Any time a favourite author’s book crosses my desk, I can’t help but read it. And, thus far, with CF Welburn’s work, I have never been disappointed. Nor was I with I Shall Return With Winter.
1. Thoughts on the plot
This book follows Oben, a farmer from Edale, whose village is attacked by northerners known as Skalgs. He goes north to exact revenge, but the north holds many enemies and they are not entirely what they seem. Prophecy speaks of a Conduit that will deliver Edale to them, and now Oben must prove the prophecy wrong while also attempting to take his revenge and not lose himself in the process.
This book is a large-scale dark fantasy. I would edge it close to the epic fantasy genre, but primarily stick it with dark fantasy. And oh, my, what a fantasy it was! This book is great on plot. Just when I think I had a handle on what the world had in store for Oben, something new came and added an extra twist, an extra knot. It made the plot intricate and entertaining, something to puzzle through while desperately rooting for Oben.
2. Thoughts on the character
I’ve never read a story where a character gets captured by enemies, only to become their agent of prophecy. It is very similar to being plucked out of your ordinary life to become a chosen one, but not quite. That difference was slight, but it really solidified the story and made Oben that much more interesting. At the beginning, he is a character that is certain to be swiftly overwhelmed by circumstances. Yet, he never gives in, his determination to see his wrongs righted subsuming everything until there is only will remaining. He has the sort of grit that I want in a main character, with enough of a soft side squirrelled away to make me actually care about him instead of just root for him. And how he is at the end of the book? I can say little, for fear of spoilers, but it was perfect.
3. Favourite part
As stated just prior, the ending was my favourite part. The twist on the prophecy, the aftermath…sublime.
My only critique is that the bit with the aubergines was a bit rushed and didn’t quite make sense with the rest of the story. However, that’s a minor situation and it was really not a big deal at all.
Overall, I Shall Return With Winter is a stunning dark fantasy, with characters to root for, a plot that keeps you thinking and prose that draws you in and doesn’t let you go until you finish the story. An excellent book.