Winterwood by Jacey Bedford is a fantastic mix of privateering, a cross-dressing female captain, intriguing magic, witch hunts, a bit of sexy romance and a discussion of racism in 1800. I was nervous picking up this start of a new series, since it promises all of my favorite things, but it completely delivers and I was glued to the last page. I in fact immediately starting tweeting at Bedford asking about book two because I just can’t live with Winterwood being done. Don’t miss this new fantasy!! Be sure to check out the bottom of this post for a giveaway :D.
Note: I received an advanced copy of Winterwood from the publisher. Some things may have changed in the final version.
Winterwood by Jacey Bedford (Rowankind #1)
Published by DAW on Feb. 2nd, 2016
Genres: Adult, Historical Fantasy
Page Length: 432 pages
How I got my copy: Publisher
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Set in 1800 in Britain, Mad King George is on the throne with Napoleon Bonaparte knocking on the door. Unregistered magic users are pursued to the death, while in every genteel home resides uncomplaining rowankind bondservants who have become so commonplace that no one can recall where they came from.
Meanwhile, Rossalinde Tremayne is satisfied with her life as a cross-dressing privateer captain on the high seas. But a bitter deathbed visit to her estranged mother changes her life completely when she inherits a magical winterwood box. Now, not only is she confronted with a newly-discovered brother, and an annoyingly handsome wolf shapeshifter, Rossalinde has to decide whether or not to open the box to free rowankind and right an ancient wrong—even if it brings the downfall of Britain.
- I would have tried Winterwood if it offered nothing more than a cross-dressing female privateer captain, let’s be honest. When done well, and Winterwood definitely does it well, this makes for a delightful main character. I loved that her crew new she was female, but didn’t care, and just appreciated that she was masquerading as a male captain that had been approved for a privateer’s marque. It’s important to have your government approve of your piracy ;-).
- The magic of this world is another big draw. At first you’ll think it’s just the typical element-based magic, but really there are two kinds of magic in the world, one that is allowed by the crown if you register, and one that is not. I love alternative histories where magic is out in the open, so the whole dynamic of a government branch dedicated to registering and monitoring magic users was fascinating.
- As you can tell from the series name, the Rowankind are an important and unique element of this story. Imagine England where there are slaves from Africa, but also strangely obedient people with skin that looks like bark. The abolitionists are pushing for the freedom of African slaves, but not the Rowankind. There is an awesome mystery behind the Rowankind, but I also appreciated the chance to think about issues of racism and slavery in a fantasy context. It let’s me better think through reactions without the weight of our history coloring my gut reactions.
- There is a romance in this story, and it is rather sexy at times, but it is pleasantly in the background and a solid subplot. I never found myself frustrated with the focus of the story, and therefore could cheer for Ross’ happiness and then move on to adventure.
- Winterwood is really all about the bond between siblings. Ross’ family ties push the plot along at every turn and the real question is how loyal should a brother and sister be to each other and how far will twins go to protect each other. Makes me wish for a sibling, sigh.
- I’m still rather addicted to fantasies about witch hunts, and while this book isn’t obviously about witch hunts, there is a definite flavoring. Magic users are persecuted by the government if they can’t be controlled and Ross gets a very personal view of what that is like. This sort of storyline always captures my imagination.
- Ross has a bit of a ghost problem, and at times I found those dynamics awkward for reasons that will become clear to any reader. I’m not sure if the story would have been better without the ghost, but it did make me squirm a bit.
Winterwood is a must-read for adult fantasy fans. If you weren’t already sold on the combination of swashbuckling and magic, believe me that this story has so much to offer and I have ridiculously high hopes for the rest of the series. This world and these characters don’t have far to go to become my absolute favorites.
Given my absolute love of Winterwood, I’m really excited to get to offer a sponsored giveaway from Penguin for one copy! Due to Penguin’s policies, this will need to be for US addresses only, the winner will have 48 hours to respond to my email, and I’ll be checking entries so please double check the information you enter.
Have you read this one? What did you think? Are you excited for it if you haven’t gotten to it yet?
Winterwood by Jacey Bedford
© 2016, Anya. All rights reserved.