by Rena Rossner
“If people hate each other, they will blame each other, and eventually they will kill each other. And what better group of people to start with than the Jews?”
A fairytale-inspired multipoint of view page-turner. From the first four chapters, I knew if I didn’t put The Sisters of the Winter Wood down, I would gobble it in one day. I stopped reading for about a week until I had the time to dedicate a full day to read it all.
So what happens?
Two sisters, Liba and Laya, live on the edge of a town in the woods. The woods are known to hold secrets and a sense of mystery, but both girls enjoy the forest much. They live a sheltered life, keeping close to Jewish traditions.
One night, their uncle arrives to bring news that grandfather is ill. Their father must go see his family, bringing their mother with him. Before their parents depart, the sisters learn their parents can transform into animals and stay with me here, and they can too.
The oldest sister, Liba, can transform into a bear-like her father. The younger sister, Laya, like her mother, can turn into a swan. Each sister has a very distinct personality that is fitting to their animal type.
Fairy tales seem to be spring to life around Liba and Laya as they navigate their budding romantic urges and places in society.
Rossner does a beautiful job of weaving together Jewish history, Russian folklore, and Christina Rossetti’s Goblin Market. You can read more about her influences in the Author’s Notes, which I recommend you do. With these elements, Rossner builds a romantic mystery any fantasy reader will enjoy.
You flip from sister to sister, learning how they differ. Laya’s perspective is written in poetry and Liba’s in prose. I did not like this at first, but then I started listening to the audiobook, and it felt more natural. The story is rich with Russian folklore and Jewish culture. I did not find this overwhelming, but some readers might. Listening to the story made it easier to understand the Yiddish and tone of the characters. But overall, I do not think this is super distracting.
Should you read it?
Yes! The Sisters of the Winter Wood is an amazing, enchanting, one of a kind read. I do not know a better way to describe this story. If you enjoy fairy tale stories, YA, sibling tales, stories featuring the Jewish faith. You will enjoy The Sisters of The Winter Wood.
Have you read this book? Do you enjoy folklore/fairy tale inspired books?