Book Review: Winterwood by Jacey Bedford

A review copy was provided by the publisher in exchange for an honest review. All opinions are my own.

WinterwoodWinterwood by Jacey Bedford

Mogsy’s Rating: 4.5 of 5 stars

Genre: Fantasy

Series: Book 1 of Rowankind

Publisher: DAW (February 2, 2016)

Length: 432 pages

Author Information: Website | Twitter

Winterwood and I were love at first sight, and all you have to do is take a gander at the book’s myriad subjects to see why: Magic. History. Fantasy. Romance. Fae. Ghosts. Shapeshifters. PIRATES. It’s like an irresistible smorgasbord of all my favorite themes and fantasy elements all in one place, and a strong, compelling female protagonist was the cherry on top.

Set in Britain in the time of King George III, Winterwood tells the tale of Rossalinde Tremayne, a young woman gifted with magical abilities. Seven years ago, she eloped with privateer captain Will Tremayne along with the Heart of Oak, the ship meant as her dowry, and Ross’s mother hasn’t forgiven her since. Now Will has been dead these past three years, and Ross has taken on the mantle of the Heart’s commander, adopting her late husband’s identity and disguising herself by wearing men’s clothing.

The book begins with Ross returning home to visit her ailing mother on her deathbed. In doing so, she learns more about her family than she ever bargained for, including the fact that she has a half-brother named David, who was fathered by the household’s rowankind bondservant. Ross also inherits a beautiful winterwood box, an object of great magical power that she is told only she can open, but the repercussions of that may be far-reaching and dire. Add to that, a shadowy enemy is on the hunt for Ross as well, and he would do anything to stop her from unlocking the box’s mysteries. With the crew of the Heart and the help of her newfound brother and a dashing wolf shapeshifter named Corwen, Ross sets off on a swashbuckling chase across the high seas to seeks answers and uncover the truth about her family’s secrets.

In news that I’m sure will surprise no one, I absolutely adore stories about women characters disguised as men, and even better when the book is a maritime fantasy and the protagonist is a capable heroine who captains her own ship. I love how Rossalinde is a strong and intelligent woman, but that she also listens to her heart. She gave everything up to marry the man of her dreams, and even though she and Will only had four short years together, she doesn’t regret her decision one bit. Interestingly, while Will’s death occurs before the book even begins, we still get to meet him in Winterwood in the form of his ghost. Back when her grief was still a raw and open wound, Ross unwittingly summoned him and now his spirit is a constant presence in her life. Will’s ghost and Ross share some humorous moments, but for the most part his appearances are a reminder of tragedy; he is a symbol of her past at a time when she should really be looking to the future. Being torn between two paths is devastating for a woman like Ross who is so in tune to her emotions, which is why I felt for her.

In addition to offering a well-crafted main protagonist, Winterwood also offers an altogether tantalizing blend of fantasy and historical fiction. Jacey Bedford’s prose is elegant and evocative of the setting, which is an alternate version of early 19th century Britain steeped in magic. The world feels familiar yet new, plus we get the added benefit of being on the ocean for a substantial part of this book, deeply immersed in the life of privateering during this time period. The battles at sea against pirates and French ships alike are thrilling and dramatic, where victory may come at a high cost but the rewards are well worth it. The dialogue is also superbly done, especially when it comes to the crew of the Heart and their nautical jargon and rough accents.

In terms of magic, this book is practically full to brimming with it. Perhaps the foremost fantastical element comes in the form of the rowankind, a docile and subjugated race of people exploited for their labor. Britain’s entire economy is dependent on these unpaid servants, and yet their history and origins are mostly unknown, lost to time. However, there are rumors that connect them to the Fae, who also have a large role to play in this story. Moreover, the realm of the Fae is completely separate from the domain of The Green Lady, who rules over the natural world. While the inner workings of the various kinds of magic go largely unexplained, it is clear that there are many sources of it, and their powers mingle and react in very interesting ways.

