Winter hails from a line of guardians that protect the space between worlds, a guardian of time. She is raised to fulfill her destiny as another guardian of the mysterious wood, to lead travelers safely back to their own time periods and stop anyone that would use the power of the wood to alter time and space. However there are rules that every guardian must follow, because the wood was never a place meant for mortals. The idea behind the wood, the guardians, and the magic system in this novel is truly unique and I enjoyed the world building. The wood came alive as both this beautiful but also monstrous thing and it instills this feeling that it’s so much bigger than the guardians or the council that watches over it.
The book discusses several key themes that I thought were presented really well through the characters. The importance of fulfilling one’s duty even if their destiny is not something that they want. The desire for a sense of normalcy in any way that you can get it. Of dealing with grief and the strength of family and friends. How love can be this all-consuming passion that makes a person feel alive but can also obliterate the life that they have, how love can be just as selfish as it is fulfilling.
“It was more exciting back then, before I realized what this destiny really was. A prison sentence.”
Winter’s best friend Meredith was a little annoying and stereotypical, but I found her to be a necessary part of the story because she is a representation of “normal” teen life whereas Winter will always be an outsider. Now there is some romance in the novel, because there is always one when it comes to young adult fantasy, and initially I had gripes with it since it seemed to be a distraction next to everything else going on. I ended up giving in as the story progressed later on though because it was thankfully not a central aspect of the story and even served to support the discussion of love and duty explored in the book. It also helps that I adored Henry and appreciated that the romantic aspects were kept sweet, clean, and the characters really did feel like they were suited to each other.
I think the one mild downfall to this novel is that it is pretty darn predictable, you can guess the who immediately but then it also makes sense and, again, adds to the discussion mentioned previously. I think the reasoning is good too, since many books tend to fall back on the old, “Evil people are evil for the sake of being evil” and it never goes deeper than that. This book was ambitious in terms of the plot and the discussion that it tried to get across but I think it is executed exceptionally well.
I’m so happy that I stumbled on this book because it’s one that actually isn’t talked about all that often and seems to have gone under the radar in the book community. It is a relatively fast read that I devoured quickly and it was just such a perfect book for the fall season, this book is definitely an underappreciated gem.