Book review | A Shiver of Snow and Sky by Lisa Lueddecke

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On the frozen island of Skane, the sky speaks. Beautiful lights appear on clear nights, and their colours have meaning: Green means all is well, and the Goddess is happy. Blue means a snow storm is on the way.

And then there’s red. Red is rare. A warning.

Seventeen years ago, the sky turned red just as Ósa was born, unleashing a plague that claimed the lives of hundreds of villagers, including her own mother. This time, when the night sky once again bleeds crimson, she must discover how to stop the onslaught before so many lives are lost again.

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Buying books based on the cover can be a hit and miss approach. I’ve read some turgid books because they look pretty. Fortunately, A Shiver of Snow and Sky is both stunning AND excellent.

There’s fantasy, there’s magic, there’s heart. Beautiful book, beautiful words. Lisa Lueddecke dumps you headfirst into a crisis and it doesn’t really let up until the end.

The heroine, Ósa, will break your heart and have you punching the air in the same breath. The world is so deliciously chilly and evocative that you can imagine every burn of he snow and boat on the water. The switch between the points of view in the narrative is awesome because it lines up the contrast between Ósa’s surreal journey and the much more grim events in the villages. My only negative takeaway was that I thought the ending was a little abrupt, which was disappointing, but it was a very minor blip in what was a brilliant debut.

There’s still time to pick one up as a gift for a reader you know – it’s the perfect book for a chilly holiday night. It reminded me in a lot of ways of Skyrim, so if you know anyone who’s ever had their life consumed by The Elder Scrolls, why not send them a copy of this for the holidays?

Serving suggestion: Christmas tree lights, hot chocolate and Baileys, gentle snowfall.

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Top Ten Tuesday: Books I’m Reading Over Winter.

It’s Top Ten Tuesday! This week, it’s the top ten books on my winter TBR list. This list in general is longer than a Disneyworld ride queue, so it’ll need a cold snap of Game of Thrones proportions for me to make a dent in it, but these are the ten books that have come out on top.

Six of Crows – Leigh Bardugo

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I bought Six of Crows as part of my pre-holiday haul, and promptly fell asleep on the red-eye flight home with the book open. Not a commentary on the book, more a commentary on my ability to handle gin in the middle of the night.

I’ve heard nothing but heaps and heaps of praise for Leigh Bardugo, so I’ll be drinking a few “special” hot chocolates (add Baileys liberally) and getting stuck in.

A Shiver of Snow and Sky – Lisa Lueddecke

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Oh man, the cover for this one. I judge books by their covers all the time, and just LOOK at it. Have you ever seen a more wintery book? I’m pretty sure if you lick it it’ll taste of brandy, posh cheese and the way pine smells.

I need it, and the next time I bundle myself up in more wool than a sheep and head into town I will have it.

The Northern Lights – Phillip Pullman

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I’m preparing for everyone to windmill slam the “Unfollow” button, but I’ve never read any of His Dark Materials.

I know. I can hear my mother preparing the emancipation papers as I type.

I’m going to “acquire” them from the bookcase in my parents’ house over Christmas and read them in order to rectify this situation. Plus the Book of Dust hype is real at the moment. My mum has that too. Bingo.

The Gift – Alison Croggon

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This is a reread, but I’m including it because it’s long overdue. I love these books. I talk about them whenever I can. I’m sure everyone’s sick to death of me talking about them but I don’t care. They’re awesome and I could read them again and again. So I’m going to. Sorry TBR list.

Knots and Crosses – Ian Rankin

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I am slightly ashamed that I’ve never read any of Ian Rankin’s books, given that he’s so local I’m surprised I haven’t bumped into him. Crime fiction isn’t a circle I usually move in, however given my taste in comfort TV (as I talked about last week) I’m starting to think that I should explore it. And what better place to start than a local legend?

Killing Floor – Lee Child

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My dad’s a massive Lee Child fan and has all the books in hardback. In the spirit of widening my horizons, this is another one I’ve picked up. I read Killing Floor years ago and never got round to getting to the rest of series, so let’s whack on some Slade and go for it.

