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The Winter Place

Review

The Winter Place

Alexander Yates has spun a fantastical Finnish fairytale through his YA debut novel, THE WINTER PLACE.

Tess and Axel Fortune have not had an easy life. From an early age, they’ve had to deal with the loss of their mother, Saara, and Axel’s oft-debilitating muscular dystrophy. As if that weren’t enough, the sudden appearance of a non-indigenous brown bear and a stranger known as “The Keeper” have them questioning their sanity. However, their curiosity about this peculiar arrival is soon eclipsed by the sudden death of their father, Sam. Tess and Axel’s world is swiftly turned on its axel (pun intended) even further by the appearance of their Finnish grandmother, Jaana, who has come to whisk them away to a new life in Finland.

This book is a stunning piece of literature that will resonate with anyone who has stared loss in the face whilst working to carve their place amongst the living. 

When the bear and The Keeper reappear in Finland, Axel learns that all is not as it seems. For one thing, the brown bear is actually his mother, Saara. She has retraced her steps to her family’s winter home in the whimsical Talvijarvi in her ongoing search for Axel’s father. Complicating matters further is the fact that Saara and the Keeper are at the mercy of the purgatorial woodlands known as “The Path”, which tethers spirits to an alternate dimension of the real world. Though Saara’s home is cemented in Talvijarvi, Sam’s whereabouts are unknown. Axel is determined to join his mother in the search for his father. However, the hiisi, a Finnish demon of sorts responsible for maintaining The Path, is determined to steer Axel back to his life in Talvijarvi. Axel is forced to decide between his mortality and his desperate search for his father, as no mortal souls are allowed to remain on the Path. Will the hiisi ruin Axel’s chances at his unique happily-ever-after?

In the world of the “living”, Tess, her grandparents and her friend Kari are fast at work trying to locate Axel in the bitter Finnish winter. While they continue their search, Tess learns the truth behind her parents’ strained relationship with her maternal grandparents. Against the backdrop of a mysterious Finnish tale detailing a man’s desperate quest to reunite with his forlorn wife, Tess alone must piece together how the living fit amongst the dead in order to save her brother’s life.

Alternating between Tess and Axel’s storylinesTHE WINTER PLACE is a hauntingly beautiful glimpse of what it means to battle tremendous grief. This book is a stunning piece of literature that will resonate with anyone who has stared loss in the face whilst working to carve their place amongst the living. 

Reviewed by Christi Sheehan on October 27, 2015

The Winter Place
by Alexander Yates

  • Publication Date: November 8, 2016
  • Genres: Family, Fantasy, Mythology, Social Issues
  • Paperback: 448 pages
  • Publisher: Atheneum/Caitlyn Dlouhy Books
  • ISBN-10: 148141982X
  • ISBN-13: 9781481419826