Wednesday, February 16, 2011

"Winter's End" by Jean-Claude Mourlevat

Summary: When Helen, Milena, Bart, and Milos run away from their restrictive boarding schools, they know the danger they're facing.  The Phalange government is after them, and, in the end, only three are able to join up with the Resistance.  As Helen, Milena, and Bart work to overthrow the cruel Phalange regime, Milos finds he is being prepared to fight to the death in a gladiator match.

Musings: Winter's End has some nice dystopian elements, though in the end I think it will be a rather forgettable novel.  The book begins at the girls' boarding school and describes the school's strange practices; rules are numerous and the only real joy the girls get is from their thrice a year allowed visits to "consolers," motherly women who comfort the girls during their two-hour visits.  There's a nice creepy atmosphere at the school, and truthfully, I would have liked to have had more of the action there.  I also wanted more information on who the consolers are and how the magical "Sky" came to be, both of which aren't explained.

Instead, the story quickly moves into the town, which is under the rule of the Phalange.  The ruling group is not really explained, nor are their governing practices, beyond being obviously cruel.  This makes the middle section of the book somewhat dull.  It's clear that the Resistance will eventually try to overthrow the government, but without any unique world building there's little of interest. Milos' experience in the gladiator training camp is somewhat more interesting, primarily due to the unique characters he is housed with.

The four teenage characters are fairly dull and interchangeable, and the dialogue between them feels stilted and fake.  I don't know whether that's because of the book itself or the English translation (the book was originally published in French), but it reminded me of dialogue in books from the '20s ("Oh, yes, we shall!", etc.).  There's supposed to be romance, but there's not much passion felt.

Winter's End is diverting enough, but the most interesting parts of the book--the boarding school, the horse-men--are relegated to the sidelines.

- Read as part of Presenting Lenore's Dystopian February.
***Book received from the publisher at the NCTE Conference in 2009.

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