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Heart of the Winterland

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In the heart of snow-cursed Trabor, a princess and her guardian live in a haze cast by an ancient spell. On the dawn of her 200th birthday, Princess Calisandra awakes with a clear mind. No longer happy to just sit idle, Cali and Voice set out to find what lies beyond their shielded kingdom.

Joined by Angel—a fiery redhead that delights in ruffling Cali's feathers—they soon find themselves fleeing from the legendary Captain Kota who is determined to capture Angel. Cali's perfect vision of her journey is shattered and it takes all of her strength just to keep up in a world she doesn't understand. Everything is a new experience and tests Cali physically and mentally.

Will she ever find out what happened to her kingdom? And what will Voice's purpose be when Cali no longer needs her?

336 pages, Paperback

First published June 15, 2016

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About the author

Kristen Kooistra

1 book99 followers
Kristen Kooistra fell in love with reading at a young age and never resurfaced. She loved solving mysteries, riding across the prairie, and sailing on the open sea. But her favorite books were those that held the fantastical. So when the time came for her to seriously approach publishing a book, it had to be fantasy!

"Heart of the Winterland" is Kristen's first novel, and though it started as a whim, it grew into so much more and has inspired a sequel(in progress), "Heart of the Sorceress".

She loves spending time with her family and hopes that her writing will entertain and inspire them as well.

Besides writing, Kristen enjoys reading(of course!), chatting with her writer's group, sewing, swimming, gardening, and cooking(please no baking!).

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Displaying 1 - 13 of 13 reviews
7 reviews41 followers
June 24, 2016
If you’re looking for an excellent fairytale-esque adventure, look no further than Kristen Kooistra’s Heart of the Winterland.

When the spell on Cali, the princess of the long lost kingdom of Trabor, breaks after two hundred years, she decides to get a taste of the world outside her kingdom. She travels with Voice, an orb that has been Cali’s guardian and only companion during their years in the castle, and the two quickly stumble upon adventure.

Without going a great deal into the plot, one of the things I really loved about Heart of Winterland was the messages it contained. One of the running themes seems to be “people are not always who they seem to be”. In particular, Cali’s view (as well as the reader’s) of her parents shifts throughout the novel and it was interesting to watch her process who they truly are.

Another great thing is the villain. By the end, her actions made a lot of sense and I felt a great deal of sympathy for her. I understood what she did and that made her a person rather than a two dimensional villain.

There’s also a strong theme of friendship that runs through the novel that I highly enjoyed. The girls work together rather than resort to petty fighting or jealousy like I see in so many other novels. It was nice seeing them support, rather than tear down one another, even if they didn’t always get along.

Overall, an excellent debut from a promising author. It was a highly enjoyable read and I’d recommend it to anyone who likes a good fantasy. In particular, those who love fairytales and a strong female cast, I think will love this book. Can’t wait for the next in the series!
Profile Image for Heather Hayden.
Author 13 books95 followers
July 10, 2016
Heart of the Winterland is a fantasy novel full of powerful female characters, enchanting scenery, and--most importantly--friendship, and love.

I should note before I go further that I do know Kristen, but this review was by no means solicited--I had Heart of the Winterland on preorder long before its release date because of how intriguing the plot synopsis was, and was downloading and reading it practically at midnight. It was well-worth the wait.

Heart of the Winterland tells the story of Cali, a 200 year old woman who is still quite naive, and her companion Voice, a floating ball of light and magic. It also is a story of Kota, a mute warrior who has fought hard for her current status as captain of Duke Bludgaard's men. And interwoven throughout the story of the present is a story of the past, one told by Voice, detailing how Cali came to be alone, the only living human, in Tabor, a land that was once green and vibrant but now is a permanent winterland.

I was hooked from the first chapter and devoured the story as quickly as I could turn the virtual pages (traveling necessitated the Kindle version, although sometime I'm definitely getting a hard copy for my ever-overfull bookshelves.)

From the beginning, Cali comes across as naive, though through no fault of her own--until her 200th birthday she was caught in a state of apathy. Only when it breaks does she realize how strange her home is, and that is why she sets out on a journey to find answers. Her enigmatic companion, Voice, travels with her.

Cali and Voice soon find themselves caught up in another's tale--Angel is pretty, but mysterious, and on the run. She is being pursued by Captain Kota, who is not about to stop hunting the young woman. Throughout the ensuing game of cat-and-mouse, Cali shows real strength and a lot of character, as well as compassion and kindness. Despite her naivete, she does her best to correct mistakes, and is determined to become the ruler her country needs her to be.

