Author: Katharine Orton
Illustrator: Rovina Cai
Cover illustrator: Sandra Dieckmann
Publisher: Walker Books
Genre: Older children’s/middle grade fiction, Fantasy, Historical
Book format: Paperback
Description: Sometimes it takes a little courage to discover magic.
Eleven-year-old Lina has never seen the world beyond the prison camp until the night she escapes with her best friend, Bogdan. As the pair journey across a snowy Russian wilderness, they are pursued by a vengeful sorceress and her pack of shadow wolves. The children will need every ounce of bravery – and a little sorcery of their own – if they are to survive…
*Free copy provided by publisher for review…
Review: Wow, I’m not sure how I feel after reading this book, it’s such an interesting story with a lovely and slightly dark magical feel to it but at the same time I’m not sure about some part of the ending….Lina has grown up inside a Soviet camp in Siberia. She has never known the outside world and spends most of her days tending to the greenhouse plants for the camp’s Commandant. But one day Lina overhears plans of a break out, and those who are escaping need to take Lina with them. For the first time in her life Lina will get a chance to be free, but will she and the others survive in the cold harsh wilderness of Siberia, or is there something more dangerous than just the cold lurking in the shadows?
This is a really interesting story which I got into right away. Set during the times of Stalin, the camp and the setting in Siberia is a harsh one. We get a sense from the start of how cruel and dangerous the camp and those in charge (as well as some other prisoners) are, and the descriptions of just how cold and snowy it is made me feel all shivery as I settled in to read this. As Lina and some others manage to break out, you follow their journey as they try to escape through the scary wilderness of Siberia in an attempt to make it to the city of Moscow. The descriptions of the conditions really make you feel for the characters and you get a vivid sense of just how cold and terrible it is for them. I really enjoyed this first part of the book and I felt such tension at some point when the night came. Things happen and the magical magical element of the story really begins which felt so exciting and made me compelled to read on, especially after anothe character shows up!
The story really takes on a more magical feel the further it goes on and at some point even incorporates some interesting Slavic fairy tale legends. I do like the story and everything that happens, the magical element is what I do love most as well as the harsh snowy setting, which was so vivid I felt like I was really there and constantly wanted to turn my heathing up! I like the way that Lina slowly grows throughout the story, learning more and more about herself and what happens is very interesting although I did manage to work out a certain plot twist a few chapters before it was officially revealed. The rest of the story was good and interesting, I did like what generally happened with all the characters although I was a bit disappointed with parts of the ending.
The overall ending is a nice one and is a satisfying one which wraps up events well and it is one I did hope for, but after reading this I did feel a bit sad after finishing the whole book. Although there is a good epilogue at the end and I liked what happens with Svetlana and Lina in the last chapters, especially with Svetlana and how she grows as a character at the end too, it also had a hint of sadness to it. The last fifty or so pages are all about things happening after the main conclusion to the story as a whole and while it was nice to read what happens to the characters, I couldn’t help but feel that this went on a bit long and gave the whole story a slightly sadder tone. It might have been some of the dark reality of the Soviet Union that was shown in the last chapters but I think it’s mainly what happens to the character of Natalya. I was hoping for a different ending there and it made me feel a bit sad when I finished the whole story as I thought that part would be more positive or magical and to be honest I’m a bit confused as to why that part ended the way it did, it just felt both happy and sad at the same time. I also feel these last chapters lingered on a bit too long and couldn’t have been shortened as not much happened.
There are some really lovely illustrations inside at the start of every chapter. These hint at what the chapter will be about and I love how these also add to the feeling of the cold and mist. I also can’t help but love the look of the cover which has some lovely shiny bronze lettering on the front!
This story is really lovely and on the whole it is a lovely magical story which I did enjoy and it has a good ending. The realities of things like the Soviet camps and the overall way the country was at the time are shown well and won’t really scare children to read them as there’s nothing too dark in the tale as a whole. And on the whole it is a good story, but the last chapter does go on too long and what happens does feel like it slightly dulls the happy ending for all the characters. Although I did enjoy the historical aspect of the book and the overall setting I just would have liked a slightly happier feeling to stay with me at the end, but it didn’t.
What magical stories do you enjoy? Have you read books set in times of the Soviet Union or the prison camps? Let me know what you think in the comments below 🙂