Aspect of Winter by Tom Early
It’s hard enough just being gay in high school even as a senior, but Feayr (Fay) must also deal with hiding the magic of winter that he possesses. His best friend Sam (Samantha) is his only confidant, and every day that he has to pretend to be normal pushes him closer to the edge.
When Janus University, a college for teenagers with magical capabilities, discovers the pair and sends a student to test them, Fay and Sam, along with their classmate Tyler, have to quickly adapt to a far more dangerous world than they’re used to. The three friends have to survive misguided summoning attempts, ancient holidays better left forgotten, and even a first date, all while preparing for the Trials, the University’s deadly acceptance process. As they do their best to come out ahead, the trio experiences firsthand just how wonderful and terrible a world with magic can be.
Score – 4/5 Inventive and enjoyable YA fantasy coming of age story with strong characters
Plot – while a fairly standard YA setup (magic, magic academy, trials and threats to be overcome), the overarching nature of the situation is refreshingly original and the magic is consistent and well realised. The plot takes a very dark turn at the end which I would have liked a bit more fore-showing. I have no problem with the events, but it’s like taking a blow to the stomach without tensing first.
Characters – I loved these guys. I found it very easy to relate to quiet, awkward Fay who is struggling to fit in on a number of levels. He’s brave and intelligent, but takes matters too seriously and blames himself to easily. His best friend Sam is a delight. Outspoken, loyal, more than a little violent, but hiding the pain of grief from her mother’s death. And then there’s Tyler, the love interest. I found their relationship adorable, and it’s a sign of well-formed characters when I’m happy to read about the more mundane aspects of their lives as well as the plot. It was nice to have some bi characters as well as gay ones.
Writing -well-balanced and easy to read. The book flows well and Fay’s personality carries the narration well. The characters have strong, individual voices and their personalities never get muddy. I particularly enjoyed the clever use of scientific understanding to get the best out of the magic powers. I found the trials towards the end of the book dragged just a tad, but there’s nothing wrong with the writing and the action scenes are clear and easy to visualise. I just wanted to get more of Fay’s plot a bit quicker. I also think things went a little easy for the team (up until the very end of the book, when trust me, that is no longer true), but I never felt like they didn’t deserve to win any of their battles.
You can get a copy of Aspect of Winter from Amazon