The Cost of Living – Rachel Ward

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I was turned onto the Cost of Living through the Sunday YA Twitter chat. Reading everyone’s reviews and hearing (or reading!) Rachel Ward talking about it has hyped me up, plus after years and years in retail I’m so ready for some retail worker sleuthing. Gimme.

Blackbird – ND Gomes

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Um hello, mystery novel set on Orkney. I am already obsessed. I’ve seen this one all over Twitter and had resolved to read it before I realised where it was set, and as someone who loves Scotland and loves books set in Scotland and thinks there should be more books set in Scotland…

Plus the cover is awesome and I love mysteries. Sold.

Daughter of the Empire – Raymond Feist and Janny Wurts

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This is a Sean book. High fantasy really isn’t my thing at all, and I got less than a quarter into Magician by Raymond Feist before I had to admit defeat, but this was recommended to me as being “sort of entry level” by Sean, so I’ll give it a go. I’ve already read a few pages but I sort of…drifted away and read something else, so I really need to go back to the start and slog past the slow start and hope that I can be persuaded!

 

A Christmas Carol – Charles Dickens

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I’ll hold my hands up and say I’m not a fan of the classics. I never have been. I’m trying to read more widely, even though they don’t particularly inspire me. Dickens is a bit too old and dusty for me, but since it’s Christmas, this seems appropriate.

Also the Muppet movie version. Obviously.

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What are you reading over Christmas? If you’re sitting going “Oh my GOD she’s not reading my favourite winter book” let me know. Scotland is cold and I don’t go outside, so I have plenty of time.

Out To Sea Again

One Dundee memory that’s never left me, in all the rollercoaster years that have followed, is walking down Nethergate in the evening rain with neon puddles all over the road. I was listening to Wonderful Life by Black and I thought yes, it is.

But not for me.

Back then I had one goal. Don’t fall apart, and that was a big ask at the time. It was winter inside and out when I was at uni, and good weather was a long time coming. But even in the worst times, there was progression. Second year, third year, fourth year. Graduation. Masters. Graduation. Rarely was I left without a path, although it was a dark, lonely one.

Sometimes I miss that.

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You know, you’d look at me and think “what on earth do you have to complain about?” And you’d probably be right. I have my family, a fiancé, a mortgage we can comfortably afford. I have two cats that let me scoop them up and squeeze them like big teddy bears. I have more friends than I’ve ever had, friends who turn up at our house with regularity, who bring me cake and drink my coffee and sleep on the couch when we’re done dicking about in the living room.

And I love it.

So why do I feel like a winter morning, when the sun is pale and struggling and never really rises?

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When you say you’re tired, people say “me too” or “wow, how late were you up last night?” and you want to say no, I’m tired, marrow-deep and thread-thin.

I quit my job. Not the wrong decision, but it feels like taking your hands off the wheel in a car with no brakes and accepting the crash. Like telling yourself to put one foot in front of the other and realising after months of walking you’ve been travelling in circles.

I wish I could be one of those people, energetic all day, every day. Those people who find joy in everything, in other people and wearing scarves, and small talk with strangers on a train that smells like beer and too many lives.

I wish I could sink money into useless things that would keep me afloat. House a revolving door of junk, a museum of temporary relief.

Sometimes I wish I had faith, something intangible but omnipresent, the green light at the end of Daisy’s dock. A candle to warm my hands on when the weather turns cold and I can’t see where the doors are.

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This isn’t a cry for help, I’m lost, not bereft. I’ve been lost often enough to know that the fog will lift eventually, but boy is it difficult when the clouds never clear from behind your eyes. Your arms are always tired and you just want to eat mashed potato.

The reason I can tell I’m OK is because I can still find moonlight.

I saw the first robin this morning. My sister is coming to visit soon. Morrisons sell gluten free curly fries.

It’s a wonderful, wonderful life.

Maybe not yet. But it will be.

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Images from Pexels.