“They said later that he rode into the village on a horse the color of buttermilk, but I saw him walk out of the wood. . . . Corbet, he called himself to the villagers. But I saw him before he had any name at all.”
From the very first lines, Winter Rose breathes magic. Not the flashy, spells-and-dragons magic of some novels, but a haunting, otherworldly magic, where dreams, spells, and the waking world blur seamlessly together.
The plot seems, at first, very simple. Rois Melior is a wild, free-spirited young woman who spends most of her days exploring the woods–completely unlike her older sister Laurel, who is preparing to marry and settle down. Then one day Corbet Lynn rides into town to claim his old family estate, nearly gone to ruin. Tales begin to surface of a curse upon his family, and Rois becomes obsessed with finding out the truth about his past.
But the story quickly becomes more complex as both Rois and Laurel are drawn into Corbet’s story . . . and his curse. As the line between dreams and reality blurs, the narrative begins to twist and turn unexpectedly. The characters find themselves caught inside a winter that may never end, a dream from which they may not wake. No matter what they do, no matter where they turn, everything leads them back to the three rooms where Corbet’s father was cursed, three rooms from which they may never escape.
There are so many good things about this novel that it’s difficult to list them all. The imagery is exceedingly powerful: winter and summer, the village and the wood. Roses. The complex themes are effortlessly woven into the narrative: love and obsession, fidelity and liberty, reality and dreams, what it means to be human. And the prose is, quite simply, some of the most beautiful I have ever read, dreamy and yet very sense-oriented.
Judging by hints from her various books, I’m pretty sure that Patricia McKillip is not Christian. Winter Rose is probably the least obvious of her novels; there’s nothing explicitly objectionable, though if the same story had been told by a Christian, it would probably have a slightly different feel. It does stress the value of fidelity and unselfish love; and if it doesn’t convert life-long atheists, it certainly won’t harm anyone.