Tuesday, February 2, 2016

Answering review request: Winterreise - An Urban Fairy Tale

Daphne Du Bois asked me to read her novel "Winterreise:An urban fairytale ". This is the second book in the The Annwn Cycle . I will examine plot, character, and polish and then assign a grade.

I had previously reviewed another work from this author, "From Fairies and Creatures of the Night, Guard Me" and rated it highly, so I have been looking forward to reading "Winterreise". In fact, the first chapter of the later is one of the stories in the former’s anthology, and this increased my anticipation. You can read its review here.


First of all, yes, this is the same "Winterreise" from the composer Franz Scmubert. The protagonist of this story is Penny and she is a music student in college who is both writing a paper on it and also performing it. That’s why she is far too busy for epic quests through the supernatural Hinderlands, but the Erlking has other plans for her.

What follows is, in one view, a fairly standard adventure: heroine ventures into the Unknown World, meets a Mysterious Waif, and becomes emotionally committed to saving her from the dreadful fate imposed on her from uncaring gods and evil cults. However, one of the great things about this book is how different/strange/unusual a story Miss Du Bois can spin from these building blocks. The climax is especially intriguing and compelling in both how it adheres to the tradition of such stories while simultaneously being very different.

It also has a mystery element to it; Penny has to unravel the nature and history of her new friend's curse in order to save her. Additionally, she has to find out the identity of the person behind all this nasty business and how to stop them.

It’s like a double consciousness. On one hand, the world is literally run on genre conventions. Numerous characters will talk about how "x is the way things have always been done" and the importance of stories and lore. Penny refers to this as "Hinderland logic". On the other hand, there is a sense of real life and common sense; ignoring the genre conventions in place of something more practical. The most effective way to get anything done is to keep both in mind.

The story is peppered with little references to old stories like the Norse Sagas and Arthurian Lore, and also later stories like the King in Yellow. There is nothing "contemporary" which I like and feel is a good choice. It will prevent the work from becoming, as we say on Tvtropes "an unintentional period piece". In other words, dated.

It has a great ending; a fulfilling ending but I still want to see more. The conflict is closed but it was such a fun story I wanted to see more of the aftermath.


Penny is the protagonist and the story's heroine. I called her an Unfazed Everyman back in the review for "From Fairies" and now I get to see more of her personality. Due to the epic scope of this story, Penny can show the heroic traits that didn't have an opportunity to shine in the more light-hearted fare of the anthology. She is both brave and compassionate. Altogether, you get scenes where she will say something like "I don't care if you're a god, you're not trapping someone in an ice coffin," or "I drink too much coffee for your magic sleeping flowers to affect me". I imagine all of it this is said in a dry, deadpan, tone.

The Erlking is the quest giver here. Penny figured as much and is frustrated that he gave her one without her noticing. I find him a delightful character. He's like a trickster figure with his Fair Folk mentality, manipulations, and cryptic dialogue but he has much more dignity than someone like, say, Loki, who is also in this story. His conversations with Penny are fun to read in this regard. It's hard to tell what his motivations are which makes for a slippery character.

Penny's new friend, whose Identity I will not reveal because it is part of the mystery, is quite the Woobie. It is no surprise Penny felt such a need to help her; she is so lost and lonely and tragic. At the same time, she is not some wall flower that could be replaced with a statue. Her speeches about her oath, her former profession, and her memories are vital to the plot. She also does something awesome at a crucial moment.

There are other characters that I like in this story but to list all of them would make this review too long. Even those with smaller roles and less screentime are memorable.


I found three spelling errors; just three. They shouldn't be there but it's not enough to affect the grade. Otherwise, it looks great.

Trickster Eric Novels gives "Winterreise: An urban fairytale " an A+

This has been a free review request. I received nothing in exchange except a free copy of the book.

Click here for the next book review (not a review request): Identity Wars

Click here for the previous review request: Rebel Trap

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