Age Group: Adult
Midwinter is the debut novel by Matthew Sturges, previously best known for his comic books like Jack of Fables and House of Mystery. I regret’s me a bit to say this, but it is clear that this is his first attempt at prose. Throughout the book I was often annoyed by missteps in the structure of the text, the use of paragraphs and layout.
But to a positive note: the story itself was very good, it was fascinating and there was a detailed description of the environment and the atmosphere of this well-chosen world.
First let’s talk about the missteps I was talking about earlier, because readers who are annoyed by errors in text structure and the like, and for that reason will put a book aside: this is not the book for you. What struck me most and which got an exasperated sigh from me from time to time, were the jumps in perspective. Sturges changes suddenly in the middle of the text between positions or characters. One minute you're following the thoughts of the character Mauritane, trying to understand his reasoning when suddenly the following sentence feels totally out of place. Turns out that the position has changed and we now "follow" Raieve. Very confusing and especially annoying because it completely breaks through the smooth reading experience.
The same problem appeared with the time jumps. Mauritane is in the middle of a conversation and the next sentence he wakes up in his bed. Yet again this is much too abrupt, the reader needs time to realize exactly what is happening before being able to read on.
Furthermore, the text will at times be classified on the basis of a drawing, which would be very good in the case of the time jumps or changes in character. Unfortunately, these "breaks" are placed at the wrong times which sometimes seem superfluous. It seems Sturges lives in an inverted world.
Aside all these negative, rather technical points, I can honestly say that the story is very beautiful. We meet with the Fae, a fairy folk that live in a parallel universe (or on another planet?). The Fae have been entagled for years in a war between two queens. We clearly see that Sturges inspired by Celtic folklore since he describes the two camps as the Seelie and Unseelie Court.
Mauritane is a convict servant of the Seelie kingdom. After killing a fellow soldier he, former captain of the army of the queen, was sentenced to life imprisonment. Until the day that he gets the opportunity to go on a mysterious mission in the name of the queen in exchange for absolution and release. He’s allowed to choose his companions from the prisoners. Has he committed to a suicide mission or will he succeed? One thing is certain: he will not reach his destination without a struggle. While Mauritane begins his journey with his companions, Queen Maud of the Unseelie Court plans an attack on the Seelie kingdom. Will she finally succeed in her battle? Or will she be stopped by a very strong opponent?
What the book also gives extra points is the fact that all the storylines have closure. While this book has a follow-up, it is not necessary to read this. There is no open end, no cliffhanger and the reader can end this book with a nice story in memory. Anyone who feels like wanting more could still read the second book, but those who have enough of this story will not have a thousand of unanswered questions.
All in all not a fantastic book because of the technical difficulties, but the story is great! Hopefully Sturges has learned from his mistakes in the second book, which I will be reading in the months to come.