Strictly ruled by a group of council members, the settlement has been isolated and lost from other people for several generations. It is surrounded by tall walls from which guards watch the surrounding forest through the night, waiting for signs of the malmaci, a dangerous beast that sometimes takes settlement members. It is important that no one leaves the safety of the settlement after dark, and even during the day, no one should stray too far into the woods. Most of the members of the settlement are obedient and adhere to the routines, rules and rituals of their community, but sometimes a member will stray from the path, becoming known as wayward or stained, bringing shame to their families. Another major concern for the settlement is the freezing winter known as the Winterkill which is almost upon them as Emmeline comes of age. As a cripple and a stained person, she is surprised by a marriage proposal, while still trying to figure out her feelings for another boy in the settlement. All the while she is drawn to the woods, curious as to what lies beyond the settlement. Her curiosity may result in dire consequences for herself, and the other members of her community, but without risk, there can not be discovery.
Winterkill reminded me a lot of M. Night Shyamalan’s film The Village. There were many similar points, isolated village, monster lurking in the forest, overbearing and strict leaders. I liked that movie, but I like this book even more. Right from the start I liked Emmeline. She has determination, courage and individuality in a society which promotes conformity and compliance. A very interesting and strong character that jumps from the page, I just wanted everything to work out well for her. I also liked Kane, the boy that Emmeline fancies. He too, was very well written, interesting and somewhat mysterious. The characters and the landscape became increasingly clear to me as I read, or more fell into Emmeline’s world. I felt her isolation, her shame, her disappointment and wariness. And I felt her desire to explore, to love and to make her Pa proud again. This is definitely a story I won’t forget in a hurry.
This young adult novel is suitable for upper primary through high school students. I found Winterkill to be an intriguing and page-turning read that I would recommend for any fan of dystopian fiction. I have read on Kate A. Boorman’s website that this to be the first book of a triology, with the next book to be released later this year. I will be eagerly awaiting the next installment.