Winter Song by Colin Harvey

The planet had fallen off the map. When Karl Allman’s spaceship crashed, he had only one question: “HOW THE HELL DO I GET OUT OF HERE?”

Rock-hard sci-fi adventure. No-one here gets out alive.
Winter Song is another title in the strong list Angry Robot Books has released since it’s inception earlier this year. The new imprint has had good reviews for its titles and when I saw this one coming up for an October release I was very interested – any sci-fi set in a future where humanity has expanded across the galaxy is something I want to hear more about. Winter Song was not quite what I expected, but it delivered an entertaining read in an unforgiving environment.

winter-songFollowing Karl Allman as he crash lands on a forgotten and primitive colony world where the terraforming looks like it’s going backwards, Winter Song is a novel that has more than a few surprises up its sleeve. I was expecting to walk into this with a more typical human vs alien world theme where there were many strange and wonderful creatures. What I got was a story focused on human characters that developed and grew with each situation they face.

Isheimur is a cold planet whose colony was set up with Icelandic heritage, and with strong willed characters in the leadership roles within the village, Karl finds himself in a difficult and frustrating situation. Ragnar, the village leader, believes in a harsh rule. He is not an unfair person, but with stores low and an extra pair of hands needed, he forces Karl to stay and help the village. Bera, a young woman in the village, is unpopular due to an unwed pregnancy. What is worse is the fact that she won’t reveal the father to Ragnar. For this she is treated with little courtesy and often outright scorn. So when Karl arrives, half starved and in need of help, Bera is tasked with his treatment, leading to a friendship and quest to find the mysterious Winter Song, a relic of a long forgotten seed ship.

Winter Song is very much a look at what a culture will revert to if needed. It gives a very in depth look at the relationships between the main characters, the control a leader such as Ragnar has over his village and how a new and completely different personality fits into an established way of life. I very much enjoyed the character building in Winter Song and though that Colin Harvey did a great job at making the characters relatable and interesting, allowing the story to be carried on their shoulders quite easily and showing that communication can be very important.

Winter Song has some surprising and compelling twists, turns and events. From the start where we see a fully fledged sci-fi starship crash through to the unforgiving environment of Isheimur, Colin Harvey gives the reader a good, solid story. His characters are enjoyable to read, the setting is interesting in its own right and raises many questions, and the story is well developed and told in such a way that you want to read on, the pages turning all too easily. Whether or not we will return to this universe is another question – the ending certainly leaves the option available, although I happy it finished as it did.

If you enjoy a character driven, intelligent and thoughtful novel then Winter Song is one you should be picking up. Highly recommended.

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