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Reviewed by Lit Amri for Readers' Favorite
In Heart of the Winterland by Kristen Kooistra, Princess Calisandra - or Cali - believes she’s the only human in her kingdom for as long as she could remember. For all she knows, she might be the only human to ever live in Trabor. Her only companion is Voice: a floating, lucent white orb that provides her with the necessary needs － clothes, food, cleaning and entertainment, all done with magic. On her 200th birthday, Cali decides to embark on a journey and leave Trabor to search for answers.
Other than Cali, there are several other protagonists in this character-driven story. Amee is a sorceress who’s connected to Cali through her turbulent past with the princess’s parents. Then there’s the mute Captain Kota, whose latest mission is to find a fugitive named Angel, who later crosses paths with Cali and Voice. As a 200-year-old young woman who never spent a day with another human besides her companion orb, I wished some parts of Cali’s journey were developed and paced somewhat differently. That aside, Kooistra shows vibrancy in her prose, mostly evident in her characters. I have a soft spot for Voice, who becomes more than just a guardian to Cali.
Kooistra also incorporates some good twists to keep the story feeling fresh, as the fantasy genre is filled with familiarity that can be an obstacle to keeping readers interested. Overall, Heart of the Winterland has an interesting premise and a plot filled with friendship, love, magic, desire for power, and the ramifications of choices that the characters make.