THE WINTER ROAD by Adrian Selby
Orbit. p/b. £8.99.
Reviewed by Elloise Hopkins.
Soldier, or ex-soldier turned merchant as it turned out, Teyr Amondsen, can add family woman to her list of new attributes, it seems – something that would have seen entirely unlikely before. It is not easy to shake off all of the habits and memories of her old life though. Teyr has a vision. A vision of a road to connect the scant parts of her world and bring some unity to the clans. That is how she sees her legacy, but it will be long and painful in the making.
Injured gravely, but healing, somehow, treated and left with clothes and a bow and arrows by an unseen, unfelt helper, Teyr lives, though she will be forever changed by the experience. The Circle is a brutal thousand miles divided by clans at war, and one seems set to threaten the rest. Will Teyr, with the burdens of her heart and her dream, be able to face down the rising enemy and live to tell another tale?
The Winter Road begins with two timelines, taking turns to drive the narrative as the ‘then’ and ‘now’ of Teyr’s life play out, and pushes the reader on through the ‘present’ and beyond as she struggles to balance her newly cherished home life with her dreams of the future. As you may expect, the story does not quite reach the point of an entirely ‘happy ending’, but without spoilers, when the prose and the present thread come to an end, an exchange of letters continues the tale giving the reader insight beyond the main climax and into Teyr’s life to come.
Selby’s use of language adds depths and realism to Teyr’s world and gives his heroine a distinct and unique voice, not losing that strength in writing that was so rich in his Snakewood. This second book is a stand-alone following new characters, though seemingly set in a different part of the same world. The magic system and the way its people apply it echo and build upon through the use of plants as medicine and givers of strength and power as they did in the debut. This is a fantasy abundant with conflict, heartache and the trials of human nature, with a female protagonist who stands up proudly on the modern bookshelf exhibiting that strength and determination of the fantasy heroine that readers want to see.