Friday, June 29, 2012

Book Review: Winter's Light, by M.J. Hearle (12th review for the 2012 TBR Pile Reading Challenge)



Here's my twelfth review for this
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Title: Winter's Light (Winter Saga #2)
Author: M.J. Hearle
Format: Paperback, 432 pages
Publisher: Pan Macmillan Australia
Published: May 1, 2012
Genre: Young Adult, Gothic Fiction, Urban Fantasy


Goodreads Synopsis

Blake is gone.

He sacrificed himself to save Winter, leaving her alone, unprotected... hunted.

An ancient enemy is rising, but Winter is no longer the innocent girl who was fated to die at Pilgrim's Lament. She will not wait to be saved. She will do what she
must to survive, even accept an unsavoury alliance with those who destroyed her love.

In the gathering darkness, the enemy of an enemy is not always a friend, and Winter must find the strength to stand alone and fight for the one she loves. For she is the key to unlocking the secrets beyond the veil of shadows.

And she is Blake's only hope.



M.J. Hearle's highly imaginative world-building is once again in evidence in this second installment of his Winter Saga series.  I was once again eager to acquire the book, since I loved the first one so much.  After all, the story of Blake and Winter is a bittersweet one, full of strange, otherworldly events.  Their romance is full of desperate longing, their love the sort of beautiful, tormented thing that can captivate a paranormal romance reader such as myself.

Although very compelling, this novel did not quite pull me along at first, as Winter's Shadow did.  Blake is not present, so the plot centers entirely around Winter.  I do like her as a character, but couldn't help but be disappointed that the handsome Demori she fell in love with was nowhere in evidence.  Thus, there was no romance.  The first novel is a combination of romance and supernatural fantasy, with plenty of action.  This one focuses strictly on the the fantasy and the action. 

One aspect of this installment I did enjoy was the well-developed background on the Demori, especially Blake's origins.  The flashback episodes, which present Lamara, a new character, are well-integrated with the main story, just as the ones in Winter's Shadow were.  The reader gets some very important information about Blake's people here.  The world he's from is also further detailed. 

Another enjoyable aspect of this novel is the strong female characters, especially Lamara and Winter.  The latter is growing, beginning to use her power to suit her own purposes, which is certainly a very positive thing.  Jasmine, although remaining her funny, irrepressible self, is not quite the shallow, boy-chasing character she was in the first book.  She has developed some depth.  Indeed, she has become a strong ally to Winter.

Besides Lamara, several new characters are introduced in this novel.  There's Dominic, whose real name is Yuri, and whom I totally dislike.  His use of deception to achieve his ends is hardly commendable, especially when that deception involves breaking someone's heart.  Elena is another new character.  Although I initially disliked her because of her apparent emotional coldness, I started to feel more sympathetic toward her once I found out more about her traumatic past.  Interestingly, Hearle might have intentionally placed her in the narrative for just that purpose -- to show the reader that one can't judge a person (or character) too quickly. 

As the story opens after the initial prologue that introduces Lamara, Winter has graduated from high school, and is celebrating at a beach party, along with her friends.  Inexplicably, the lodestone given to her by Blake, which she always wears around her neck, starts pulsing strongly, causing her pain.  As she stumbles and falls at the edge of the water, she has no choice but to tear off her necklace.  The lodestone is shining brightly.  The author's description is poetically vivid: "A star hung from her hand.  A burning, emerald star that reached out towards her with fingers of fire, drawing her in." 

It is then that she has a strange vision of a circular chamber.  She's standing in the center, surrounded by candles.  Then she sees Blake...and he doesn't recognize her...

This incident certainly drew me in, and I began to read feverishly, hoping to see Winter and Blake reunited at any moment.  However, that was not to happen.  Instead, throughout the rest of the story, Hearle continued to delve into Blake's background, as well as that of the Banes, the family which had hunted Blake in the first novel.  They are of French origin, and are also known as the Bonnaires. 

Sam, the last surviving member of the Banes, ironically becomes Winter's ally in this novel when he saves her from certain death at the hands of two evil Demori who had been attracted to her because she had previously tried to contact Blake through the lodestone.  Her life is now in danger; Benedict, one of these evil Demori, nearly killed her before Sam stepped in.  Sam then introduces her to Yuri and Elena, who are also members of the Bonnaires.  Winter agrees to travel with them to France in order to help them in their ongoing war against the Demori.   

