Hey, everyone! Today’s review is for the first installment in Christelle Dabos’ The Mirror Visitor quartet, A Winter’s Promise.
About the Book
Long ago, following a cataclysm called “The Rupture,” the world was shattered into many floating celestial islands. Known now as Arks, each has developed in distinct ways; each seems to possess its own unique relationship to time, such that nowadays vastly different worlds exist, together but apart. And over all of the Arks the spirit of an omnipotent ancestor abides.
Ophelia lives on Anima, an ark where objects have souls. Beneath her worn scarf and thick glasses, the young girl hides the ability to read and communicate with the souls of objects, and the power to travel through mirrors. Her peaceful existence on the Ark of Anima is disrupted when she is promised in marriage to Thorn, from the powerful Dragon clan. Ophelia must leave her family and follow her fiancée to the floating capital on the distant Ark of the Pole. Why has she been chosen? Why must she hide her true identity? Though she doesn’t know it yet, she has become a pawn in a deadly plot (via Goodreads).
A Winter’s Promise has been on my radar for a while now since it’s English translation was published in 2018. And I am so glad that I finally picked this book up! What began as a read for my long commute became a book that I could not put down until I finished it after one in the morning.
Admittedly, I went into this book expecting it to be pretty predictable, but it actually continued to surprise me. A Winter’s Promise is not the typical YA fantasy featuring a marriage of convenience. We don’t actually see Ophelia and Thorn get married in this first installment. Their engagement happens off-page, and that’s the issue that Ophelia is attempting to deal with in the earlier chapters. Instead of a hate-to-love dynamic, we read about the slow-going mutual existence (I guess? LOL) that brews between the two of them. There definitely isn’t any actual romance in this book, but somehow that made it even better for me? I was completed sucked into every scene that included the two of them, and it was fun to decipher their interactions. Very unexpected, but I loved it.
Even separate, both Ophelia and Thorn were extremely compelling characters. There is a lot about Thorn that’s left up to mystery since we only read from Ophelia’s point of view, but every small bit of information we learned about him kept me turning the page. As for Ophelia, I loved seeing how she continued to progress throughout the story, and especially by the end of the book.
The world-building style was also very interesting. We see two different Arks in this first book, and there was a stark contrast in the way that the descriptions were written for each of them. Anima was fairly simple, though extremely enigmatic, and the Pole was chaotic and very confusing. But I enjoyed that this kind of represented how Ophelia saw the two worlds: one that was her own, and one that was daunting and unfamiliar. Hats off to the great writing/translation. It took me a while to get used to the writing style, but once I did, let’s just say that I learned a lot of new vocabulary while reading this book!
The magic system was also very unique and unexpected. I don’t want give too much away, but I will say that it lended itself well to the ruthlessness of the court, so I’m looking forward to learning more about the role magic will play later on in the series.
Overall, this book really exceeded my expectations as a series starter, and it kept me hooked from the beginning. I was transported into this world, and I’m looking forward to seeing what happens next.
Star scale: ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ (4 stars)
Grade scale: A-