The Winter Road by Adrian Selby
The Winter Road is one of the strongest standalone fantasy novels I have ever read. It has all the depth of a fully fleshed out series in just one volume and it really does pack a hefty punch. I’m impressed with everything Selby has done here, and I shall certainly be reading anything else he may write in the future.
The cleverest device he wields is language because it reflects his characters and world perfectly. There are made up words, rough colloquialisms and harsh sounding dialogue. It sets the tone for the book as it brings his protagonist (Teyr Amondsen) to life. He has a real talent for it, for using language to reflect personality, and it’s quite impressive. I’ve seen it done before in fiction plenty of times, but never this well in a fantasy novel. It’s left a real distinct impression on me because I could hear the voice of Amondsen and I could see the world through her eyes. And for that reason alone, the book deserves high praise.
However, that is only one element of this finely crafted novel. Central to the workings of this world is a highly developed system of alchemy. Potions, poisons and brews change the outcome of a fight and have the potential to send a character into a blood-filled rage or an early death if they’re not mixed correctly. Fightbrews can allow the user to defeat twenty opponents and remain standing. Poison can debilitate and kill instantly. These are all concepts rarely explored in fantasy fiction because they are less flashy than magic, perhaps even less exciting, but this isn’t a flashy world: it’s pure Grimdark, so it has all the nastiness associated with that word.
“Nobody takes a brew for pure pleasure, no matter how strong it makes you feel, how it changes you. Helsen will stick to a strong dayer, he’s never done a brew, and without work it’ll kill you.”
Amondsen is not your typical protagonist. She’s a middle-aged warrior and her best days really are gone. Her man in quite weak physically. He is no warrior. And I know many readers will applaud the reversal of roles here, as it counters atypical representations of gender in such a setting. Aude needs protection because he can’t swing a sword or shoot a bow, so she’s got to watch his back constantly. She’s also got so much more shit to trudge through to reach her end game. She wants to build a road to connect all the outlying settlements in the circle thus boosting trade and improving the quality of life for its common folk. It’s a noble aim, and one that will also see a hefty pile of coin land in her purse. Khiese is the problem, a warlord who wants to dominate everything and become king. He’s ruthless and cunning, a terrible enemy to have for sure, and he doesn’t want Amondsen anywhere near the circle. What follows is a brutal plot that didn’t hold anything back.
This story grabbed me from the first page and completely hooked me until the last. The plot never stopped moving forward. It’s a brilliantly well-balanced story with an ending that was electric in all its dramatic intensity. Bravo Mr Selby!
Sean Barrs, 9.3/10
“He falls and I get down on his chest and my good hand seeks his face, shoving it into the earth to stop its writhing, drive my one good thumb through an eye far as it’ll go. A shout behind me, I twist to jump clear but the spear goes through me. Out my front it comes, clean out of my guts.”
Oh, my heart.
This is one of those books that I held to my chest while tears poured down my face once I had finished. It was such a beautifully brutal story. I was both emotionally exhausted and physically drained when I was done, as though I were knifed and had my guts spilled all over the floor. The Winter Road was the exact-right book at the exact-right moment for me. I was left completely and utterly smitten!
The story takes place primarily set against the backdrop of a savage forest, known as The Circle, which spans a thousand miles. It focuses on the irrepressible clan wars that take part throughout this wilderness, which one woman wants to overcome. Teyr Amondsen, a former mercenary, is on a mission to lead a rag-tag crew of mercenaries in a merchant caravan across these dense forests. She wants to build roads and other outposts, which will aid in uniting them all and producing a more prosperous land.
The Winter Road was one of my most anticipated reads of the year and I have to say that I was astonished by this story. It’s a masterful work of art! Adrian Selby has written a fully-realized standalone saga that is crackling with energy.
Much like life, it was achingly bittersweet.
“There’s a stillness only snow makes with the air, brings a hush. It falls on the trees above me.”
Teyr is one of the most remarkable characters I’ve ever read. These are the type of characters that matter that will leave a lasting impact on a readers soul. Within a few pages into the narrative, I knew that she was going to become one of my favourite characters ever! She’s this gloriously flawed badass with a big heart. Well-rounded, passionate, intelligent, ambitious, broken, hopeful. She has faced incredible obstacles throughout her life and she has made mistakes. She is just, well, she’s everything I adore in a character and more. I love her so freaking much!
