Into the Jewish Woods

The Sisters of the Winter WoodThe Sisters of the Winter Wood by Rena Rossner

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Thank you, Hachette Book Group, for giving me a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.

Jews always come out battered, bruised, but still triumphant. Because we believe in God, in community, in compassion, and in the power of our people to endure.

I didn’t expect this book to be a combination of fantasy and history. Melanie and Solomon, my blogger friends, liked it a lot. And understandably so. The writing was remarkably poetic, evoking an atmosphere of magic and whimsy. As for me, my enjoyment was significantly reduced by certain tropes.

At its core, The Sisters of the Winter Wood is a fairy tale that alludes to many historical events, particularly those that involve the Jews. Laya and Liba are twins whose Jewish parents are similar to the Animagus in Harry Potter. Their dad can turn into a bear, while their mom can transform into a swan. Laya and Liba have inherited their powers. One day, strange and lecherous men arrive in their village, luring innocent girls with their poisonous fruit. Laya eventually succumbs to temptation, and it is up to Liba to save her (and possibly the community of Jews).

As a Christian reader and history nerd, I loved how this book delineated the persistence of the Jews. In a way, it was reminiscent of World War II and the Holocaust. Many Gentiles resented the protagonists and accused them of heinous crimes, such as witchcraft and murder. However, Liba and her people stayed united and believed in Divine Intervention. As a result, they were able to overcome their oppressors. Jewish tenacity can be seen in reality. Countries like Iraq and Iran want to conquer Israel. Fortunately, their efforts are always to no avail because no one can stand against God’s chosen people. I acknowledge that The Sisters of the Winter Wood isn’t necessarily Biblical. Nonetheless, for me, its historical plot testifies to God’s faithfulness.

I would have liked this book more if it hadn’t utilized the instalove and flirty-sister tropes. Liba and Dovid’s romance was founded on unfamiliarity (both of them admitted this), and Laya, the prettier and more liberal sister, was very similar to famous younger sisters like Tella of Caraval and Kathe of Wintersong. It’s nice that many books emphasize the value of sisterhood. However, it’s frustrating when authors do it in repetitive ways.

In the end, The Sisters of the Winter Wood was pleasing in regards to its elegant writing and historical content. Who would’ve thought that you could write a fairy tale that was not-so-fantastical? I just wish that it had a believable romance and more unique characters. Happy reading!