So this book is a sequel to Winter Rose, which I read not long ago. I enjoyed Winter Rose, although I felt it had some weak points. Solstice Wood was even better. While the language wasn’t quite as poetic, the story was stronger and much faster-paced. While I wandered in out of Winter Rose over the course of a few days, I took Solstice Wood in in huge chunks.
While Winter Rose was set at a vague time far in the past, and possibly not even in our world, Solstice Wood, which was published ten years after Winter Rose, is set in modern times and firmly in upstate New York (which, if I’m honest, was not the feeling I got from Winter Rose, but we’ll get to that in a minute). The death of her dearly-loved grandfather means that Sylvia has to return home, a place she’s avoided ever since she reached adulthood and began to build a life for herself.
While this story starts with that feeling of “angsty teen leaves home then returns and becomes the heroine and realizes her family isn’t so bad after all”, it swiftly improves as the reader begins to suspect that Sylvia’s reasons for leaving home were not the usual ones given in YA novels. The story is told from several viewpoints, mostly Sylvia, her grandmother, and Sylvia’s cousin, but there are a few other one-off chapters thrown in to keep things interesting, as well. I really prefer first-person narratives that are from multiple perspectives, as we get multiple takes on the same story.
I was completely engaged in this story and enjoyed every page. It wasn’t until later that I found myself realizing that there were some definitely continuity issues (both within the story and connecting this book with its predecessor) and still plenty of answered questions, especially about the fairy queen herself. But the truth is, if a story can make me not realize those things while I’m in the throes of reading, I can’t really dock it too hard.
One big thing, though, was just the fact that Winter Rose did not at all feel like it took place in upstate New York. It had a definite European feel to it, especially because it felt like anything taking place in upstate New York as long ago as Winter Rose was supposed to be happening – well, upstate New York would probably have been a tad more rustic?? (Considering that Corbet was returning to an “ancient” family home??) It was small things like, most likely because McKillip wrote this sequel a decade after Winter Rose; she probably wasn’t thinking about a sequel when she wrote the original story!
But on the whole, I found Solstice Wood to be a wonderful story. I really liked the characters and I also loved the contrast of this story being set in high summer versus the deep winter of Winter Rose. Creative and fast-paced, this is a story that kept me involved from the beginning, and earned some of McKillip’s other books a place on the TBR.