Title: A Shiver of Snow and Sky
Author: Lisa Lueddecke
Published in October 2017 by Scholastic
Genre: fantasy (YA)
Rating: ★★★★.₅ – loved it
Red, red, the lights glow red
Beware the danger up ahead…
On the frozen island of Skane, the sky speaks. Beautiful lights appear on clear nights, and their colours have meaning: Green means all is well, and the Goddess is happy. Blue means a snow storm is on the way.
And then there’s red. Red is rare. A warning.
Seventeen years ago, the sky turned red just as Ósa was born, unleashing a plague that claimed the lives of hundreds of villagers, including her own mother. This time, when the night sky once again bleeds crimson, she must discover how to stop the onslaught before so many lives are lost again.
I was browsing the shelves of one of my favorite (secondhand) bookstores in Brussels when I spotted A Shiver of Snow and Sky. Initially, I was drawn in by the cover because it’s absolutely stunning. It has a foiled cover, and the combination of the red, black and white is gorgeous. After I read the synopsis, I realized it was a polar fantasy novel about a village in which the people are warned about oncoming danger and storms through lights in the sky.
For the first time in 17 years, the lights above Skane turn red. The color is a warning to the villagers: death is coming. The last time it happened, a plague killed hundreds of people in the community, including Ósa’s mother. Her father and sister have never forgiven her for it, as they believe giving birth to Ósa weakened her mother enough to contract the plague. She has grown up in a pretty loveless house, but has always found comfort in her best friend, Ivar.
First of all, I absolutely adored the setting of this novel. From the first couple of pages, you are immersed in this atmospheric world. I could almost imagine myself trudging through the snow in Skane, growing up in a place that’s so utterly cold, even though I definitely didn’t. I’ve never been someone who loves winter, snow or ice, yet I found myself longing for it while reading A Shiver of Snow and Sky. It’s clear how much Ivar and Ósa love Skane and its climate, and they easily carry that love over to the reader.
I have to admit that the story went in a different direction than I was expecting, which is not a bad thing at all. From the synopsis, I assumed Ósa would have to find a way to stop the plague or cure it. While that is partially true, it’s not the focus of the book. Ósa does go on a quest to save her people, and I absolutely loved it.
What I particularly enjoyed is that we get to see two sides of the story of Skane. We follow Ósa on her quest to save her people. However, we also get to witness the way the town itself prepares thanks to Ivar’s perspective. Interestingly enough, Ósa’s parts are written in first person, while Ivar’s are in third person. The mix of perspectives was fascinating to me. Instead of just following the “chosen one” on their quest to save the world, this book also allows us to witness the people trying to save themselves. They don’t just sit on their asses waiting for things to happen, and I loved it.
I have to talk about the characters as well, obviously. I had so much respect for Ósa. Despite the way she was raised, she turned into a wonderful person. She clearly loves her home, the villagers, and her friends and would do anything to help them. I think the lack of love she gets from her family was traumatic for her, yet she isn’t the typical tortured soul we need to pity or feel sorry for. She’s just a kind person. She has her brave moments, but is not afraid to admit to being terrified. She accepts help when she can.
I also truly adored Ivar. He’s definitely going on the list of love interests I love too! He’s such a kind guy, having helped Ósa so often when she didn’t feel welcome at home. They spend so much time together, and have known each other for years. What I particularly enjoyed is how he respected her decisions, and knew when to listen to his head instead of his heart. While he would have loved to be able to protect his best friend the entire time, he knows he is needed elsewhere. He trusts her to reach her goal on her own, and fulfills his responsibilities well even though he’d rather be somewhere else.
I absolutely hated Ósa’s father and sister. I cannot imagine ever treating a family member in that way. Honestly, if I would ever meet her sister, I would strangle her. Same for her dad.
While I think that the final conclusion of the book was a bit sudden and convenient, I ended up giving this book 4.5 stars. I wish it would have been a little bit longer because a) the ending would have been more satisfying, b) I wanted to spend more time in Skane, and c) I didn’t want to let go of Ósa and Ivar. That’s a good sign right, when you wish the book you are reading was longer?
I’m sad I never really see anyone talk about this book (other than one booktube channel), so I’m hoping to change that! If you are interested in polar fantasy at all, or atmospheric fantasy reads, give this one a go. I think I will read Lisa Lueddecke’s other book, but I’m not in a rush to do so. Goodreads marks them as a series, but they’re more companion novels. I think A Shiver of Snow and Sky works perfectly as a standalone.