I came to like all of the characters, Voice perhaps most of all. The story itself was a tightly woven tale that made me laugh and cry and wish I didn't have to wait for the sequel. Not that a sequel is needed--this story comes to a satisfying end with a twist or two I didn't quite see coming (which is unusual...I'm rarely surprised by stories.)

To conclude, I'm definitely giving Heart of the Winterland five stars, and shall wait in great anticipation for the sequel.
Author 4 books10 followers
September 7, 2016
Heart of the Winterland read like the best of fairytales. A journey of the heart, so appropriately titled. This book is two stories in one as it follows not only Cali's adventure, but that of another! Shh ... it's a secret.

I found Cali so delightful as she pushed forward in life, ever struggling, but always ready to learn something new. Her character was admirable, her spirit, gaining strength, and her heart, pure as the driven snow like on the book's fantastical cover.

Heart of the Winterland has charm, humor (especially from Voice), enduring friendships, and a sense of wonder over a new world discovered, new people to meet, and new lands to dream of. Only Cali's not dreaming anymore. She's on the adventure of a lifetime! I'm glad I joined her for the ride.:)
Profile Image for Krisna M. Starr.
3 reviews6 followers
August 17, 2016
A fantastic story with gripping characters

Wow! I just finished reading Winterland and am already itching to read the next book. I loved everything about this novel - the story, the characters, the plot twists and the amazing way Ms. Kooistra has weaved the back-story with the present.

Heart of the Winterland takes us through a magical journey with Princess Cali who wakes up after 200 years with new emotions that bombard her senses as the dampening spell cast upon her weakens. She leaves her home Trabor which is cursed to be a land of eternal winter to go on an adventure to meet other humans outside her borders.

Ms. Kooistra has done a fantastic job of showing us the range of emotions Cali feels as she meets different people on her journey and how she evolves from a child-like, innocent princess to a queen who'll lead Trabor into the future.

Cali and her guardian (the magical orb, Voice) meet various people along the way - the mysterious Angel, Captain Kota, Rose and others who help Cali to become the queen she was meant to be.

But of all the characters, my favorite is Amee, the dark sorceress who took revenge on the royal family of Trabor.
Ha ha! You heard me right :) My favorite character is the antagonist of the story. That says a lot about Ms. Kooistra's talent in writing gripping characters. From the first moment I met Amee, I connected to her, felt all her pain and rooted for her.

And that's one of the things that really touched me about Winterland. It shows throughout the story that no one is completely evil. Everyone is shaped to be who they are because of things that happened in the past and, if they're given a second chance, they can come out of the trap of negativity they are in and find their path.

All in all, I really loved reading this novel and would recommend this for all lovers of fairy tale, fantasy adventures and magical worlds.
Profile Image for Allie May.
Author 10 books7 followers
August 19, 2016
4.5/5 stars

This book is a phenomenal read. The characters are interesting and the story is intriguing. The book ended and there was still so much more I wanted to know. Now I just need to wait for the sequel.

I loved Cali's character development, and I wish there was more at the end, but alas it is what it is. However, reading her story was wonderful and it was great to see such a contrast to the typical princess fairy tale.

Amee's story was my favorite part of the book. Her character felt so much more vivid than the rest, and I was a little confused by the reveal at the end which I won't include here, but I am excited for her story to continue in the sequel because she was definitely my favorite.

Kota's story also felt a little unfinished, maybe because it took me like half the book to realize she was mute. But also because I wanted to see more of her backstory with Bludgaard and how she became such a powerful captain. However, I loved the way she commanded respect and attention without any words, and I liked the way she was an example to Cali.

Angel's character confused me, and I'm hoping and praying that her story will continue at some point in the future with another book because I want to know more about her. I know she was trying to be mysterious and keep her life a secret, but by the end of the book I still didn't know anything about her. I liked her relationship with Cali, but like everything else I wanted more.

Deducted half a star because I was dying for the story to continue because I felt like everyone's arcs were unfinished. Sometimes you just want to shake the authors and demand them to finish their sequels faster.
Profile Image for Corinne Morier.
Author 2 books38 followers
October 28, 2019
Cali is the princess of Trabor, all alone in a snowbound country except for her companion, Voice, a glowing orb compelled by magic to care for her. She has spent 200 years living in the castle, never questioning why she is all alone, but on her 200th birthday, something changes within her, and she sets out on an adventure to see the world, finding much more than she originally bargained for.

