Wolf Winter, by Cecilia Ekbäck

21413846People say that there is evil on Blackåsen. Perhaps in Maija and her husband, Paavo, had known that, they wouldn’t have swapped homestead with their uncle and uprooted the family to travel from Finland to Swedish Lappland. But then, Maija has her own secrets that she wants to hide from. Cecilia Ekbäck’s Wolf Winter is a dark story, set in a dark time. But Ekbäck’s tale is also full of magic and justice. It’s not all bleakness in the bleak winter of 1717.

Just as Maija and her family are getting settled on their homestead on Blackåsen mountain, her daughters, Frederika and Dorotea, find the mutilated body of a man. The murdered man, Erikkson, is known as a troublemaker on the mountain. He knows everyone’s darkest secrets. His wife was once accused of being a sorceress. And, for some reason, the local bishop wants the parish priest to investigate and wrap the case up as soon as possible—and ask quietly as possible.

Olaus Arosander hates going up the mountain. He hates dealing with the peasants. He was once court priest to the king. All he wants to do is go back south. Maija, on the other hand, can’t help but dive into Erikkson’s murder. She won’t stop asking uncomfortable questions and won’t just swallow others’ facile non-criminal explanations for what happened to the man. Frederika seems to have inherited her mother’s drive for justice and truth, though her path is less rational than her mother would like. Frederika is being haunted by Erikkson and Blackåsen’s wolves. But, because she knows what happens to women who see spirits, Maija refuses to teach Frederika how to control her gifts.

As Maija, Olaus, and Frederika follow their own paths towards what happened to Erikkson and the evil on Blackåsen, Ekbäck weaves the mystery, historical fiction, and historical fantasy genres together. As if this wasn’t enough to enchant readers, Ekbäck has a strong poetic style of writing. No one says more than they need to. And Ekbäck doesn’t use three words where one will do to draw the stark landscape of eighteenth century Lappland for her readers. Not that you need more words. The landscape is so well drawn that it is its own character. I felt cold and hungry and fearful along with the characters.

I don’t want to say too much about the ending. Wolf Winter is a mystery, after all; it wouldn’t do to ruin it. But I will say that the ending had me cheering. The ending was the crowing moment of a fantastic story.

I received a free copy of this ebook from Edelweiss, in exchange for an honest review. It will be released 27 January 2015.

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