Cover image for The sisters of the winter wood
The sisters of the winter wood
Rossner, Rena, author.
Personal Author:
First edition.
Publication Information:
New York, NY : Redhook, 2018.
Physical Description:
450 pages ; 25 cm
A tale inspired by Jewish mythology is set in a woodland village on the border of Moldova and Ukraine and follows the experiences of two sheltered sisters who uncover a secret magical heritage.
General Note:
"Simultaneously published in Great Britain and in the U.S. by Orbit in 2018"--Copyright page.
Format :


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FICTION Adult Fiction On Display
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Captivating and boldly imaginative, with a tale of sisterhood at its heart, Rena Rossner's debut fantasy invites you to enter a world filled with magic, folklore, and the dangers of the woods.
"With luscious and hypnotic prose, Rena Rossner tells a gripping, powerful story of family, sisterhood, and two young women trying to find their way in the world." --Madeline Miller, author of The Song of Achilles and Circe
In a remote village surrounded by vast forests on the border of Moldova and Ukraine, sisters Liba and Laya have been raised on the honeyed scent of their Mami's babka and the low rumble of their Tati's prayers. But when a troupe of mysterious men arrives, Laya falls under their spell - despite their mother's warning to be wary of strangers. And this is not the only danger lurking in the woods.
As dark forces close in on their village, Liba and Laya discover a family secret passed down through generations. Faced with a magical heritage they never knew existed, the sisters realize the old fairy tales are true...and could save them all.
Praise for The Sisters of the Winter Wood :
Publishers Weekly: Best Book of 2018: SF/Fantasy/Horror BookPage: Best Book of 2018: Science Fiction & Fantasy
"Intricately crafted, gorgeously rendered...full of heart, history, and enchantment." -- Publishers Weekly (starred review)
"A richly detailed story of Jewish identity and sisterhood... emotionally charged, full of sharp historical detail and well-deployed Yiddish phrases...Ambitious and surprising." -- Kirkus

Author Notes

Rena Rossner lives in Israel, where she works as a literary agent. All eight of her great grandparents immigrated to America to escape the pogroms, from towns like Dubossary and Kupel. It is their story, together with her love of Jewish mythology and fantasy, which inspired her to write The Sisters of the Winter Wood.

Reviews 3

Booklist Review

Rossner's debut is the fantastical coming-of-age story of two sisters, combining historical events, religious strife, and Russian folklore. Alternating chapters of regular prose and ballad-like stanzas emphasize the difference between two loving daughters, products of an unusual, mystical union between two shape-shifters a Jewish bear and a gentile swan. Liba is a pious, dutiful daughter, dark, plump, and studious like her father. Laya is like her mother, blonde, svelte, and always wishing to see more of the world. Each is more like her favored parent than they know. When their parents must make an unexpected and possibly dangerous trip, the girls are left behind for safety. This freedom allows them to meet young men their own age, and each develops a romantic relationship, but not without misgivings. Liba suspects Laya's young man is behind the villagers' growing anti-Jewish dissent and possibly much worse. First-love conflicts, fear, and prejudice may trigger transformations neither Liba nor Laya will be able to control. Offer to fans of Naomi Novik's Spinning Silver (2018) and Katherine Arden's The Bear and the Nightingale (2017).--Lucy Lockley Copyright 2018 Booklist

Publisher's Weekly Review

Rossner's intricately crafted, gorgeously rendered debut alternates perspectives between teenage sisters Liba and Laya Leib, who narrate in prose and verse, respectively. They are left to fend for themselves in the mysterious woods that border the town of Dubossary while their parents are away on urgent business. Before their parents leave, the sisters learn the family secret: their father can transform into a bear, a gift Liba will inherit, and their mother into a swan, as Laya will. The pair disagree on how to enjoy their newfound independence: where Laya longs for freedom, Liba craves stability, worrying constantly for her younger sister's safety. People are going missing from the town, there are rumors of a bear in the woods, and anti-Semitic sentiment is on the rise. All of these strange occurrences coincide with the arrival of the Hovlins, a seductive band of fruit-peddling brothers whose otherworldly appeal Laya cannot resist. To save her sister and her people, Liba must learn to accept her bear-like nature. Drawing on true events, folklore, and Christina Rosetti's classic The Goblin Market, Rossner's fairy tale is creepy and moving by turn, full of heart, history, and enchantment. Agent: Brent Taylor, Triada US Literary. (Sept.) © Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.

School Library Journal Review

This lyrical fairy tale of two sisters in a small village in Ukraine is a book to be savored rather than devoured. Liba and Laya have known only life in their small village, but when men summon their father back to his homeland, before leaving, their mother knows it's time to tell them the truth: their father can change into a bear and their mother into a swan, and each of the daughters will soon be able to transform as well. With their mother's warning to look out for each other ringing in their ears, the sisters bid their parents farewell and attempt to get by in their absence. But trouble is brewing in the village. Girls are disappearing, and people are blaming the Jews. Soon Liba and Laya are fearing for their lives and trying to decide how long they can keep their transformations secret. Alternating between Liba's and Laya's perspectives, this compelling debut novel is filled with Yiddish and Ukrainian words. The slow pace, rich character development, and descriptions of village life and the surrounding forest bring the fantasy atmosphere to life. This narrative makes its gradual, stately march towards the climax, with occasional action scenes sprinkled along the way. VERDICT A first purchase where Leigh Bardugo's Shadow and Bone and Gregory Maguire's Egg and Spoon are popular.-Jenni Frencham, formerly at Columbus Public Library, WI © Copyright 2018. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.