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PB, 234 pages, Fox Spirit


HWinter-Tales-coverFINAL-for-WEBuddle down by the fire, for the nights are drawing in, and the clawed hand of winter is closing tightly on the land…

(Ironically, I started reading this just as we got our first actually hot days of spring in this part of the world. But not to worry, because now it’s howling a gale and lashing down with rain outside, and what passes for summer in England is as close to winter as makes no difference. But I digress.)

In the eons before Skyplussing and Playstation, people would while away the long winter nights telling stories around the fire. Tales to warm the blood with excitement, or chill the heart at the thought of the terrors that may be lurking in the wild, cold darkness just outside the door.

In Winter Tales Margret Helgadottir (The Stars Seem So Far Away ) has put together a fine collection of short stories that do just that. Winter, snow, ice and frost, all are essential to every story in this SFF anthology, which takes us from mountaineers trapped in a Highland bothy by a sudden storm who find they’re not as alone as they think they are, via the freezing famine of war-torn Leningrad, to a futuristic travel agent where Sadie discovers that her request for a virtual holiday “somewhere cold”changes her life forever.

Highlights – apart from the aforementioned stories by, respectively, Su Haddrell, K.N. McGrath and David Sarsfield – include the warm and funny “Cold-Hearted” by G H Finn, “When the Trees Where Enchanted” by Masimba Musdoza, which brings ancient Zimbabwean magic into a fight against developers in modern-day Middlesbrough, and “The Coming of the Cold”, Adrian Tchaikovsky’s dark take on a wintery children’s classic.

Pick up a copy of Winter Tales. Go swift! for the wolves are running…