Book Review: Winter of Fire by Sherryl Jordan

Winter of Fire

by Sherryl Jordan

Winter of Fire

Summary from Goodreads:

Elsha is one of the Quelled: a branded people, doomed always to mine coal to warm the ruling class, the Chosen. But Elsha has strange visions that set her apart – and a strong spirit that condemns her to death. Her life is saved when she is called to be Handmaiden to the Firelord, the most powerful being on the planet. Elsha is the first of her kind ever to be so honored – and both the Chosen and her fellow Quelled are stunned. But her powers and visions grow ever stronger, even in the face of extreme prejudice. Yet Elsha must learn the hard way that you can’t play with fire without getting burned.

My Review:

I read Winter of Fire for the first time in sixth grade ten years ago. I devoured the story, and it never really left me. Unfortunately, Winter of Fire is out of print, but every time I went to a used book sale I searched for it, until I finally found it for cheap on amazon a few years ago. This was my third time reading Winter of Fire, and I have to say, it never gets old.

Winter of Fire is definitely a middle-grade book, which was a little hard to get used to after reading so many young adult books lately, but I quickly slipped back in to the story. Elsha is one of the most fiery characters I’ve ever come across in any type of literature, and she won’t leave you without a fight. She’s defiant, strong, and ruthless in her pursuit of justice and ending oppression for her people. She knows there’s more to life than what she’s been given, and she doesn’t let obstacles get in her way easily.

Every time I read Winter of Fire, I see more of the themes of feminism and justice than I did during my initial sixth grade reading, but even then, I could tell that part of Elsha’s character was about deliberately being a strong female. In Elsha’s society, the female Quelled people are the lowest class of citizens, barely better than animals. They’re not even granted the title of woman–instead, they’re called “Harsha”. It may be her lot in life, but Elsha refuses to submit quietly, and I love her for it.

This story is actually less action-oriented than I remember. Elsha does have adventures and dangers ahead of her, but what’s more important is the people she comes in to contact with on said adventures. She encounters an entire spectrum of reactions. Some accept her more readily, while others look at her in contempt, and through each character, the world around Elsha is built a little more. It’s an amazing, bleak world. Sherryl Jordan isn’t the type to spend an entire paragraph describing the world around Elsha, but in just a simple sentence I was transported to the dark land where it’s always cold and firestones are the only source of life.

This is one of my most-recommended books of all time, and after another re-reading, I remember why. It’s out of print, but you can find used copies on amazon, and I highly recommend doing so. It has such powerful themes about oppression and gender equality, all the while being cloaked in an amazing story with one of my favorite protagonists ever. I’m participating in a Social Justice Theme Read, and while I plan on reading Half the Sky for that read, this would also make an excellent book for that read if you were so inclined. And you better believe I’m counting Elsha on my Feminist Reading Challenge!  

Final Impression: Just an amazing, amazing book with some of my favorite characters ever. I’m so sad this book is out of print, and it is easily one of my top ten favorite books of all time. Few books have competition with it on my bookshelf. Read it if you can, whether that’s buying a used copy or checking it out from the library!

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Comments

  1. I can still recall with perfect detail the day that I read this book. What an amazing and life-changing tale! Currently I am writing a paper in my University English class about Elsha. I’m focusing on her feministic qualities and the empowerment she brings to herself and her world. What do you think was the turning point in the novel? The moment that Elsha stepped into her role as an empowered woman?
    I loved your review and I would love to hear your thoughts more on the matter!
    Thanks in advance Stormy!

  2. I first read this book in elementary school, not long after it was first published (so nearly 20 years ago). It was one of my absolute favorite books growing up, but I probably haven’t read it since junior high.

  3. Danielle Dore (@shadytreereads) says:

    This is a great review! It’s always great to re-read books from childhood and see them in a whole new way. This book sounds like it has great timeless themes for women, I’ll definitely be adding it to my TBR. Thanks for the review!

    • “Timeless” is a really good way to describe this book and it’s themes. It’s definitely one of my most recommended books, so I hope you enjoy it when you get to it on your TBR!

Trackbacks

  1. […] reviewed this book before, but this is a book that can stand up to repeat recommendations and readings. This middle grade […]

  2. […] Oh, this is exciting! OK, so there is this AMAZING middle grade book called Winter of Fire by Sherryl Jordan. It is one of the best books I’ve ever read(I put it on my all-time favorites list right after Chronicles of Narnia. Yes, before Harry Potter). It’s sadly out of print, which is too bad because it’s set in a post-apocalyptic world, and if it had been written within the last two years, I think it would sell really well with the current Dystopia trend. You should buy the book on Amazon ASAP. I think this book, more than any other, also introduced me to the concept of the strong female character as well. I really cannot sing it’s praises highly enough. Here’s my review for Winter of Fire. […]

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