When I first read Winter Rose by Patricia A. McKillip I was in high school; in love for the first time and yet to have my heart broken. I loved this book, it spoke to me on so many levels. I must have read it 60 times and even now, rereading it again, it is still the wonderful book that I loved as a teenager.
Rois Melior isn’t the beauty in her small family, or the beauty of the small village on the edge of the wood. She is wild and free, running barefoot through the wood in all seasons. Her sister Laura is the beauty, quiet and constant. She is engaged to be married in the spring and she spends her time making lace or, since their mother passed away, taking care of their father .
On the edge of the wood, being swallowed and taken back into the land, stands Lynn Hall. It has stood empty for years until Corbet Lynn appears one day. He is the son of the man who left it all to the wood, back to this village to start his own life. Rois sees right away that Corbet is not all that he claims to be.
“They said later that he rode into the village on a horse the color of buttermilk, but I saw him walk out of the wood.” That is the first line of the book and how with a line like that could you not keep reading?
Rois sees the wood. Not the just the trees but the magic in them. She realizes that Corbet is being held by the Queen of the Wood, a captive just like his father was, and she vows to save him even though he has fallen in love with her sister. Laurel has even broken her engagement with a man from the village in anticipation of a declaration from Corbet.
Rois follows Corbet into the Queen’s realm, only able to find her way because she has eyes that are not human. The Queen shows her that her life was nothing like she thought it was. The death of her mother, a wasting illness through the winter, was more than just a human sickness. In the end Corbet is trapped in the Queen’s Wood and Rois is released.
Rois can’t leave Corbet in the Winter Wood and looks for doors, openings that might link her to him. Laurel, with Corbet’s absence has become ill, wasting away to nothing just like their mother so many years before. When the Queen comes to take Laurel, Rois goes in her place.
In the end Rois must save Corbet and Laurel as well as herself. She must deicide to either be her father’s daughter or a child of the wood.
The dedication page of this book says it all: “For Us All”. It is for us all; for each broken heart, mended soul, and other worldly dream. This book is a dream that we keep inside and cherish hoping that one day we will wake up and it will all be true.