In an isolated settlement where only a handful of people live with little to no knowledge of the world outside their delicate fence of twigs, there's a girl named Emmeline who is constantly looked down upon by the community. The way the place works is, when one turns sixteen, they end up betrothed to another, which is important so babies can be born and the small population will never die out.
Emmeline's grandma'am Clara was a woman who fell in love with a man already partnered up with. Ever since she was shamed out of the village, people see the last of her family; Emmeline and her Pa, as Waywards, or Stained. Someone outside of the norm. People have treated them like they once got convicted for stealing someone's sack. As a result, one time she was bullied and her left leg broke and ever since she's had to walk with a pain in that leg. Emmeline's about to turn 16, and it's at a time where La Prise is coming: Winter, and all its frigid punches. One day she thinks she sees someone in the woods outside the fence, and, convinced it might be someone or something from legend: another place humans are living, she goes after it, and discovers a mysterious trail. Then Brother Stockham, one of the settlement leaders, asks for her hand, and Pa is overjoyed: this would mean being cleansed of their stain. But she saw Brother Stockham doing something mysterious and she's running out of time to find all the details.
The blurb will tell you about a disease that wiped out most of the population, but this isn't another 5th Wave kind of book. Honestly, after reading and loving Witchlanders and Stealing Snow and now this, it's kind of safe to say I like books that take place in the wintertime, especially ones featuring 19th-century-atmospheric villages. Everyone leads a life full-time in supporting those around them and when something goes wrong, most of the time the village is by everyone's side. And when things go wrong it's even more entertaining.
I really related to Emmeline and her sense of adventure despite her obstacles; a town that sees leaving the Crossroads as a crime and the beliefs of what's out there. I've always felt an excitement in breaking rules and traveling through places I've never explored before, especially places that might have a 40-year-old deer trap laying and set. And Emmeline's life is, while not on the line, about to be entirely changed without any of her say. Have you ever been to a place where they say you are absolutely not allowed past the door? Yet every fibre of your being wants to know for the sake of knowing? Winterkill understands you on that note. Her adventures even reminded me of a novel I have finished but stashed away, about a boy trying to break into a kitchen to steal some goodies.
There are also not one but two storyline flavours that are just perfect for me. No wonder Kate A. Boorman and I both live in Canada. One thing is some of the characters speak french, especially Frere (Brother) Andre, an elder and friend of Emmeline who always brought fun dialogue to read, especially when trying to speak English. Reading about the second language I spent my entire youth around was refreshing and made me want to repractice it. The second thing involves Emmeline's best friend Tom, who's also a Wayward but in secret. Remember how I said having kids is the most important part of this community? Well, Tom's a ginup: A First People's word for two-spirited: likes the same gender, and here, there's a chance he'd be drowned in the Cleansing Waters or sent to the Crossroads; the place no one returns from alive. Tom is also not as brave as his best friend, which leads to arguments the two have, and thanks to this extra detail, their conversations have a gravity where I felt the things on the line in my gut.
If you're looking for a book that celebrates humanity and hard work, and is interesting because of character conflicts instead of complete evil villains, and yet still has those lurking on the side, Winterkill's a safe and fun bet that might even make you in the mood to go out in the snow. This coming from someone posting in the beginning of June.