The Winter Road is a luminous tale. Vivid and powerful, gritty and emotional. It’s astounding that this is only Selby’s second novel. The world he has created within a thousand miles of claustrophobic forest is vast and immersive.
Truly, this book is made of magic.
(Massive thanks to Orbit Books for sending me a copy in advance to flail over!)
The review was originally posted here on The Grimdragon when The Winter Road was released on November 13th 2018.
Holly Grimdragon, 9.3/10
Have you read The Winter Road?
We've found that while readers like to know what we think of a book they find additional reader reviews a massive help in deciding if it is the right book for them. So if you have a spare moment, please tell us your thoughts by writing a reader's review. Thank you.
The Winter Road reader reviews
9.3/10 from 1 reviews
There are currently no reader reviews for this book. Why not be the first?
Write a reader review
Thank you for taking the time to write a review on this book, it really makes a difference and helps readers to find their perfect book.
More recommended reading in this genre
A Tale of the Malazan Book of the Fallen
Bled dry by interminable warfare, infighting and bloody confrontations with Lord Anomander Rake and his Tiste Andii, the vast, sprawling Malazan empire simmers with discont...
Chronicles of the Black Company
Darkness wars with darkness as the hard-bitten men of the Black Company take their pay and do what they must. They bury their doubts with their dead. Then comes the prophec...
On the world of Kuf, the Macht are a mystery, a seldom-seen people of extraordinary ferocity and discipline whose prowess on the battlefield is the stuff of legend. For cen...
Shadow Ops series
Army Officer. Fugitive. Sorcerer. Across the country and in every nation, people are waking up with magical talents. Untrained and panicked, they summon storms, raise the d...
The Great Reawakening has left Latent people with a stark choice: either use their newfound magical powers in the service of the government, or choose the path of the Selfe...
The Divine Cities Trilogy
Robert Jackson Bennett
A special omnibus edition, collecting all three books of Robert Jackson Bennett’s acclaimed Divine Cities trilogy in a single volume. &nbs...
The Rigante Novels
Born in the storm that doomed his father, Connavar grows to manhood among the mist-covered mountains of Caer Druagh, where the Rigante tribe dwell in harmony with the land ...
The First Law
Inquisitor Glokta, a crippled and increasingly bitter relic of the last war, former fencing champion turned torturer extraordinaire, is trapped in a twisted and broken body...
The Ascendants of Estorea
The Estorean Conquord has stood for 850 years. Its Advocate, Herine Del Aglios, knows that she presides over the greatest civilisation in history. But she wants more. And i...
Great fantasy books published in 2018
"A bold and subversive retelling of the goddess's story," this #1 New York Times bestseller is "both epic and intimate in its scop...
Age of War
Michael J Sullivan
The alliance of humans and renegade Fhrey is fragile - and about to be tested as never before. Persephone keeps the human clans from turning on one another through her iron...
Legion: Lies of the Beholder
Stephen Leeds, also known as 'Legion', has a unique mental condition. He can become an expert on any subject in hours... and with every new area of expertise a new ...
A Veil of Spears
The Night of Endless Swords nearly saw the destruction of Sharakhai, and since then the Kings have come down hard on the rebelloious Moonless Host. Hundreds have been murde...
The Ember Blade
A land under occupation. A legendary sword. A young man’s journey to find his destiny.Aren has lived by the rules all his life. He’s never questione...
Fire and Blood
George RR Martin
From the masterly imagination behind A Game of Thrones - one of the greatest fantasy epics of all time and an unmissable HBO hit series - comes a definitive history of West...
In Mystic Class Nona Grey begins to learn the secrets of the universe. But so often even the deepest truths just make our choices harder. Before she leaves the Convent of S...
Iron and Magic
Hugh d’Ambray, Preceptor of the Iron Dogs, Warlord of the Builder of Towers, served only one man. Now his immortal, nearly omnipotent master has cast him aside. Hugh ...
The Fall of Gondolin
In the Tale of The Fall of Gondolin are two of the greatest powers in the world. There is Morgoth of the uttermost evil, unseen in this story but ruling over a vast militar...
Looking for more suggestions? Try these pages: