Title & Author: The Soulstice (The Dead of Winter, Book 1), Jessica Payne

Genre & Publication Date: Urban Fantasy, January 1, 2015

Book Description: “With no memory of her prior existence, Tess materializes from the snow each winter on the bank of a frozen lake in the Wasatch Mountains. She lives with two other young women she calls her sisters, doing their best to blend in with the humans around them. They find local jobs and live in a cabin near the lake where they are ”born”—the same lake they must drink from every day to survive and the lake they will return to each spring when the snow begins to melt.

To protect themselves from discovery, Tess and her sisters avoid human relationships as much as possible, but when Tess meets Lance Taylor, she feels a connection she’s never felt before. Tess will need Lance more than ever as she discovers the truth about her human life, the mysteries of the lake and the series of painful events that led to her current existence.”

First Line: It’s a strange feeling, being brought into existence particle by particle.

My Take: This was a quick read at the typical 75 page mark for a Novella. The idea of women appearing each winter, materializing with the snow was intriguing. As such, I expected the three “sisters” to be somewhat mysterious and otherworldly in their ways and views.

To my disappointment, the only thing otherworldly about them was their annual appearance. Every other facet of them was a character trope, a stereotype “girl” personality that left me gnashing my teeth. Strong female personalities were portrayed as bitchy type-As. The sister with a sweeter disposition had more in common with the scarecrow in The Wizard of Oz than real women in that she desperately needed a brain. The protagonist, Tess, was a combination of these two types.

When Tess decides to investigate the reason for their winter existence, it isn’t because she’s had enough of this half life. No, it’s at the behest of her romantic interest, Lance. “Okay,” I thought. “Maybe love inspires her to figure this out. I can get with that.” But even then, Lance takes the reins in the investigation and Tess is led along through the guy’s intense research methods (yeah, he did a Google search).

The moment that had me wanting to hurl my Kindle across the room (Don’t worry, I didn’t. I love my Kindle.) was when one sister grumbles that another sister’s foul mood must be PMS fueled…Aren’t there enough sources in society depicting a woman’s state of mind as hysterical or caused by ‘that time of the month’, without contributing to it? I actually flipped back to the front of the book to confirm this was indeed written by a woman.

The Magical: The mystery of their winter existence.

The Mundane: Most everything else, down to the bartender/waitress jobs they worked.

Summary of Thoughts: Currently this Novella is $0.99 for the Kindle and is the first installment in a series, but I’m afraid I won’t be going back for seconds. In all, it was a missed opportunity. Here was a chance to show three strong women bonded through courage and commitment to decipher what’s happening to them. Instead, they were more like caricatures rather than living, breathing people.

It is my opinion that authors, especially women, should portray their female characters as individuals of purpose, with passion not just in love, but in their aspirations as well. Maybe it’s because I’m soon to have a daughter that this story vexed me so much. Or maybe it’s because I have sons who, although we do our best to dispel such false attitudes about women, I fear will still internalize some of society’s limiting views.

Okay, it’s possible I’ve gotten off track from the review, but if you’re an author, let me leave you with this notion: A woman can have brains, wit and legs that go all the way down. Possessing one of these traits does not preclude her from possessing the others. Please consider this in your depiction of female characters. Our daughters will thank you for it.

1 Star rating

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