Winter Solstice Winter by E.J. Squires has the potential to be something very great. The basic premise is intriguing: set against the threat of a perpetual Norse winter, three people must fight against an immortal Empress, Viking hordes, and mythological troublemakers to return the changing seasons to the land. Drop in an unraveling lifetime built on a carefully crafted web of lies and a surprise twist of a love triangle, and the book is ripe for drama and intrigue with each page.
Unfortunately, much of the promise of the book is bogged down in its execution. Squires is a very descriptive writer, and while some parts of the story shine through this description (the imagery surrounding the Norse landscape, especially) much of the emphasis is lost as the author tries almost too hard to paint a picture in our heads.
The language in the book is troublesome, as well. While the tale is set in medieval Europe – there was a nice nod to a particular Viking family that will make history buffs giggle – the author’s dialogue and description often lapses into a much more modern tone. In addition, the extra description as mentioned above can lapse into verbosity, bogging the story down with overly long sentences that seem to get lost halfway through.
Perhaps my biggest problem with the book was the character development. I know I was supposed to care about the people on the pages, but their personalities took so long in developing – and sometimes seemed to develop in two different directions at once – that I had a difficult time finding motivation to continue reading at points. Fortunately, this (mostly) resolves itself well before the book’s end.
By the time I finished the book, I was of two minds. The story had finally begun to build steam, and I really was interested in how it would progress into the next book; however, the problems found throughout the first would make me reluctant to pick it up.
Without a doubt, E.J. Squires has the seeds of a very powerful series on her hands: Winter Solstice Winter is listed as the first of the Viking Blood Saga, and the story ends on such a cliffhanger that most readers would want to discover what happens next in the tale. To fully be fully realized, however, an honest and heavy-handed editor is needed to help cut the excess and bring out the characters to their full potential.
(Full disclosure: I received a copy of this book from the author in exchange for an honest review.)