Raised in a small village surrounded by vast forests, Liba and Laya have lived a peaceful sheltered life – even if they’ve heard of troubling times for Jews elsewhere. When their parents travel to visit their dying grandfather, the sisters are left behind in their home in the woods.
But before they leave, Liba discovers the secret that their Tati can transform into a bear, and their Mami into a swan. Perhaps, Liba realizes, the old fairy tales are true. She must guard this secret carefully, even from her beloved sister.
Soon a troupe of mysterious men appear in town and Laya falls under their spell-despite their mother’s warning to be wary of strangers. And these are not the only dangers lurking in the woods…
The sisters will need each other if they are to become the women they need to be – and save their people from the dark forces that draw closer.
The Sisters of the Winter Wood captured my attention from the very beginning and absolutely did not let me go. This is a stunning fairy tale style story that will definitely be on my list of favourite books of 2018.
The story follows two sisters – Liba and Laya – who live on the outskirts of a forest. When their parents leave to travel to their father’s home town, the girls must fend for themselves as well as deal with the secrets that they have learned – that Liba can transform into a bear, and Laya into a swan. But not everything in the forest is friendly and with people in nearby towns spouting anti-Semitic views, the sisters must fight to save each other.
I loved everything about this book. The writing style is gorgeous, and the chapters alternate between the two sisters. Liba’s chapters are told in a traditional format and Laya’s are told in short prose like sentences. I loved the difference between the two and it really brought to life the difference between the practical sister and the dreamlike one.
The plot is exciting and beautifully paced. I raced through this book in two days because I could not put it down. I adored the wealth of detail in the magic and the way Rossner weaved all the magical elements into the story.
The story isn’t just a reimagining of the classic fairy tale. Woven into the tale is a life in a small village and how the seeds of hatred can spread through a nation. As bad things happen and people are discovered dead, the townspeople look to blame the Jewish for their bad luck. I thought this was a really fascinating element to the story and was even more intrigued to discover that this was inspired by true events that occurred in the authors ancestry. It definitely added another fascinating layer to this brilliant story.
The story deals with so many topics, friendship, family, sister love and loss. It’s a stunning debut and fans of books like The Bear and the Nightingale will absolutely adore this one. For me it was the perfect autumn read, full of gorgeous depictions of the forest and plenty of dark and creepy moments. The Sisters of the Winter Wood is a magnificent, engrossing read that you definitely need to add to your wish list.