Ten years ago Kate Winters' parents were taken by the High Council's wardens to help with the country's war efforts.
Now the wardens are back ... and prisoners, including Kate's uncle Artemis, are taken south on the terrifying Night Train. Kate and her friend Edgar are hunted by a far more dangerous enemy. Silas Dane - the High Council's most feared man - recognises Kate as one of the skilled; a rare group of people able to see through the veil between the living and the dead. His spirit was damaged by the High Councils experiments into the veil, and he's convinced that Kate can undo the damage and allow him to find peace.
The knowledge Kate needs lies within Wintercraft - a book thought to be hidden deep beneath the graveyard city of Fume. But the night of Souls , when the veil between life and death is at its thinnest, is just days away and the High Council have their own sinister plans for Kate and Wintercraft.
I've wanted to read this book since I first heard the title which is haunting. For some reason I've read nothing but urban fantasy for months (apart from Fever Crumb) and was curious to see what kind of world Burtenshaw had created. I was drawn in by the prologue; a man digging up a grave and a woman keen to get her hands on the Wintercraft book it contains. The initial pages contain a dire warning of abusing its contents. I was hooked on the idea of a book so dangerous it had been buried.
In the following pages we're introduced to Kate who lives with her uncle, Artemis, and Edgar in Morvane. When wardens come to the town to collect the skilled they are captured. It's at this point that the story started to drag a little for me. I understand that there has to be world building but I wanted more about the veil between life and death! We get a glimpse of Kate's growing powers when Silas stops at an inn to meet the thoroughly scary Da'ru. Kate is able to sense her arrival, sees things through Da'ru's eyes that hint at Kate's enormous power. However, I felt for the next few chapters that Kate and Edgar were always being caught and then escaping from Silas or the wardens.
Just when I was losing faith Kate is finally captured by Da'ru and her powers are put to the test. To prove to the High Council that Kate is worth keeping, Da'ru puts her through a series of gruelling tests. When Kate has to bring a dead man back to life we get our first glimpse of the veil. Jenna Burtenshaw has created a magical land; a shadowy, silvery place of peace, pools of water and whispering voices. I found this part of the story so enchanting and fascinating that I couldn't wait to read more. Prior to Wintercraft my ultimate version of the Land of the Dead is in Garth Nix's Sabriel trilogy but I was entranced with her description. I felt as if I were standing at Kate's shoulder looking around for the soul she's been sent to collect.
From this point onward the book flew past with fast paced action in both worlds. I also loved the Graveyard City and the underground world that seemed to accept Kate as one of its own. Edgar's story also gripped me and I wanted to know more about him and his brother. The character of Silas is initially repellant but as I learned more of his story the more I sympathised with him. When he shares his secret with Kate there are changes in the power balance between them which left me eager to know how it could possibly be resolved. As the story develops I became as concerned about him as I was about Kate and by the time I'd finished he was my favourite character.
Wintercraft left me wanting more and excited about the sequel. I'm keen to see how Kate develops her powers, what happens with Edgar and of course whether the wonderful Silas will appear.