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Midwinter by Matthew Sturges
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Midwinter

by Matthew Sturges

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ORIGINALLY POSTED AT Fantasy Literature.

I was attracted to Midwinter because of the beautiful cover art (by Chris McGrath) and the publisher's blurb. This sounds like my kind of story. Unfortunately, this novel didn't deliver what I was looking for, but it had so much potential that I hold out hope for future efforts from Matthew Sturges.

Midwinter starts out well. The prose is pleasant -- perfectly readable and without any pretensions. Usually this is the first place an author will lose me, but Mr Sturgis didn't.

The main characters, especially Mauritane, Silverdun, Satterly, and Raieve, are intriguing and I was fully expecting to be drawn into their lives. However, I never was. Part of the problem was the third-person point of view that shifted unexpectedly. It never settled down long enough to examine the hearts of the key players. Some of the secondary characters such as Lady Anne, Queen Mab, Hy Pezho, and Purane-Es were given excellent characterization, so I know that Mr Sturgis is capable. But, the main characters never opened up for me, so I felt like an outsider during their quest.

I also never quite felt the setting. It's midwinter and our heroes are traveling, eating, sleeping, and fighting outdoors in the snow, but I never felt cold. Most of the characters are fae and we are several times told how different they are from humans, but we are never shown how they are different (except that toward the end of the book we're told that they are drained by cold iron, and they have funny ears).

There are some flashes of imaginative brilliance (I loved the shifting areas in the Contested Lands, and the messages sprites were hilarious), but there are also a lot of elements that just seem weirdly cobbled together (e.g., the philosophy discussions, the humans stuck in faery, the changeling trade, Avalon, Sylvan, the Arcadian religion, the Thule Man, cars and rebar, Mab's flying city, the prophecy). I may be completely wrong about this, but I have noticed in other new novelists a tendency to throw in a bunch of disparate ideas -- as if the author had been collecting these fancies for years and then assembled them all in their first novel. Or, sometimes perhaps they do this because these elements came up during their research and they feel the need to include them. I am not accusing Mr Sturgis of either of these motivations, but that's just what it feels like. I found myself often saying "huh? Where did that come from? ... Where's the kitchen sink?" I am certainly not asking for my fantasy to be straight-up medieval-style epic, but this was just confusing.

So, basically it was the lack of characterization of the heroes and the strange hodgepodge that kept me from enjoying Midwinter as much as I thought I would. I do, however, have high hopes for Matthew Sturges and I would not refuse to read a different story in another setting. Read more Matthew Sturges book reviews at Fantasy literature. ( )
  Kat_Hooper | Apr 6, 2014 |
Secret Faerie Suicide Squad

Although not completely, as of the group chosen by ex-Guard Captain Mauritane for this mission, one is half Avalonian, and the other is a fully human scientist.

All of whom are languishing in an out of the way prison for political reasons. Two of them killers, even if somewhat justified - but still alive because of who they are. The human unlucky enough to be caught trying to rescue a girl who had been Changeling switched.

In your Suicide Squad scenario of course it is 'go on this really dangerous mission we can't acknowledge and if by some miracle you survive, well, we might be nice to you.'

The mission comes from the Seelie Queen Titania, and while that matters not to most of them, they'd rather be out and adventuring than locked up.

They just have to survive a magical no-man's land, traverse a very unlikely distance, survive the Seelie political intrigue and enemies that would happily bury their leader. Plus monsters and war with the Unseelie.

Or, nothing they are really likely to survive if you were running a book on it.

Oh, and you could get blown up by a Flying City.

Pretty reasonably written for a first novel.

http://notfreesf.blogspot.com/2009/09/midwinter-matthew-sturges.html ( )
  bluetyson | Sep 3, 2009 |
Better known as co-author of the first volumes of the Fables comic series, Matthew Sturges has turned his talents to novel writing.

Like his fellow Clockwork Storybook writer Chris Roberson, Sturges has produced a variation on the "Dirty Dozen" concept--prisoners given a chance at redemption by taking a one-way near-suicidal mission. Roberson set a Dirty Dozen in his "Chinese and Aztec" universe in The Dragon's Nine Sons.

Midwinter, Sturges effort, is similarly located in a place very different than our Earth--in Faerieland.

Midwinter is the story of Mauritaine. War hero, former Captain of the Royal Guard, he is in prison for a crime he didn't commit. He gets the chance at redemption at the low part of a 100 year cycle in the seasons--Midwinter. It seems that this occasion has cause for the Queen of the Seelie, Regina Titania, to offer a secret mission to him, and a few of his fellow prisoners. Survive, and their sentences will be commuted.

Not everyone is happy about this mission of course, especially Queen Titania's rival, Queen Mab of the Unseelie. As well as rivals to Mauritaine within the realm of the Seelie, and possibly within his own party...

The novel is both familiar and new in its treatment of Faerie and its inhabitants. The team has a variety of tropes, including a displaced human whose knowledge of technology and science seems useless in Faerie. At first.

We also have a couple of POVs from outside of the team, in both the Courts of Titania as well as Mab. Some of these POVs and characters are more compelling and well drawn than others.

I enjoyed the inventiveness of the premise (of winter coming to the land every century). I guessed the secret of the mission before it was revealed, but only just. And there are other delights in the world, like the strange Contested Lands, and the floating city that Mab calls her capital.

Overall, while I enjoyed the novel and was entertained, I do not think the novel quite hits on all cylinders. I do want to see how Sturges grows as a writer in subsequent novels. There is clear potential here that I would love to see in full bloom. So, if you can forgive a few faults in the novel, then you, too, just might enjoy Midwinter. ( )
1 vote Jvstin | May 5, 2009 |
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Winter only comes to the land once in a hundred years. But the snow covers ancient secrets: secrets that could topple a kingdom. Mauritaine, a war hero, must decide between his own freedom and the fate of the very land that has forsaken him.

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