Book Reviews

A Soul as Cold as Frost

Merry Christmas to all, and to all a good fright… After Helen Bell’s eyes are opened to see the invisible Rime folk who drift into our world from a realm called “Winter,” she’s compelled to go on the run into their snowy world to avoid being forced to battle in the Quarrel of Sword and bone: a death sentence for anyone who steps into the arena with the deranged Winter Queen, whose soul crisped to frost long ago. A Soul of Cold and Frost is Book #1 of The Winter Souls Series, a fantastical Christmas themed collection.

Every book, regardless of genre, has a debt to pay to what came before. Art influences art, and the cycle continues. Some stories are more directly inspired by what came before than others; some stories are more overt in capturing what the author found magical about those originals than others. For A Soul as Cold as Frost, author Jennifer Kropf owes a certain debt to Lewis Carrol’s Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland and Through the Looking Glass (particular favourites of mine) and J.K. Rowling’s Harry Potter series, and particularly, between the world, threat, and the novel’s use of fantasy as an allegory to Christianity, C.S. Lewis’ The Chronicles of Narnia. The book’s marketing also pays tribute to The Nutcracker, though interestingly, Disney’s adaptation, The Nutcracker and the Four Realms, instead of E.T.A. Hoffman’s original The Nutcracker and the Mouse King.

A Soul as Cold as Frost is a Christmas-themed portal fantasy set against a backdrop of the holiday season, where the protagonist, Helen, travels to a winter wonderland named Winter, where she is hunted by the Winter Queen. With the story’s influences, this novel is aimed at middle grade and young adult readers. Within Winter, aside from the threat, Helen—and the reader—is treated to Christian allegories, including “Truth” (presented as a proper noun), references to a king of kings, and a trickster with allusions to Santa Claus. The book also includes sections outside of the core narrative modelled around Christian psalms. Christian readers will enjoy the allegorical nature of the story (and will likely find more depth in this than I did), though, for readers who don’t follow the Christian faith, these aren’t overpowering.

Written in the first person, A Soul as Cold as Frost follows sixteen-year-old Helen Bell (whose name reminds me of “Hell’s bells,” though I’m not certain this is deliberate, given the allegorical nature of the book). Kropf’s prose is beautiful, full of vibrant descriptions about the world and characters, as well as Helen’s perspective of everything that is happening through the story. As much as I appreciate beautiful prose, it serves as a disservice to the book. Apart from the occasional aside in the narration, Helen does not sound like a sixteen-year-old; she sounds like a poet who reached adulthood long ago. This took me out of the book, and feel this will impact the target audience’s ability to relate to her.

At 376 pages in paperback and hardcover (or an estimated 378 pages on your favourite eReader, or 12 hours and 18 minutes if you listen to the audiobook), A Soul as Cold as Frost is not a short book. The pacing is slow, with much of the space being taken up by the author’s prose. While the prose is a thing of beauty, and full of colour, it will make it difficult for younger readers to digest, especially at its length. While younger readers can enjoy long books and challenging prose, many others are intimidated by it. Given the pace, it takes a long time for events to happen, and these are drawn out slowly.

The novel works more successfully as an innocent fantasy story read by adults, particularly those nostalgic for The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe and its ilk. Further to the level and length of the prose being weighed down for its target audience, Kropf uses literary devices to tell the story, complicating it further for them. As an adult, I appreciated how the book dipped into literary fiction, and there are a couple of parts where this will add a sense of fun for children, but generally, it will draw them away when they’re simply looking for a fun story.

As the sole point of view character who narrates the story, the most fleshed out character is Helen. She is an engaging and entertaining protagonist, who comes without many friends and with a family of very little wealth, and calls things as she sees it. Despite this and a good portion of the story dedicated to her backstory, she lacks much depth. While the novel features many coming of age tropes, Helen doesn’t show much growth through the story. The other characters are entertaining, and Helen’s interactions with the book’s major supporting character, Zane, are fun, with the two sharing an enjoyable chemistry.

The dialogue works well, with the characters sounding natural. Helen’s dialogue doesn’t match the prose, and while that makes it difficult to suspend disbelief, it means her conversations flow more naturally. Kropf has also done a great job of making the “Rime” people of Winter sound different to the “Trite” people of our world.

As mentioned earlier, A Soul as Cold as Frost is the first book in the author’s The Winter Souls series. It feels complete, but ends on a cliffhanger, promising a lot more to come. If you’re a reader looking for a self-contained story, you won’t find it here, but it doesn’t simply feel like the beginning of a story, either.

A Soul as Cold as Frost is a middle grade/young adult book that offers more to adults than its intended audience. If you’re a fan of Alice in Wonderland, Harry Potter, Disney’s The Nutcracker adaptation, and particularly C.S. Lewis, you’ll find a lot to enjoy, particularly if you’re a Christian. It’s a book that will do more to capture the imagination of adult fans of these works, than it does to kids finding their feet in fantasy fiction.

Favourite Passage

Part of me felt bad, but even that small piece of my soul couldn’t see reason past the lions of starvation roaring in my abdomen. My hunger wasn’t even my biggest problem, though; painful, extreme thirst crisped my insides into a desert

A Soul as Cold as Frost, Part III, Chapter Eleven: “Chapter, The Eighteenth”

A Soul as Cold as Frost was provided by StoryOrigin for the purpose of an honest review.

A Soul as Cold as Frost is available in physical, eBook and audiobook forms from book retailers (including—but not limited to—Amazon).

You can follow Jennifer Kropf online, via:

Note: I do not post scores on reviews on this website, but do post them on my Amazon and Goodreads reviews:

Interested in purchasing A Soul as Cold as Frost?

Please find a link below; please note I do not collect any proceeds from the sale.

A Soul As Cold As Frost (The Winter Souls Book 1)

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