cover image Winter of Fire

Winter of Fire

Sherryl Jordan. Scholastic, $14.95 (321pp) ISBN 978-0-590-45288-5

In a grim future world where the sun has vanished from the sky, people glean what warmth and light they can from the firestones mined by an untouchable caste known as the Quelled. Countless taboos are shattered when Elsha, an idealistic and rebellious Quelled girl, is chosen to be handmaid to the Firelord--the man revered by those calling themselves the Chosen. Traveling in the privileged class, Elsha encounters ugly, unthinking prejudice; she also meets a few relatively enlightened Chosen men, who cannot help falling in love with the feisty maid. Spurred on by a hatred of injustice, Elsha battles against sexism, improves life for the Quelled, and even (it seems) hastens the return of the sun to her world. Because there is never any real doubt that Elsha will inherit the Firelord's mantle, there are moments--especially as the harsh spectacle of life in the mines recedes--when her various victories grow a bit predictable. But this is a minor quibble; taken as a whole, the stalwart heroine's visionary struggles are nothing short of inspiring. With a spare and effective style, Jordan brings Elsha's chilly world into sharp focus with a minimum of description. Elsha's exploits will appeal to fans of Robin McKinley's The Blue Sword and The Hero and the Crown. Ages 12-up. (Feb.)