I know I really shouldn't judge this book by the first one, for the writing is just as masterful as it was in that novel.  However, I do miss Blake.  A lot, in fact.  I miss his poignant interactions with Winter.  I miss having the two of them face danger together.  I miss the sheer beauty of their love...  I'm thinking of going back and re-reading Winter's Shadow, as a matter of fact.  In spite of its unexpected, tragic ending, I relished all those moments between Blake and Winter.  Well, it's no secret that I absolutely adore Blake! 

The principal thing that kept me reading Winter's Light, in addition to its excellent prose, characterization, and wonderfully imaginative plot,  was the hope that Blake would somehow return, although it seems an impossibility, given the ending of the first novel.  Of course, anything is possible in fantasy novels.   Hearle has certainly kept that hope alive throughout this story; it motivates all of Winter's actions all the way to the end.  

I did not find myself reading non-stop until the very end.  Instead, I read this novel in spurts.  Still, I did finish it, and my hope that Blake will indeed return is still intact.  I think Hearle deserves kudos for that, as well as for everything else I've mentioned.  

Winter's Light is a definite must read for all paranormal/urban fantasy fans.  If, like me, those who have read the first installment are initially put off by Blake's absence, I can tell them that they will be rewarded by the above-mentioned elements of this story, and the cliffhanger ending certainly does hold out hope for Blake's return.  They will then anxiously await the next novel in the series, which will be out next year!


MY RATING:


Where To Buy:   fishpond

(Please note: This is an Australian-based online bookseller, and is much like Amazon.  It is the only site where readers living outside Australia can find the book at a reasonable price, with free shipping worldwide!!  Other online sellers do sell it, but with astronomical shipping charges for non-Australian residents.)



  

M.J. Hearle




6 comments:

  1. Wonderful review. I am glad that it ended up going along nicely. I love strong female characters. I wasn't too familiar with the series, so have not read the first. Thank you for the heads up.

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  2. I'm so glad you enjoyed the review, Steph! This is indeed a great series -- very well-written, absolutely fascinating, and with a wonderful romantic hero, whom I have hopes of encountering again, in the rhird book being released in 2013! Sigh...

    Thanks for another great comment!! : )

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  3. I had been so looking forward to this review from you! And I have to say, it didn't disappoint! It's great!

    I'm now not so sure about the book, though. I'm somewhat of a compulsive romance reader, and the prospect of the sad end of book one not being fixed, and the hope being drawn out, and out... I think I'll wait for the next book, to see if Blake does indeed come back, before I go and order this one.

    Thanks so much for sharing!

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  4. Hey, Ron!

    I see you're definitely in a differenr time zone, because your review came in at 5:40 AM, Miami time! I got up about 45 minutes ago, and it's now 1:15 PM. Lol. I LOVE to get up late on the weekends. That's because I'm up until about 2:00 or 3:00 AM, reading on Friday nights! Lol.

    Anyway, thank you so, so much for your interesting comment! I do recommend this book in spite of the lack of romance, though, because it's very well-written, and the world-building is incredible!! However, as I stated in the review, it wasn't page turner for me. I almost stopped reading it. I know the hope of Blake coming back is really drawn out, but it's still worth reading, for the above reasons. Of course, I'll be on the lookout for book 3 next year!!

    Thanks again for the great comment!! : )

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  5. Hi Maria,
    Thank you for your extremely well written review. Winter's Light was a difficult book to write because of Blake's absence. Still, I feel his spirit hovers over the proceedings. And I tried to compensate for him missing by fleshing out the mythology and expanding the scope of the series. I can promise you this, Book 3 will be epic!

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  6. Hi, M.J.!!

    I'm so honored by your compliment!! Thank you!!!!

    Yes, I can see how this book must have been difficult for you to write, since one of the main characters was missing throughout. However, as I stated in the review, I felt you did a terrific job with the mythology, and giving us readers more background on Blake. Well, that's one of the reasons I gave the novel FIVE stars!! The other reason was your writing style, which is just beautiful!!

    By the way, I must tell you that it's nice to see a guy writing romance. You are now in great company, since Nicholas Sparks also writes in this genre (although he pens contemporary romances, instead of paranormal ones).

    I can't wait for the third book!! I want Blake to come back and be with Winter FOREVER!!!! Of course, I'll be ordering from good ol' Fishpond once more!!

    Thanks again for your great comment!! : )

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