Bitter Snow by Lauren Sweet
Series: Bitter Snow #1
December 2, 2013
Genre(s): Paranormal (YA)
All Gilly Breslin wants for her sixteenth birthday is for her best friend Kai to see her as more than just the girl next door he’s known forever. So when she receives a mysterious, romantic invitation to meet him at midnight, she knows she has to go.
But it’s St. Nicholas’s Eve, the ancient festival of Bellsnichol, when demons roam the dark winter landscape. Tradition demands that everyone in the tiny town of Bremerton stay inside, doors shut tight against evil.
Gilly thinks it’s just a quaint old superstition. She has no idea that a malevolent power has been unleashed in Bremerton—with Kai as its target. But when she answers her door at midnight, her romantic date turns deadly…and she’s drawn into an ancient web of fear and darkness that threatens everything she loves.
In the small, close-knit town of Bremerton, soon-to-be sixteen-year-old Gilly is surrounded by safety and tradition. So when the annual Bellsnichol event begins, she expect it to play out just like every other year. After all, the warnings against opening the door on the night demons run through the streets is just part of the tradition, right?
Only this year, her lifelong best friend and current crush is unexpectedly distracted by someone new in town, someone with an otherworldly beauty and perhaps an agenda. Gilly’s caught between the overwhelming feelings of first love and betrayal, and the suspicion that the “Snow Queen” from the town’s sleigh parade is anything but just a new girl in town. None of that matters, though, when Kai asks her to meet him at midnight. And when he knocks on her door…? Well, Gilly realizes too late that those tales of demons might not just be silly legends after all.
I wish I’d read this one before the second book. That’s about the only negative thing I can say about any of it. While Dark Solstice was a damned good story, it was the only book offered to me during it’s review tour, and while I quickly listed it as 4.5 stars, I wonder if I would have gone with a perfect 5 had I read it all in order. Not too shabby for serial novellas, though, huh?
Fascinating. Lauren Sweet has done and incredible job of weaving the contemporary Christmas season with old world magic and lore, and she does it in a way that only a true story teller can. Important and foreboding details are subtly woven in throughout the pages, all while Gilly embodies the typical modern teenager, and where usually I’d be correctly guessing what happens next, even my best guesses are nothing compared to each new twist. In Bitter Snow, I’m convinced that the fate of the town really does depend entirely on a teenage girl, that the adults aren’t clueless and gullible but actually victims of potently magic legend, and that even the wildest of ancient lore is altogether real.
Perhaps most telling is that I didn’t drop the book the minute legend began to work itself into religion and Christmas season tradition. While that’s generally something I can stomach in historical fiction, I have trouble with it in contemporary stories, as the magic element usually runs roughshod over Christian beliefs and makes a mockery of the ancient ones. But somehow Sweet has made me believe that the Snow Queen and demons are the dark counterpart to a town’s faith, and where mythological beings would normally have me rolling my eyes, I find myself eagerly turning the pages to see what happens next.