Echoes of Winter: A Wintery YA Short Story Collection Assorted Authors
Let me begin by saying I was given a copy of this book in return for a fair and honest review. I admit to being somewhat skeptical since it is categorized as a Young Adult book. What I imagined the stories would be like is a far cry from the wonderful surprises I found within the pages of Echoes of Winter.
Although the suggestion is that these were young adult stories, I enjoyed them all and I have left the “young adult” stage far behind. In the spirit of fairness I will review each story individually.
Twelve Days to Christmas by L.A. Starkey
The story begins with the highly negative Jessie Young and her outright hatred for Christmas. In the vein of Dickens’, Starkey weaves a contemporary tale of a grumpy, bah-humbug young lady whose view of the holiday is negative. This could have been nothing more than another Scrooge knock off but Starkey introduces a character, Jack, whose dark and icy persona adds an interesting depth to the story. While the ending is far from surprising, the resolution is well handled. All in all a neat little Christmas present to start off the anthology.
Christmas Seasoning by D.B. Nielsen
No young adult anthology would be complete without the requisite teen love story. This story is predictable but it is so beautifully written it doesn’t matter. When Ellie Henderson goes to be a bridesmaid in her brother’s wedding she gets more than she expected. As usual with these stories, love comes unrealistically fast and the interaction between Jessie and the brother of the bride is sometimes trite. But again, the descriptive passages more than make up for the unsurprising plot.
Merry Chris Witch by C.K. Dawn
Although this story also has a romantic slant it is much more than a cute love story. The story is filled with wonderful characters and they alone make this story a winner. Again we have a protagonist who is not fond of Christmas. This time however it’s a boy, Chris Heron, and it’s a girl named Nichole who catches his eye. It’s the supernatural tone that captured and held my attention and the underlying message of giving is more important than receiving makes the story a worthwhile read.
Wrapped in the Past by Chess Desalls
A Christmas story with time travel! What a gem! Shirlyn travels back to ancient Persia and meets the three magi who follow the star that leads to Bethlehem and that fateful birth night. While I have always envisioned the magi as old men, in this telling Balthazar is the youngest mage and the eventual love interest of Shirlyn. A smart touch is adding the realistic difficulty Shirlyn and Balthazar have in communicating since they don’t speak the same language. The romantic tone is sweet but not overwhelming and the story touches on something we all want when we fall in love or have a crush; we want to be remembered. I enjoyed this one very much.
Butterflies in the Snow by D.E.L. Connor
This is a story that is both touching and disturbing. Rose has a dark secret past. Her only wish is to spend Christmas with her mother and her sister Lilly. On something of an impulse she “borrows” Josh’s car and takes off on a drive to be with them for the holiday. Sometimes the story is a little difficult to follow but its beauty far outweighs the challenge of keeping up with the action. The end is a little corny yet it somehow fits the tone of the story. All in all, I liked it. I liked Josh a lot and in the end I liked Rose.
The Darkest Night of the Year by Tim Hemlin
While this is another story of witches, romance, Christmas but that is where similarity to other stories ends. There are wonderful references to arcane beliefs and when delightful magical characters appear (and disappear) the story takes on a refreshing and mystical tone. Pixies, jinn, and witches; I love the characters in this story. It flows well and enchants with every page. It is possibly one of my favorites in the collection.
Cold Hearth by Kelly Hall
This witchy tale is much darker than the previous one. Twin witches make it rather unique. There are plenty of twists and turns in this very suspenseful tale and I had to be on my toes throughout. I liked the idea that Dominic and Dahlia (love that name) were outcasts from their coven. A lot goes on in this short story but Hall pulls it off. Points for power punches and a Vamp Camp.
Code X by W.J. May
This is a very modern computer hacker tale that has a girl using her very special skills to combat evil. One of the best lines in fiction is in this book: “When you’re seventeen, you’re looking for your purpose, looking down the barrel of the world’s gun and hoping there’s something more for you.” (W.J. May. Echoes of Winter (Kindle Locations 6660-6661). BrixBaxter Publishing. )
Good Saint Nick by Lu J. Whitley
First off let me say this is one of my favorite authors. She doesn’t disappoint with this short story. Do you wonder how Santa became Santa? This is a sometimes sweet and sometimes sad tale. Whitley’s characters are vivid, her descriptions are beautiful. I loved this story. It was a real Christmas tale that could easily become a classic.
Soaring by K.K. Allen
This story makes me want to read more of this author’s writing. It’s a touching tale that is beautifully written. If you like love stories, you will love this one. If you don’t like love stories, you will love this one! Romantic and suspenseful, even if you guess what’s coming you will be surprised. Confused? Read it and you’ll understand.
A Spirit’s Last Gift by Kathy-Lynn Cross
Not at all what I expected, this story is stunningly suspenseful. It could have been depressing since it is about a dead teenager. Instead it is a gripping tale with vibrant characters. Be prepared to cry. I don’t want to give anything away so, just read it!
Winter Trials by K.S. Marsden
Although the story is well written it may not be for everyone. It is a story with same sex love. I had no problem with that but others might. The story itself just didn’t grab me the way some of the others did. It has a nice little twist for a teenage love story but it somehow just misses the mark. A good if not outstanding read.
The Edge by Fleur Camacho
My biggest problem with this story is its lack of descriptions and overuse of dialogue. The story idea is good but it falls far short. I couldn’t get into the characters at all. I feel as though the author had an idea and something of an outline and just threw it all together in a rush. Maybe if it was re-written with less talk and more descriptions it would be better.
All in all, the anthology is good. My biggest issue is closing with the two weakest stories right after two of the best stories. It is somehow anti-climactic. That being said, I think it’s a great book for young adults and will make a nice holiday gift.