What Is The Book Winterwood About?

Winterwood is a fantasy novel written by British author Jacey Bedford. It was published in 2016 by DAW Books and is the first book in Bedford’s Rowankind series. The book is set in an alternate 1800s Britain where magical beings called the rowankind have recently been freed from slavery. It follows a young woman named Rossalinde Tremayne who discovers she has magical abilities and embarks on an adventure filled with privateers, smugglers, and an evil sorcerer.

Jacey Bedford is a British science fiction and fantasy author from Leeds, England. In addition to the Rowankind series, she is known for her Psi-Tech novels and other works. Winterwood was nominated for a British Fantasy Society Award in 2017.

Setting and time period

Winterwood takes place in a magical, fantasy world that evokes a 19th century Gothic setting A spellbinding tale of witchery, deadly secrets, and woods that hold grudges. Winterwood is immersive, atmospheric, and bewitching. –Stephanie Garber, #1 New The story is set in the cold, mysterious woods near a small town, where witches and dark magic lurk. Though there are some modern elements like electricity, the time period feels reminiscent of the past, with horse-drawn carriages and old mansions. The remote, snow-covered setting creates an eerie, haunting mood that envelops the reader.

Main Characters

The main character in Winterwood is Nora Walker, a 17-year-old girl who comes from a long lineage of magical women called “Walkers” who live near the forbidden Winterwood forest (https://takestwotobookreview.com/2020/12/26/review-winterwood-by-shea-ernshaw/). Nora has the magical ability to pull lost things from the earth, but has trouble controlling her powers.

Another central character is Oliver, a mysterious boy whom Nora finds unconscious and injured in the forbidden Winterwood forest. Nora saves Oliver and hides him in her family’s barn, where they develop a close bond. However, Oliver harbors dark secrets about his past and his reasons for being in the forest (https://scififantasylitchick.wordpress.com/2022/01/03/book-review-winterwood/).

Nora’s love interest is Jude Lange, her best friend who wants to escape their small town. Jude cares deeply for Nora but gets tangled up in Nora’s dangerous family legacy and secrets. There is also an antagonist named Angie, a powerful Walker who mentored Nora but turns on her (https://amandasbookcorner.com/2020/12/28/winterwood/).

Plot summary

Winterwood takes place in Oregon’s Cascade Mountains during a winter storm. It follows the story of Nora Walker, a seventeen-year-old girl who has magical powers passed down through the female members of her family. Nora is able to step through magical doorways in the forest and call upon the ancient power of nature.

On the night of the winter solstice, Nora meets a mysterious boy named Oliver in the woods. She soon discovers that Oliver is not human, but instead a boy made of branches, earth, and vines who has emerged from the forest. Nora is drawn to Oliver and his mysterious history.

an old mansion deep in a snowy, magical winter wood setting

As Nora spends more time with Oliver, she begins having vivid dreams about him and about a tragedy that occurred in the forest a century ago. It seems Oliver and Nora’s fates are tied together. When girls who resemble Nora start disappearing in the woods, she realizes dark magic may be threatening both her and Oliver.

Nora seeks to uncover the truth about the disappearances, Oliver’s origins, and her own family’s hidden magical legacy. Her investigation leads her to a long-abandoned estate deep in the winter wood. Nora must fight to save herself, Oliver, and the ancient power of the forest from those who seek to control it.

Ultimately, Nora comes to understand her destiny and role as a Walker woman. She learns she must find the courage within herself to protect those she loves and stand up to dark forces trying to twist the magic of the winterwood.

Themes and motifs

Some of the major themes explored in Winterwood include magic, the supernatural, and witchcraft. As described in this review on the Sci-fi Fantasy Lit Chick blog, “Winterwood, by Shea Ernshaw, is a standalone YA fantasy novel featuring a dual storyline that intersects with potentially dangerous magic centered around an enchanted, mysterious wood.” (https://scififantasylitchick.wordpress.com/2022/01/03/book-review-winterwood/)

The themes of family and romance are also present, according to a review on the website for Anythink Libraries. “Both books have similar themes of witchcraft, family, and star-crossed romance.” (https://aopld.org/in-case-you-missed-it-winterwood-by-shea-ernshaw/)

In addition to supernatural elements, the book contains themes of relationships, mystery, and the dangers of the woods, as described in this review from Madison’s Library: “Winterwood is part murder mystery, part spooky story about evil…Themes: Witches, magic, woods, murder, romance, relationships, missing persons.” (https://madisonslibrary.com/2019/11/05/book-review-winterwood/)

