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Young Adult fiction can be a hard category to navigate as a parent. YA often contains dark themes and content that young teens especially may not be ready to read. That’s why I’m so pleased when I find books like The Winter King that both my teens and I can read and enjoy.

I’ve been meaning to review this book since last year, but then winter got away from me, and it just didn’t seem like a book you could review in the summer. But it’s the perfect thing to read right now.

The Story

Cora isn’t sure her family will survive till spring, and it’s all the Winter King’s fault. Every bad thing that happens to their family seems evidence of his hatred for them seeping from his temple. So when Cora learns that the High Alderman keeps a secret book of hidden which belongs to the King, she determines to take it, no matter what the cost. 

Even as Cora wonders why she’s the only one who can see The Winter King for who he really is, she has to face the fact that her determination to prove his character is proving disastrous to her family and friends.

What I loved

  • Engaging writing–Cohen is a great writer. Her descriptions, her characters, her pacing are all well done. My daughter and I both really enjoyed this book and have read it multiple times.
  • Deeper meanings—While Christian readers will see symbolism in the way the myth echos parts of the Bible (and even perhaps church history), I think this story could be equally enjoyable for other readers. The Winter King’s story, and its corrupted version, remind me of C. S. Lewis’s idea that all myths point to the One True Myth.

Parents should know

  • Death–Characters die. But so do people in real life. Young adult readers should be able to handle this. In fact, I think being exposed to characters who die equip us to deal with death in our lives.
  • Implied affairs--These occur in the past, and I didn’t find them inappropriate, even for younger teens.
  • Romance–It’s pretty light, though Cora does lead one boy on so he will continue to provide her family with food.
  • Peril and “off-camera” violence–again, I found it completely appropriate for teen readers. There are also scary creatures called draugar that are like a type of zombie. They are referenced frequently but only make one brief appearance.

Overall, I enjoyed The Winter King and highly recommend it for teens and adults. In fact, I wouldn’t have a problem handing it to most ten-year olds either (though you might as well save it until they want to read YA).

I’d love to hear what books you’ve been enjoying recently!

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