Along the way, she meets Angel, a young woman with a mysterious past who is running from authorities, and together they must escape Captain Kota, who wants to recapture Angel by any means necessary, even if it means killing an innocent princess in the process.

A thrilling fantasy adventure novel that will appeal to readers both young and old. Cali, a timid princess who must learn the ways of the outside world. Voice, a guardian with a snarky sense of humor. Angel, the mysterious fugitive. Captain Kota, in exile from her homeland. And Amee, the mysterious sorceress, who, more than 200 years ago, sequestered herself in the border forest and plotted revenge.

A thrilling debut novel from Kristen Kooistra, and I can't wait to read the sequel!
Profile Image for Elise Edmonds.
Author 3 books81 followers
March 6, 2017
This book is a fun mixture of coming-of-age adventure and fairytale. There are two intertwined storylines: Cali makes her journey of discovery through the world, whilst learning about her past and the history of her country from Voice, her guardian. The history tells of mysterious sorceress, Amee and her desire for revenge fueled by strong magic.

My favourite character in the novel is Amee. Despite being decidedly evil, she’s very relatable and great fun to read. I also love the diverse cast of characters and locations, from the outspoken barmaid, to the Scottish sea captain (and his cat), and the island castaways. Cali’s growth over the novel is well portrayed from thoughtless princess to a queen fit to rule. The storylines pull together with a great twist at the end.
Profile Image for Emily.
560 reviews39 followers
November 3, 2020
Heart of the Winterland is a coming of age fantasy novel reminiscent of the Snow Queen.

Amee has been locked away in her cold kingdom for as long as she can remember with only a sentient glowing orb for company. But on her 200th birthday, she and the orb decides to venture outside her kingdom for the first time.

Heart of the Winterland is a very interesting YA novel. It follows Amee and her friends on their adventures as they experience the outside world, grow up, and discover the secrets of their pasts, both good and bad. It was a well-crafted novel, and its twists and turns surprised and pleased me. It was very fairy-tale-esque, though it didn’t follow a single fairy tale exactly. Perhaps it is based on the Snow Queen, but there was much more to this story than what the fairy tale included. I enjoyed the characters, watching them grow and learn to value each other, and seeing how they handled the challenges thrown at them. There was danger, magic, mystical creatures, and much more.

I am pleased to recommend Heart of the Winterland to fans of YA fantasy and fairy-tale retellings.

I received a complementary copy of this book. All opinions are my own, and I was not obligated to give a positive review.
Profile Image for Valicity Elaine.
Author 28 books116 followers
August 23, 2016
*I received a free copy of this book in exchange for an honest review*

This was a long book, not excruciatingly long—especially not for a fantasy novel—but it was definitely a lengthy read for me. That isn’t necessarily a complaint but more of a warning to other readers who might be looking for something quick to get through.

Heart of the Winterland is a fairly new novel but it reads like an old school fairytale and that’s one of its strengths. I liked the way the story flowed and thought the style of narration fit the plot very well. The story started out with ‘Once upon a time…’ I can’t even say when’s the last time I read a book with that as the first line. Considering this, I felt like the novel was more of a fairytale or even folktale than a fantasy novel but that’s subjective. Even though I felt the style of narration was a strength to the story, I must admit I got tired of the word flow after a little while. Fairytales are typically short so you don’t read that style of writing for very long but this stretched on for hundreds of pages so I found myself stepping away from this book every few chapters.

Besides that, Kooistra put together a pretty interesting read. The characters are sweet and definitely unique. Voice is one I enjoyed very much, partly because it’s just floating ball of light with some depths of personality. The females in this book are all written with a purpose. They’re strong but they still have their weaknesses and Kooistra wasn’t afraid to show that throughout the story.

Cali is the protagonist here but she comes across as very dimwitted—though most would kindly describe her as naïve. Cali was likeable, a typical good girl protagonist with just the right number of negative traits to make her seem more relatable. I liked her but I thought the rest of the cast took most of my attention. Even the antagonists were cool, they were evil—as evil as a fairytale baddy could be—but they were cool and had layers of personality beyond your run-of-the-mill villain.

I think one of the most notable aspects of this book was the throwback to good old spell casting and mystifying powers. Maybe I’m a sucker for ice and all things snow related but Cali is a 200-year-old princess for God’s sake, if that wasn’t a clue as to how the story would flow then I don’t know what is.