Also, when a book’s tagline reads “A tale of magic, piracy, adventure and love”, you’d be correct to expect a heavy dose of romance. Love is something Ross is just starting to allow herself to explore again after losing Will, and Corwen proves to be a good match for her, with lots of chemistry and sexual tension between the privateer and the wolf shapeshifter (just don’t call her a pirate, or him a werewolf—them’s fightin’ words!) But to my surprise, there’s more to this book than just romantic love. Familial love is an important part of this story too, with Ross accepting her half-brother David, becoming overprotective when he is threatened or treated poorly because of his rowankind heritage. I was impressed with the emotional level and complexity of the relationships in this book, as well as its unique perspective on social prejudice.

The best thing about Winterwood is its many fascinating components, which Jacey Bedford weaves into one amazing story of magic and adventure. Rollicking action is expertly balanced with passionate romance in this novel which will leave you salivating for more, and I loved every moment! I’m already looking forward to the next installment and dreaming about a return to this exciting, magical world.


Mogsy 2

37 Comments on “Book Review: Winterwood by Jacey Bedford”

    • Yay, I’m happy to give this one more attention! I think you’d love it too, a great story with romance and plenty of paranormal elements. And haha yes, PIRATES!


  1. Oh my, this sounds like a great book – I’m really looking forward to it. BECAUSE PIRATES AND MAGIC. yas. Why not?? *runs off to find book so she can read it*


  2. Definitely adding this to the list! I wasn’t even aware of it until you and a few other bloggers mentioned it, but your 4 1/2 star review is pushing me over the edge:-) Yes to all the things: pirates, cross dressing and the fae:-D


    • I honestly just couldn’t believe how many things were in this book – not only pirates, fae and a cross dressing female protagonist, but also shapeshifters and magic. When I first heard about it, I couldn’t resist 🙂


  3. There are so many intriguing elements in this story (and PIRATES!) that I’m sure opening the book will feel like opening gift boxes at Christmas 🙂
    I’m happy to learn that the romantic element is well-balanced with the others, and that we have an equally balanced heroine that will certainly gain my sympathy. And let’s not forget about PIRATES! Ok, maybe I let myself get carried away a bit…
    Great review, I can see how much you enjoyed this book 🙂


  4. Well I’m sold! This is a new one for me but judging from the description, genre and your glowing review here, I have to read this book! Magic+Pirates+Fae is like an automatic must have for me – and I do like the girl-disguised-as-a-boy trope…especially under the circumstances here^^ The fact that the romance is nicely balanced with the other aspects AND that it also has other kinds of love besides romantic is the icing on an already sweet cake 😀 Thanks for bringing this one to my attention (yet again) Mogsy ♥


    • I know, it was an auto-read for me too. It had too many of my favorite “buzz words” for me to ignore…Pirates? Check. Girl-disguised-as-a-guy? Check. And throw in the awesome historical period and the romance, it was an excellent fit for my mood 🙂


  5. I am so relieved to see that you really liked this one. Like you, I fell in love at first blurb read and it’s always worrisome that it won’t live up to it’s promises. Now I’m even more excited to get to it knowing that it likely won’t disappoint! Phew!


    • Yeah, I was pretty impressed. The romance in it isn’t overpowering, but if you’re in mood for it, I have to say it definitely wouldn’t hurt. I was just really amazed by the magi and the world building though. Hope you’ll enjoy the book as much as I did 🙂


  6. Pingback: Mogsy’s Bookshelf Roundup: Stacking the Shelves & Recent Reads | The BiblioSanctum

  7. Pingback: Winterwood Interviews and Reviews | Jacey Bedford

  8. Pingback: Top 5 Wednesday: Recent Additions to My Wish List – Milkz’ Bookshelf

  9. Pingback: Book Haul #61: A Little Book Haul | Zezee with Books

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

%d bloggers like this: