If you’re looking for a book to snuggle up with on a chilly afternoon, here are some of my favourites . . .
Winter Rose by Patricia McKillip
Winter Rose is a retelling of the Tam Lin story, characterised by McKillip’s famous lyrical prose and gorgeous description. It’s set in an unknown place and time which not only gives it a mythic, ageless feel, but draws you into a world of sons murdering fathers, roses blooming in snow, and the harsh realities of winter in a farming community. The characters are beautifully drawn, especially the protagonist Rois’s relationship with her sister. Apple and blackberry wine features heavily along with lavish descriptions of home-cooked food, so it’s the perfect book to curl up in a warm place with and disappear for hours. I read it every year.
Wintersmith by Terry Pratchett
No wintry book list would be complete without a Pratchett and though I’ve chosen Wintersmith, I urge you to give Hogfather a try too. There’s something magical about this story where teen witch Tiffany Aching manages to attract the amorous attention of the spirit of winter, whose own crusade to discover what makes a man is humorous as well as heartbreaking. Wintersmith is about balance: between the seasons, the elements and – in Tiffany’s case – between heart and head. It’s told in Pratchett’s inimitable comic voice, which also seems to say some very serious things about pulling together in times of adversity. Throw in a generous helping of Nanny Ogg and you’re all set.
The Dark is Rising by Susan Cooper
I am a late-comer to Cooper’s amazing series, which I wish I’d discovered when I was twelve. This is the second book and reads fine as a standalone. It begins with Will and his family preparing for Christmas. I guarantee Cooper’s portrait of a winter English countryside will have you reaching for a snuggly jumper. It’s not all festive cheer, however, because Will soon meets the sinister Black Rider and his life changes forever.
A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens
You’ve got to have a good bit of Dickens at Christmas and what better than this classic tale of a miser discovering the spirit of generosity? We’re half in, half outside the realm of fantasy when one night the ghost of Jacob Marley pays a visit to Scrooge and warns him that unless he changes his ways, he’ll be doomed to carry the chains of his greed and cruelty for all eternity. A timeless wintry fable and especially apt in an era where Christmas is in danger of being characterised by consumerism and excess.
The Winter Knights by Paul Stewart and Chris Riddell
If you haven’t read The Edge Chronicles then you’re in for a treat. Gorgeously illustrated by Riddell, these stories unfold in the world of The Edge, where you’ll encounter banderbears, sky pirates, knights academic, cloddertrogs and cloudeaters to name but a few marvellous creations. The Winter Knights is the second part of Quint’s Saga and takes place in the floating city of Sanctaphrax, currently beset by a never-ending winter. This is even more perilous than it sounds, for when the buoyant rock upon which Sanctaphrax is built becomes too cold, it will break its chains and be lost to open sky. Mired in a world of rivalries and petty politics, only Quint, knight-academic-in-training and his friends have any chance of saving the city by discovering the truth behind the terrible winter and bringing it to an end.
It’s the best feeling being indoors when it’s freezing out, and reading away those long dark winter afternoons. What are your favourite seasonal stories? Tell me on Twitter or in the comments below!
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Lucy's the author of two outstanding novels set in the Worldmaker Universe, featuring lost powers, ancient evil and a young woman on a desperate quest to right wrongs and save her world.
Starborn, the first of the trilogy, is out now in hardback and digital, and will be released in paperback in January 2016: click the cover for an exclusive extract.
Its sequel, Heartland, will be out June 2016 - stay tuned for a cover reveal coming soon on the blog!
'Has all the elements to become a modern classic of the genre' Independent on Sunday