Elizabeth Hand
Winterlong Cover



Honestly, I feel completely overwhelmed trying to write a review of Winterlong. The plot is labyrinthine and nearly impossible to summarize.

Set in the far future of a post apocalyptic Washington D.C., Winterlong is the story of Wendy and Raphael, twins who were separated at birth.

Wendy is a subject at the Human Engineering Laboratory (HEL) whose childhood autism was cured by neurological augmentations. She is an empath who is able to “tap” into patients' memories and emotional states for therapeutic reasons. Things go awry at HEL and the institute comes under attack; Wendy flees with one of the lab assistants.

Raphael is a courtesan, one of the most beautiful and desired in the City. There are two factions in the City - the assorted Houses to which the courtesans belong and the Curators who maintain the many museums and who are serviced by the courtesans. When Raphael commits a violent act and then subsequently learns that he has been rejected by his lover, he leaves the city.

Wendy and Raphael are eventually reunited and embark on a surreal journey to seek justice and redemption.

Winterlong is a complex fantasy novel set in a complicated science fiction universe. Almost gothic fantasy, almost mythic fiction, it is a disturbing novel filled with lush prose and haunting imagery. It is beautiful and challenging but there is a sense that the author was always on a precipice, about to lose control of the story. And when a reader feels the author is not in control, the story feels a bit...messy.

Don't get me wrong - I did enjoy it. But it made my brain hurt. And I have no doubt that Elizabeth Hand is fiercely talented. Winterlong was her first novel and I plan to read her later work to see how she has matured as an author.