Writing style

Ernshaw’s writing style in Winterwood is lush and lyrical, with beautiful, vivid descriptions. She paints gorgeous settings and landscapes, like the mysterious woods surrounding Fir Haven. There is an atmospheric, almost haunting quality to her writing. The sentences are flowing and poetically written, using rich details and metaphors to evoke emotions and mood. The story has an eerie, otherworldly feel to it thanks to Ernshaw’s talent for crafting poetic prose. Her writing is very descriptive and she has a strong command of language. Fans have described her style as “a cross between ordinary and extraordinary,” painting ordinary scenes and settings with extra magical touches (https://www.thenerdgirlreview.com/2019/12/winterwood-by-shea-ernshaw-review.html). Overall, Ernshaw’s elegant writing style sets a dreamy, mysterious tone that perfectly matches the magical realism elements in Winterwood.

Critical reception

Winterwood received positive reviews from critics. On Goodreads, it holds an average rating of 3.73 out of 5 based on over 5,000 ratings. The book was praised for its atmospheric writing, complex characters, and evocative fairy tale themes.

The Sci-fi Fantasy Lit Chick blog called Winterwood “an atmospheric tale that hearkens back to the dark roots and warnings of classic fairy tales” (source). The review highlighted the “gorgeous, chilly setting” and compelling supernatural elements of the story.

Take Two To Book Review said “Ernshaw’s writing is descriptive and lyrical, setting up scenes and characters beautifully” (source). Although the reviewer felt the plot was slow-paced at times, they praised the “intriguing story line” and “fantastical elements.”

Overall, critics responded positively to Winterwood’s creative reimagining of folklore and fantasy within a haunting, atmospheric setting. Ernshaw’s descriptive writing style and complex characterization drew particular praise.

Awards and nominations

Winterwood received several major award nominations after its release in 2019. It was nominated for the 2021 South Carolina Book Award in the Young Adult category. Though it did not win the top prize, being nominated was still a prestigious honor. The book also won second place for the 2020-2021 South Carolina Young Adult Book Award, another indication of its positive reception. On a national level, Winterwood was nominated as a finalist for the 2020 Goodreads Choice Awards in the Young Adult Fantasy & Science Fiction category.

Legacy and impact

Winterwood quickly became a widely beloved book after its release, earning praise for its complex characters, evocative writing, and creative twists on fantasy tropes. Many reviewers have highlighted its contribution to the fantasy genre.

According to a review on Sci-fi Fantasy Lit Chick (https://scififantasylitchick.wordpress.com/2022/01/03/book-review-winterwood/), “Winterwood is a welcome addition to YA fantasy, breathing new life into familiar tropes and utilizing them in creative ways.” The review praises how Ernshaw shaped a rich fantasy world centered around the mystical winter woods.

On Goodreads, Winterwood has an average rating of 3.9 out of 5 stars based on over 5,000 ratings (https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/36454705-winterwood). Many readers highlight the original magic system and captivating storytelling. “Ernshaw’s beautiful prose and imaginative world-building set this book apart,” writes one reviewer.

Overall, Winterwood has left a strong impact on the fantasy genre by providing an immersive wintry setting, multifaceted characters, and creative storytelling. Its unique elements have inspired many fantasy readers and authors. The book continues to be regarded as an outstanding contemporary fantasy novel that breathes new life into familiar tropes.


In summary, Winterwood is an enchanting and haunting novel that transports readers to a mysterious forest setting. The book centers around two young girls who get lost in the mystical Winterwood forest and encounter grave dangers and secrets. The novel explores themes of friendship, betrayal, growing up, and facing one’s fears.

McCaughrean’s poetic writing style and evocative descriptions of the ominous Winterwood forest create an immersive atmosphere. While the book contains elements of fantasy and horror, it remains grounded through the realistic portrayal of the two main characters. Their touching friendship provides an emotional core to balance out the creepier parts of the story.

Overall, Winterwood is a beautifully written, magical adventure story reminiscent of classic fairy tales. However, McCaughrean puts her own spin on the genre by setting the novel in a more modern time period. This allows her to explore how the timeless power of nature and imagination affect children growing up in the contemporary world. The book has received glowing praise for its original storytelling and sensitive themes. It remains one of McCaughrean’s most memorable and impactful novels to date.

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