It's the year 1800 and England has a firm handle on magic. Anyone with magical abilities is supposed to register with the Mysterium. Anyone who doesn't register will be punished - most likely hanged. Rossalinde Tremayne never registered herself but she's managed to evade the Mysterium by spending much of her time at sea. In truth, she's never been comfortable with her magical abilities and prefers the life of a privateer anyway. Taking on the guise of her late husband, Ross wreaks havoc on the high seas under the banner of King George himself. But when her mother passes away, all of that changes.
Ross has never been close to her mother. Their relationship turned cold the minute her mother realized that Ross had magic in her veins. So it's strange to find that her mother has been holding onto a magical heirloom passed down through generations of her family. Ross never knew anything about her mother's family, certainly nothing that would suggest magic, but the legacy is apparently hers to deal with. But it's a legacy Ross wants no part of, especially when the King's agents begin snapping at her heels!
Pirates, magic, and fae in nineteenth-century England. Yes, please! Winterwood marks the start of Jacey Bedford's new Rowankind series and it's a series I can't wait for more of!
Having said that, I should probably admit that it took me a while to really get into Winterwood. It begins with Ross's reunion with her mother and launches into the action very quickly. But the world itself takes a little longer to develop.
We know that folks in England employ Rowankind as servants. (Employ is a stretch as most folks don't actually pay the Rowankind.) But it's unclear to the reader exactly what makes the Rowankind different. The varying magical abilities and the Mysterium itself also take some time to become really clear to the reader. None of that was much of a deterrent to me overall because once Ross was really off on her journey to find out more about her family and the box, the book picked up significantly for me and I was able to set aside any lingering questions I had about the world we were diving into.
Patience pays off big time here because it turns out that a lot of those more detailed world building elements are actually key to the overall plot. It helps, too, that Ross herself has little knowledge of the overall workings of magic thanks to her continued efforts to ignore her powers but for the occasional weather change to help her ship.
Ross is a smart and capable leading lady. Of course thanks to the time she lives in, and the story does stay quite true to the history of that time, she's not expected to do much more than be a wife. Which she is, but she's also captain of her own ship too. In disguise. Oh, and her dead husband is still by her side.
Ross's own family history is quite fabulous and I ADORED the blend of British folklore and history. As mentioned above there are the fae, there's also the Green Man and his lady, and Queen Elizabeth's spymaster, Walsingham, plays a significant role in the story as well. See - blending folklore and history :) All in all Winterwood is a fantastic read and one I definitely recommend to fantasy readers who like a dash of history in their stories.
So far there is just one follow up title due out in this series, which we won't see out on shelves until next January. Winterwood does work quite well as a standalone, though, so while it will be a welcome return to the world and the characters there's not really a crazy cliffhanger waiting to be resolved. (Whew!)