Book Review: A WINTER’S PROMISE by Christelle Dabos

This is a French book, translated by Hildegarde Serle.

Genre: Fantasy
Age Range: YA
Star Rating: 1.5 stars
Series: Yes - first book


a winter's promiseLong ago, following a cataclysm called “The Rupture,” the world was shattered into many floating celestial islands. Known now as Arks, each has developed in distinct ways; each seems to possess its own unique relationship to time, such that nowadays vastly different worlds exist, together but apart. And over all of the Arks the spirit of an omnipotent ancestor abides. 

Ophelia lives on Anima, an ark where objects have souls. Beneath her worn scarf and thick glasses, the young girl hides the ability to read and communicate with the souls of objects, and the power to travel through mirrors. Her peaceful existence on the Ark of Anima is disrupted when she is promised in marriage to Thorn, from the powerful Dragon clan. Ophelia must leave her family and follow her fiancée to the floating capital on the distant Ark of the Pole. Why has she been chosen? Why must she hide her true identity? Though she doesn’t know it yet, she has become a pawn in a deadly plot.

Synopsis taken from Goodreads. Add to your shelves here.


I picked this book up because the cover caught my eye and the concept of a main character reading objects was intriguing, not to mention the floating cities. I was sorely disappointed.

The concept is lost very quickly in the sluggish story. It’s so slow, to the point of no plot. Nothing seemed to happened, but when it felt like there was a plot point happening, I was simply confused. I considered DNF’ing the book at halfway, but decided to push on because I was clinging to hope.

There’s so little actual reading of objects, and it apparently is part of the plot (the reason she’s engaged) but it barely comes up. The magic system is confusing and underdeveloped. Some people have abilities that are all nasty to serve the plot?

Orphelia is so passive. She just floats through the world watching and has no bearing on what happens. If you’d swapped her out for a chair, the plot would have been the same. She’s shoved around and manipulated. At the end she voices displeasure at this, but goes along with it. There’s also no emotional reaction from her what so ever. She observes, without an opinion and no feelings.

The blurb mentioned her betrothal, and I was worried that they’d all fall in love for no reason. However, they all seemed quite happy to ignore each other until maybe 70%. But then Thorn said he liked her company despite spending five minutes with her and never talking? Suddenly this was taken as a declaration of love? Orphelia didn’t like that, and does tell him much later, but it was still so frustrating.

The world came across as depressingly sexist. Women have only ‘womanly’ influence – they’re scheming, nasty wives or waiting to be married (the exception is a mechanic). The men hold all the power and one takes pleasure in luring women into his bed. For reference, this book was published in 2015. Shouldn’t we be past this? Particularly from female authors.

The one place the book excels is the lyrical writing – so hats off to the translator for that.


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