Thursday, 1 November 2012

Wolves in Winter - Lisa Hilton

I honestly don't even know where to start with this one. I was given it to read by my friend Lizzy who was doing work experience at its publisher at the time. She had just finished it and had liked it, although she had issues with it. I'll read pretty much anything, like historical fiction and thought the cover looked cool. I'd give it a go.

Wolves in Winter tells the story of a girl named Mura Benito. Born to a Nordic mother and a Spanish father in Toledo 1492, she has very interesting coloring and is seen as abnormal by the people of the town. When her father is taken in by the Inquisition, Mura's life of fending for herself and trying to find a place in the powerful political machinations of the day begins.

Mura (also known as Mora) is passed around from place to place. She's in the court of the Medici's, she's on the road with circus performers, she's a priceless slave for the Countess of Forli. In each place, things become difficult for Mura, she makes new friends and enemies and always counts on only herself for her own survival.

Is this book interesting? Yes. The plot jumps from place to place, in important parts of Italy's history. The only downside is that the back cover of the book gives away the plot for about two thirds of the novel. There aren't any real surprises because you already know where Mura's journey is going to take her. I was disappointed by that. 

Another thing that is a bit confusing is the writing style. For the most part, it is consistent and easy to follow. Even when there are "mystical" things happening, such as the visions Mura has at times, there isn't an issue with the writing style. It's when it comes to specifying things that may be important, such as some physical differences with Mura and other girls, that the author is incredibly vague, even though it is a very important plot point. It's very frustrating.

Overall, though, the main issue I have with the book is the author. The author just makes me uncomfortable. When you google her, the first result after her homepage is an article she wrote for The Guardian several years ago about her views on cheating. Although I try not to let my views on the author cloud my reading of the book (and I didn't find the article until after I had read it), I still found myself looking back at the book with a weird feeling in my gut. Although I did like parts of the book, I don't know if I could read another Hilton again.

If you like historical fiction or are curious about this time period, I would say give it a go. However, be prepared for really working to decipher what Hilton's trying to hint at in the story. Most of the time, it's rather important and will confuse the heck out of you if you don't figure it out in time.

Wolves in Winter comes out today (November 1, 2012) from Atlantic Books.

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