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Review: Through the White Wood by Jessica Leake

Review: Through the White Wood by Jessica Leake

‘Katya’s power to freeze anything she touches has made her an outcast in her isolated village. And when she loses control of her ability, accidentally killing several villagers, she is banished to the palace of the terrifying Prince Sasha in Kiev. 

At the castle, though, she is surprised to find that Sasha is just like her—with his own strange talent, the ability to summon fire. Instead of punishment, Sasha offers Katya friendship, and the chance to embrace her power rather than fear it. 

But outside the walls of Kiev, Sasha’s enemies have organised their own army of people who can control the very earth. Bent on taking over the entire world, they won’t stop until they’ve destroyed everything. 

Katya and Sasha are desperate to stop the encroaching army, and together their powers are a fearsome weapon. But as their enemies draw nearer, leaving destruction in their wake, will fire and frost be enough to save the world? Or will they lose everything they hold dear?’

Through the White Wood is an enjoyable read with a varied cast, Katya’s journey one that is of self-discovery and across a country (and more) that she has seen little of. I particularly liked her relationship with Elation and how protective they are of each other, with the mechanics of just how Elation understands her so clearly left for both Katya and the reader to learn without information overload or too many different suggestions along the way to take the mystery and magic from it.

The story is reasonably well-paced, with twists that are not so easy to predict, despite some foreshadowing, making the narrative one that doesn’t follow the more predictable patterns that seem typical of many YA fantasy novels. New characters are introduced in a manner that allows the reader to get to know a few at a time in decent depth before moving on to more, leaving none of them to seem to be throwaway additions to the story. In my opinion, it’s the female characters who are developed a little more and whose voices ring clearer, but we hear more of some of their histories than the male characters, and Katya herself spends more time with them one to one.

My favourite feature of the novel surrounds the magic system and the myth/legends of the original elementals, who both seem to exist and have achieved mythological status. The story of Winter was actually what I found most enjoyable, but, having spent much of my academic life studying mythology, I am most drawn to these elements (no pun intended) of novels. There is some information provided about the origins of those whose bloodlines carry various magical abilities, and I would have been pleased to see more – in-fact I do hope that we see more of this in what later instalments there might be.

To be honest, I wasn’t completely sold on Katya and Sasha’s relationship. There is some build-up, but, given that Katya spends much of the novel determined not to let him use her as a weapon and an object, that she so swiftly moves past sympathy to falling in love with him felt particularly quick and I wasn’t entirely sure of the reasoning behind it. This isn’t to say that they ultimately don’t make a good couple, yet, since I imagine there is going to be a follow-up, I would have preferred that more time be spent developing their relationship and exploring how their powers might work together as companions on the battlefield before moving towards romance. I think part of this is because I truly believe that they would make good friends and I would have loved to have seen a lot more of this first.

Through the White Wood is out on May 16th in the UK! Thank you to Harper 360 UK for gifting me a copy!