BookMusings: (Re)Discovering Pagan Literature

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Book Review: The Winter Riddle

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Title: The Winter Riddle

Publisher: Black Spot Books

Author: Sam Hooker

Pages: 277 pp

Price: $14.99 / $3.99

The Kingdom of Aurora stands at the North Pole, and the royal family has ruled the land from Castle Borealis since time immemorial. They are also completely bonkers. The royal family, that is. But then Alexia and Volgha are born; and while Alexia is as nutty as all of her predecessors, Volgha is introverted, intelligent, and empathetic. Rather than pursuing the usual royal entertainments, she hangs out with the Court Wizard (a druid by the name of Osgrey) and learns witchcraft. .... Unfortunately, one of Alexia's dearest friends is Loki -- yes, that Loki -- who commands Volgha to cast a spell to split his mind in half, thereby allowing him to play a trick on himself. And that's when things begin to go terribly, terribly wrong. Now the ice is melting, the Frost Giants are coming, and the Gods have opted to stay out of the whole mess .... Leaving Volgha and Santa Klaus to save the day.

I did mention that Santa Klaus is her next-door neighbor, didn't I?

The easiest way I can describe The Winter Riddle is as follows: take your favorite epic quest fantasy, throw in Sabrina the Teenage Witch, add a touch of The Craft, a pinch of Monty Python, mix well, and hand it over to Terry Pratchett. The Winter Riddle is sly, clever, funny, and epic. The fate of the world is at stake, after all, and it's just ridiculous enough to keep you laughing without going over into complete absurdity. That is a fine line to walk, and Hooker does it very well. For example:

Among rockwort's many uses was a sort of forgetful, tingly feeling that it produced when the tea was made just right. Not the swimmy-headed, giggly feeling like with earthbloom, which tended to make every idea sound like a good one, especially when it came to writing poetry about former sweethearts and then sending it to them. Rockwort had no poetic side effects.

Or this:

Witches generally disliked the whole hexing game, but it had to be done. Vex one witch without repercussions, and the whole system of respectful fear just sort of falls apart. "A hex for a vex," as the old saying goes. Volgha didn't consider herself a fierce traditionalist, but some customs simply shouldn't be breached.

The Winter Riddle is just the sort of book that one can sit down and enjoy on a cold winter day: lots of magic, lots of flying around on a broom, a sarcastic crow familiar with a taste for anchovies, and a reluctant heroine who must make friends (horrors!) if she is to save the day. There is no sex and no swearing at all, making this the sort of book adults and teens and tweens can all read together (although please note that there are references to a Royal Tickler; yes, it makes sense in the context of the story). 

Highly recommended to fans of Kevin Hearne, RL Naquin, and Terry Pratchett.

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Rebecca Buchanan is the editor of the Pagan literary ezine Eternal Haunted Summer. She is also the editor-in-chief of Bibliotheca Alexandrina. She thinks it is incredibly unfair that she must work for a living rather than being able to read all day. In her next life, she would like to be a library cat.

Comments

  • Morgen
    Morgen Friday, 16 November 2018

    I'm a Prachett fan and this sounds great! Adding to the To Read list, thanks :)

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