Swedish Lapland, 1717. Maija, her husband Paavo and her daughters Frederika and Dorotea arrive from their native Finland, hoping to forget the traumas of their past and put down new roots in this harsh but beautiful land. Above them looms BlackAsen, a mountain whose foreboding presence looms over the valley and whose dark history seems to haunt the lives of those who live in its shadow. While herding the family's goats on the mountain, Frederika happens upon the mutilated body of one of their neighbors, Eriksson. The death is dismissed as a wolf attack, but Maija feels certain that the wounds could only have been inflicted by another man. Compelled to investigate despite her neighbors' strange disinterest in the death and the fate of Eriksson's widow, Maija is drawn into the dark history of tragedies and betrayals that have taken place on BlackAsen. Young Frederika finds herself pulled towards the mountain as well, feeling something none of the adults around her seem to notice. As the seasons change, and the "wolf winter", the harshest winter in memory, descends upon the settlers, Paavo travels to find work, and Maija finds herself struggling for her family's survival in this land of winter-long darkness. As the snow gathers, the settlers' secrets are increasingly laid bare. Scarce resources and the never-ending darkness force them to come together, but Maija, not knowing who to trust and who may betray her, is determined to find the answers for herself. Soon, Maija discovers the true cost of survival under the mountain, and what it will take to make it to spring.
©2015 Cecilia Ekback (P)2015 Recorded Books
I appreciated the narrator helping me pronounce some of Swedish words that I was unaccustomed to, but over all no, not better. About the same. Bresnahan did a great job reading the story and I was certainly enthralled, but I don't think she added anything to it that wasn't already on the page.
Toss up between Fredericka and the Priest, neither of whom impressed me much for the first half of the book, but both really came into their own by the end.
Great story. The pacing is slow and deliberate for the first three-quarters of the book. At times almost painfully slow. But events start snowballing (pardon the pun) into a rush of revelations at the end. Others have griped about this, but I found that perfectly in line with standard mystery plots. While this story feels more like historical fiction, it is, at its heart, a mystery to be solved.
For those who are drawn to the darkness of the Winter Solstice, this is a good December read. Set, for the most part, in the unending night of winter in 1717 Swedish Lapland, this is a darkly atmospheric tale of snow, wolves, superstition, murder, and spirits. The darkness of the environment serves as foil for the darkness of the souls of many of the settlement's inhabitants, whose secrets are gradually revealed over the course of the novel. The book has its weaknesses, including anachronisms and some too-neat plot resolutions. However, it held my interest until the end--a good listen for a dark winter night.
The setting for this book - Swedish Lapland - really intrigued me. How people can live there NOW, never mind the early 18th century boggles the mind. Billed as a thriller, it’s got plenty of murder and treachery, but the pace is slow and the menace of a more psychological bent. There’s also a supernatural aspect that irritated me whenever it came up. I mean, living at the end of the earth in the arctic circle isn’t hard enough?
That’s an aspect of the novel that never let up - the realistic portrayal of subsistence living in the extreme north. The details about blizzards, farming, hunting, butchering, starving, frostbite, religious persecution, political scheming and weighing up sacrifices were all sharply rendered. There is no village per se, but the people, known to each other as settlers, almost always bond together and do their best to help each other out when the worst happens. That doesn’t mean all is rosy. No, there’s a worm in the heart of this withered blossom and it’s murder. The killing breeds suspicion and superstition and of course most of it falls on the newcomer and healer, Maija. Fear is a terrible thing for us humans. It makes us do the stupidest things.
The way the novel is told is pretty oblique and much of the insight comes from Maija, not that her fellow settlers thank her for it. Every time she comes into their crosshairs she raises reasonable doubt that sets them on the path to the truth. Of course nothing is as it seems and events that appear connected turn out not to be and more than one villain is hiding among them. Many of the main characters are women and the shortage of men (death, desertion and conscription) means that though they are still treated as 2nd class citizens, most of them speak their minds and deal with the harshness of life head on. Dorotea’s fate is particularly heartbreaking.
Majia’s daughter Frederika is also trying to solve the mystery of Erikson’s death. She has a more direct and dangerous reason though; Erikson himself. His ghost follows her and torments her with cryptic remarks and even manages to cut her severely with a knife. I just love how the resident Lapps tell her not to mess with the spirits etc, when she has no choice. And Erikson isn’t the only threat, both Frederika and her mother encounter wolves who aren’t the only ones starving on Blackåsen mountain.
A bit meandering, but written with real bite and an affinity for the darkness that rules Swedish Lapland half the year.
Retired CFO, Army wife, Mom of five, Grandma of six, two sons who served in combat, love to read books that reflect my values and faith, love mysteries, historical, military stories, and books that don't waste my time . . . if it doesn't have an ending that was worth the wait, I'm not a happy camper.
At times difficult to follow, at the same time, mesmerizing and magically descriptive tale of the harsh mountainous land and the people who lived in the Swedish mountains in 1717 . . . deeply entrenched beliefs in sorcery clash with the spread of Christianity by the Catholic church . . . as well as the entanglement of the church with politics, make this listen extremely interesting . . . and not at all what you might expect in the beginning . . . a family recently immigrated to Sweden from Finland . . . in hopes of settling and having a new beginning . . . the women in Wolf Winter have unusual "gifts" . . . in a time and place where they are misunderstood and not given a voice . . . during the worst winter in memory, the search is on to find what exactly happened to Eriksson, a man whose mutilated body was found in the snow by one of the neighborhood children . . . at first dismissed as a wolf attack, it soon becomes apparent, that is not what happened . . . other dark secrets begin to come to the surface . . . but no one is willing to discuss them . . . everyone is looking to shift the blame . . . black magic? The Laplanders? Who? Be patient, and listen until the end . . . you'll find yourself freezing in a magical, beautiful forest, searching with everyone else . . . catching your breath . . .
This book was hard to get through. I'm one of those people that has to finish a book once I've started it, but it just didn't get better. There were so many elements like character development that she had no idea how to develop. She also never explained the strange behavior of the wolves--major loose end. I was mildly confused almost the entire book which I think was meant to be her version of suspense but wasn't! It's a book that an editor needed to really work on and didn't. Sorry.
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