I opened this book on a wind-whipped station platform and was instantly whisked to the frozen landscape of Siberia. This book is infused with magic, in both content and writing; it is an extraordinary debut by Katharine Orton. The first half of the book is completely compelling and I just could not bear to put it down for even a moment.
“A whisper hung in the air. It felt as if it had grown there, like a piece of fruit, rather than having been spoken.”
From page one you find yourself plunged into the desolate, bone-chilling environment of a Siberian labour camp overseen by cruel Commandant Zima, where the main protagonist, Lina, has spent her entire life. However, on this particular night, she finds herself part of an escape plot, set up by her formidable mama Katya. In the company of Old Gleb, Alexei the Butcher and tattooed gang member Vadim, she exits the camp whilst Katya distracts the guards with a poker game. Someone else has followed the escape party from the camp, but is it an enemy or a friend?
Katya is renowned for her skill at gambling, but has she risked too much this time? Sending her daughter into a fierce Siberian ice storm, with the goal of travelling to Moscow in search of her grandmother, the odds appear to be against success even before the howling of the ghost wolves begins…
This story combines elements of Russian fairy tales with a fast-paced adventure where the courage of Lina and her best friend Bogdan will be tested to the limits. The plot twists and turns like the snowflakes caught in the harsh northern winds, as they encounter friendship, danger and dark magic in the form of the man-hunter, Svetlana, and her legion of shadow creatures. Can hope and kind hearts, aided by a magical necklace given to Lina by Katya, overcome the bleakness, despair and cruelty of life in a police state? You should read this gripping tale, ideal for readers of 10+, to find out.
If you enjoy this story, I highly recommend that you read The Wolf Wilder by Katherine Rundell, Sky Song by Abi Elphinstone and The Way Past Winter by Kiran Millwood Hargrave. If you have not already done so.