Year Published: 2015 - Faber and Faber
Genres: Young adult / romance / dystopia / fantasy
For as long as Emmeline can remember, she’s longed to leave the isolated world of the settlement and explore the wilderness that calls to her in her dreams. And now that the Council has fallen, she will finally, finally get that chance. With First Peoples guide Matisa at her side, Emmeline rallies a brave group to join her on her quest into the unknown, including her beloved Kane and his two younger brothers. But the journey soon proves far more dangerous than Emmeline anticipated—with warring clans, slavers, colonists, disease, and natural disasters seemingly at every turn. After putting so many lives in danger, she starts to doubt everything she once knew. Did she make the right choice to leave the settlement—and can her relationship with Kane survive the ordeal? Matisa insists that to set things right and to fight the evil that is bringing all this danger and turmoil to the forest, Emmeline must journey to Matisa’s people—even if that means leaving Kane behind.
I loved the first book in this series: Winterkill. I highly recommend that one, and if you're wanting to read this book, you definitely need to read Winterkill first.
But despite coming into this book fully convinced I'd love it, I was so disappointed. I liked it, but I certainly didn't love it.
The writing was beautiful. Boorman's voice is very distinct, and it's the kind of writing you either love or you hate. I personally loved its attitude and original flavour, and thought it suited Emmeline's culture and her own narrative voice.
The story was both harrowing and deeply moving. The prose was gentle yet powerful, and also very dreamlike and hypnotising. The story was anything but happy: there's death, there's hopelessness, and thanks to an unsatisfying ending (although there is a 3rd book) I came away feeling despondent and very disappointed. I could appreciate the skill of Boorman's writing, but I ultimately felt cheated of my time when I finally put the book down. That was the fault of the plot, which I'll talk about in a moment.
There were some especially powerful scenes which I just have to mention (without giving spoilers): After the massacre, I found Daniel's reaction and the way Em conveyed how he was acting, absolutely spot on. It was so tender, so heartbreaking, and without a doubt it was one of the best sequences in the book.
Another example of a section I found extremely powerful: When the group's been captured and the bad guy's threatening to hurt Kane, Em's reaction was exquisite. Her screaming was so out of character but instead of "not working", it only made it especially powerful and moving. It was a breathtaking scene.
The book did start very slow. It got going later on, but it was hard to pay attention and stick with it until then.
Emmeline's character development was excellent. She really grew throughout the course of the novel, and I loved spending time in her head. Her character was so unique and beautiful and gentle.
The rest of the cast were solidly three dimensional, although it took me about half the book to work out who everyone was and get their different personalities straight in my head. But this could also be due to the fact that it's been about a year since I read the first book; I should've recapped a bit before reading, I guess.
I loved Kane and Emmeline's dynamic romance. I wish Kane had a bit more personality, but otherwise they had a fitfully and realistically turbulent relationship. They also shared some beautifully romantic and swoony scenes, bursting with sexual tension. Unfortunately, I didn't like the outcome of their relationship at the end of the book. It was disappointing and frustrating, and in no way satisfying. It was the kind of ending that made me not care about reading the final book in the series. And to be honest, I have very little incentive to read Heartfire now.
The main issue with the book was the plot. It was slow, boring, and unfocused. The history of the characters and their situation and who they were up against, etc, was confusing and vague. I struggled to follow the plot, and become a slog to get through it.
Winterkill was beautifully and powerfully written with a solid cast and a harrowing atmosphere. But the unfocused plot which dragged to an aggravating extent made me ultimately feel - once I'd finished the book - that it had been a tiresome and pointless journey with Em and her friends.