Cora and her grandmother live in a house in the woods. The rule is clear: when the first snow falls, never let the light out, never let winter in. Winter, in this tale steeped in magic, folklore and literary references, takes the form of a selfish, lazy, cunning boy: Frindleswylde.
When the rule is broken, Cora must rescue Granny and the light from the frozen underworld that Frindleswylde calls his kingdom. Cora is a great character, full of empathy, determination and good ideas, but with every success, she changes, unwittingly losing sight of her objectives and, eventually, losing herself.
Young readers will bristle at Frindleswylde’s casually mean remarks and positively rage at his dastardly plans, while a well-read audience will enjoy catching echoes of Jack Frost, the Snow Queen, the White Witch, Persephone and even Alice and Peter Pan. Lauren O’Hara’s delicate art is stunning, all in chilly whites, greys, blues and blacks, with astute splashes of colour. It aims for a timelessness that perfectly suits Natalia O’Hara’s prose.
An adventure story with a poetic narrative paying great attention to phrasing and sonority, Frindleswylde is also a parable on the cycle of the seasons and the stages of childhood. Central to the work, too, is the temptation of retreat and apathy (Frindleswylde is a free spirit with no attachments and an unfeeling heart of ice) and the risk involved in living in the world, with all the pain and pleasure a beating heart can experience. Lots to unpack, lots to enjoy.