Faerie Winter (2011/Bluefire aka Randomhouse) by Janni Lee Simmer is the sequel to 2009’s Bones of Faerie (you can find my review of it here). As we’re dealing with a sequel, this review contains inherent spoilers for Bones of Faerie. FYI.
With the malicious plants stilled by the coming of winter, Simmer shifts the narrative focus from survival in the ominous woods and revelations about magic and faeries to survival in a cold and potentially endless winter and a conflict between the Queen of Faerie and the humans. While that made for an engaging and quick read, it was the apocalypse and the evil, enchanted forest that made me love Bones of Faerie, and I felt the lack of both strongly in Faerie Winter—it was far more traditional YA faerie story than creepy atmospheric apocalyptic story.
What Simmer continues to do well? Violence and gore: never gratuitous, but never absent. In the first chapter we see the first dead child, and it will not be the last. A town burned to the ground by the villainous Queen of Faerie is piled with the fire-mutilated corpses of adults and children. This is a harsh world, and I still wouldn’t want to live there.
With her attention turned away from rotting leaves and strangling vines, Simmer looks more closely at the human relationships in her world. In Bones of Faerie, humans who possessed magic were killed or exiled. Now they know that all children born since the war with faerie possess magic, and while most of the town see good in their skills, there are still bigots who cast out their own children because they refuse to let magic into their house. Some of the “Afters” (ie children born after the war) are still uncomfortable at being out of the closet, but the group continues to fight for their place in the town against those who can’t shake their fear of all things magical.
Meanwhile, through the complicated relationship that the main character Liza has with her mother Tara (who had abandoned her to an abusive father in Bones of Faerie), as well as through the relationship of the Faery Queen to her daughter and granddaughter, Simmer shows us a number of angles on the mother-child and child-mother relationship. It was a painful though occasionally sweet look at these bonds, as complex and emotionally charged as they are in real life.
There’s also a slow-burn romance that doesn’t get much face time, but that adds another sweet and painful layer to the story.
Three out of seven fire ants. (Which means I think it was nice and all, but that I wasn’t in love. Though I suppose a bigger compliment would be NO FIRE ANTS. Or maybe, SOME FIRE ANTS TO WATCH BEHIND GLASS. Because fuck getting bitten by ants with the word fire in their name.)
Where I got it: Book Depository