I really like Rotherweird, so I knew I wanted to get the sequel Wyntertide. The problem was that I had purchased Rotherweird in Edinburgh, Scotland last summer and hadn’t ever seen it here in the US. So how to get the newly released sequel which was only available online and included international shipping? I call Mother who lives about 2 hours from Glasgow (Scotland still) to see if she would have time to check a bookstore or two next time she was in the city, and who was planning a visit to me in the near future. Mother calls a few days later with a story. She went to a Waterstones (large chain bookstore) and asked for Wyntertide. The clerk returns with said book, apparently mightily pleased with himself. He’d found a signed copy. As he was ringing up the purchase he and one of the other cashiers apparently then started a discussion on how they thought this series was kind of like an adult Harry Potter. Mother, upon arrival in US, would only give me Wyntertide if I let her borrow Rotherweird while she was here. End scene.
Let it be said that you need to have read Rotherweird first. This is not a series that will make much sense read out of order. Wyntertide continues to follow the residents of the hidden town of Rotherweird, and this time they have ambitious alchemists, elections and political shenanigans to deal with, a kidnapping to solve, and more of the mystery surrounding their town and Lost Acre (read Rotherweird for this last one to make sense). The hapless still mostly outsider Jonah Oblong is still trying to fit in, although there isn’t as much attention on him as before. This is more a story about Orelia Roc, as she becomes the main investigator with help from some of her fellow townsfolk in trying to figure out what WYnter’s disciples and chimera-like shape-shifting creations who side with him are up to. We also learn more about some of the surviving experiments (some good, some not) conducted by Geryon Wynter and Calx Bole in the seventeenth century, and one of the main obstacles that the good guys (Orelia and co) have to confront is preventing the resurrection of the probably villainous Wynter. Strangely, there’s only one “Wynter is coming” joke, and that on the front inner flyleaf.
While this is definitely fantasy, well-written, an intriguing world and premise, and some very loose plot parallels (namely, the resurrection of a powerful take-over-and-remake-the-world sort of villain assuming he succeeds in resurrecting himself with a plot a long time in the making) I don’t really see this series as another Harry Potter (at least the first three novels of that series). For one thing, the main plotline is far more complex, and so are many of the characters in Wyntertide than any Harry Potter book. For example, Gregarious Jones the PE teacher, you learn in Wyntertide was a Roman soldier (a scout) who accidentally got into a mixing point alone with his platoon leader Ferox, confirming an epilogue moment from the previous novel, so he has a life that he shouldn’t have, he’s lost friends, but he still goes on with his life as best he can. For another thing, there’s no central hero so far as with HP. And for a third thing, the allusions here are not mythology and folklore, they’re almost exclusively to history. Lastly, this is a trilogy. There’s a note at the end of Wyntertide that “Rotherweird and its citizens will return for one final adventure in LOST ACRE.” So not only do I have to wait at least a year, I have to figure out how to get my hands on the conclusion of this series as soon as it comes out. At least I’ll have some time to work out a plan.