes sporadic and, for the most part, end of chapter cliffhangers are hurriedly explained away in the following pages. I would have preferred to see the characters work to escape their plight rather than see the action moved on a few hours where they are safe once again. I came away with the impression of a very long trek with little to grip me and, aside from Jeniche and Trag, rarely cared about what was happening to the characters.
The subtitle of the novel is â€˜being the first adventure from the chronicles of Jeniche of Antarâ€™, and, being billed as such, leaves us with several loose ends come the conclusion. As a reader Stealing Into Winter didnâ€™t work for me, despite its promising start, and I doubt I will be picking up part two but, to give a balanced view, I leave you with the words of the great Michael Moorcock, from the cover blurb, who clearly had a better experience than me. â€œA first class adventure which moves with a pace and panache rarely seen these days. If you like good future fantasy then youâ€™ll love this.â€