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A Winter's Promise: The Mirror Visitor Quartet, Book 1

Book review by
Michael Berry, Common Sense Media
A Winter's Promise: The Mirror Visitor Quartet, Book 1 Book Poster Image
Excellent world-building, but fantasy saga starts slow.

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A lot or a little?

The parents' guide to what's in this book.

Educational Value

Raises question about politics and how family dynamics affect them. It might foster discussion of fictional world-building and how authors devise detailed settings for their stories.

Positive Messages

It doesn't pay to underestimate people who seem shy and awkward but may actually possess hidden talents. Even among the most ruthless social circles, there are people who'll offer kindness and compassion.

Positive Role Models & Representations

Ophelia is clumsy, shy, awkward, but also fiercely intelligent. She learns to stand up for herself and refuses to be a pawn for anyone else.

Violence

Ophelia is emotionally abused throughout and endures a bad physical beating. Members of Dragon clan have psychic powers that cause others to experience headaches, to feel as if they are being slapped, or to actually be cut on the face. Elderly character survives poisoning. A mother recalls deaths of her young children. Entire family is reported to have been massacred.  

Sex

One villain seduces various women, brags about "deflowering" others. He and a lover are discovered in an illicit embrace. Ophelia and various supporting characters say openly that her engagement to Thorn is for breeding purposes only.

Language

Thorn is called a "bastard," in the literal sense. "Whore" and "slut" are used to describe women on a couple of occasions. "Dammit" and "hell" appear two or three times.

Consumerism
Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

Ophelia drinks champagne, becomes tipsy. She's forced to smoke cigarettes. Various minor characters smoke opium or cigars.

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that Christelle Dabos' A Winter's Promise is the first volume of an epic fantasy saga. It follows Ophelia as she journeys to another "ark" to be engaged to Thorn, the powerful and taciturn Treasurer. Ophelia is mistreated throughout, emotionally abused and at one point physically beaten. Swearing is infrequent, mostly a handful of uses of "hell," "damn," "bastard," "whore," and "slut." Sexual content is fairly low, limited mostly to an antagonist who brags of "deflowering" young women. Villainous supporting characters indulge in smoking, drinking, and drug use.

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What's the story?

At the start of A WINTER'S PROMISE, museum curator Ophelia is abruptly told she must leave her life behind and become the fiancée of a nobleman from a far-off land. She and her aunt are taken to the Pole, where they are immediately thrust into potentially deadly court intrigue. Ophelia is told she has been selected to be Treasurer Thorn's wife in name only, which suits her just fine, given how cold and seemingly unyielding the man is. Luckily, Ophelia has two abilities that might save her: traveling through mirrors and reading the pasts of handheld objects.

Is it any good?

No reader wants the main character of a novel to be too much of a "punching bag," and the protagonist of this epic, intricate fantasy novel narrowly escapes being a passive downer. Abuse is heaped upon Ophelia for much of the first half of A Winter's Promise, but author Christelle Dabos eventually has the young woman find the fortitude she needs to assert her own agency. It is, however, a long journey of emotional development, and sometimes the plotting feels repetitive. A best-seller in France, A Winter's Promise is the first volume of a quartet, so perhaps later installments will move at a faster pace. This book is not for everyone but will likely resonate strongly with the right audience.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about how A Winter's Promise portrays an arranged marital engagement. Why do some societies encourage parents to choose mates for their children?

  • Why are some activities and careers considered to be for men only? How can girls push back against that attitude?

  • Ophelia is taken from her home without much choice in the matter. How might an abrupt separation from your homeland affect you? How do refugees cope with leaving their old lives behind?

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