Matthew Sturges was a writer of comics who is now giving a shot at fantasy. Midwinter is the first novel in a series with a sequel confirmed, The Office of Shadow (cover art here).
I chose to pick-up this book without knowing the full extent of the story. In this was one of my problems since the world in which the story for Midwinter is set is a faerie land parallel to ours with portals between the two. Honestly, I don't like fantasy books linked to the real world but I will try to be as objective as I can while judging the book and expressing my feelings about it.
In Midwinter, we follow Mauritaine, the ex guard captain of her majesty Queen Titania. The fae was taken into custody after being accused of treason toward the crown. His service to the queen will be renewed when Purane-Es, his nemesis, comes to send him back on a mission. The captain will choose some companions, i.e. his former corporal, Raeve a representative from Avalon, Silverdun a fae lord and Satterly a human, and will have to make it to a far-away city within a limited timeframe without knowing why.
Mauritaine is the only characters that I connected with. And even then, at times I felt like Sturges was writing him too much as the perfect modest and noble captain. We don't know much about the other protagonists and at the end of the story, what happens to them is less significant. The love story that blossoms between Mauritaine and Raeve is not based on much and totally predictable. The rest of the cast could have been more "deepened" by the author.
The villains in the story are Pezho, an ambitious mage and Queen Mab. They simply incarnate evil without much purpose. Pezho has the start of an engaging back story but everything falls flat way too quickly in his storyline. The same thing can be said about all the prophecies taking part in the evolution of the tale. There's even a scene with a real "legendary" boogeyman that eventually reveals to be totally useless.
These deficiencies excluded, there's still some nice elements under the cover. The wolrdbuilding is not lacking with an interesting historical struggle between the two main fae factions and their leaders. The gods are involved and multiple religions are portrayed. However, magic is not explained in details so we have to assume that the fae people can just do it. The Midwinter theme with this long winter coming to an end is finely exploited, as are the "Shifting places", anomalies of space and time. Sturges writing is adequate and the pace well balanced.
Midwinter story doesn't feel as if it's really going somewhere for at least half the book. Then we are granted with a few stirring moments. If you like a fantasy book in which fae characters can drive a Pontiac LeMans through a forest trail, this is for you. As for myself, I don't think I will pick up the next book, I was not taken in enough even though the novel had his times.
For one of the first time in my listening history of audiobooks, I think that I may have enjoyed the book more if I had read it instead of listening to it. The narration by Kevin Pariseau is not very good. The same tone from start to finish... kind of boring.
Technically, I liked the cover (Pyr) by Chris McGrath, a bit gritty and really to the point for a fantasy cover. The paperback edition of the novel is 345 pages and the audiobook edition I listened to is 13 hours and 36 minutes.
Characterization............. 6.5 /10
Midwinter review score :
Midwinter review score :
World building............... 8 / 10
Magic system................. 5 / 10
Story.............................. 6 / 10
Writing........................... 7.5 / 10
Overall (not an average) 6.5 / 10
Matthew Sturges page