Overall, I found this book to be enjoyable. I wasn’t a huge fan of the narration so I’m not sure if I will continue the series but I would definitely recommend it to any reader who likes fantasy, fairytales, and books with strong female leads.
Profile Image for Shannon McDermott.
Author 12 books169 followers
July 5, 2017
Princess Calisandra is two hundred years old, and you would never know it, because she still possesses the body, mind, experiences, and maturity of a very young woman. That is what happens when you pass your whole life in a kingdom locked by magic into winter, timelessness, and an inescapable sameness. But finally something is giving, either in Cali or in the magic, because after two hundred years of accepting every day just like the last, she is growing restless. She is about to rebel.

She is about to leave.

She is about to find out what, or who, may exist outside her empty little kingdom, locked in winter and in time.

Heart of the Winterland, written by Kirsten Kooristra, is a fantasy novel appropriate for all audiences. It is rich in world-building and in characters, bringing together warriors, princesses, and sorceresses across a diverse range of milieus, from snowy Trabor to the sea. The magical kingdom of Sjadia, the spell cast by the queen, and indeed the novel’s premise, all stand as imaginative and intriguing concepts.

Unfortunately, there is a meandering quality to the plot. The heroine possesses no real goal, aside from ‘leave and see what’s there’, no nemesis, and little initiative. What she does is usually in response to what happens to her, and what happens to her is due almost entirely to other people or to coincidences. I waited for the central conflict or need to emerge, but it never did.

Heart of the Winterland is a gentle fantasy that is abundant with sympathetic characters, imaginative world-building, and intriguing fantastical concepts. At the same time, it lacks a strong driving force. Choose according to your preferences.
Profile Image for Julie Powell.
Author 69 books315 followers
January 14, 2017
The great writing style brought real life into this fantasy, one that follows more than one journey, both physically and emotionally.

There are several great characters in this story, each with a shroud of mystery, each intriguing and interesting. Themes such as loneliness, betrayal, grief, relationships, love, difference and magic deepen the plot, as well as developing the lead characters.

Beautiful descriptions paint very real pictures of the lands...especially Cali's home for two hundred years.

Twists and revelations, alongside great storytelling, plot and sense of place, make for a compelling read.

Highly recommended.
Profile Image for Toni Owen-Blue.
Author 2 books12 followers
January 17, 2017
Heart of Winterland, a story ostensibly following the lives of four fantasy women in their fantasy world. I say ostensibly because I can’t figure out who main four are intended to be, since everyone who’s not a bit part gets their very own flashbacks. So I can figure out who the main two are, but the other two are just my best guess.

Anyway, Heart of Winterland is really two stories. The first is the story of Princess Calisandra and her light orb guardian “Voice”, as, after two hundred years of sitting down, she makes her way out of the frozen Kingdom of Trebor to adventure out into the world and experience… something, she never really says what she’s hoping for. The other half of the book is the history of Trebor told by the present-day characters in story form, given out at incredibly random intervals.

The history lessons we’re given are by far the strongest points in the book. While unoriginal, they are enjoyable with fun fairy-tale-esque ideas that move along quickly while retaining cute little details that give the world flavour. However, the actual storytelling is somewhat lacklustre, for the most part reading like a dry Wikipedia page.

Moving on to the books present-day, it at least doesn’t read like a Wiki page, unfortunately, I wouldn’t say that’s an improvement, as the reader is flung into a tell-don’t-show style of narrative that at best baffles the reader and at worst throws them out the world altogether. I’ll give a quick example, near the beginning Princess Calisandra meets another main character, Angel (yes, Angel), and after spending an evening at an inn she finds out Angel is being perused by the (King? I don’t know, they call him Baron but he seems to be in charge) Bludgaurd. Calisandra is assured Bludgaurd is “malevolent”. Sure, perfectly normal way to describe someone, but moving on, can we have an example of this malevolence? No, we’re just supposed to be like ‘Sure, he’s obviously evil – the fugitive said so’. Calisandra, assured of the Baron’s malevolence, promises Angel they will continue to travel together because they’re friends. I’m sorry, what? You’re friends? You’ve exchanged maybe half a sentence each, how could you possibly be friends? Except because the narrative needs you to be.

Unfortunately, this is the kind of book where narratives only appear when it’s convenient. Need to make some new friends? Someone breaks a leg, seems we’re stuck here for a while. Need the Baron’s hunt to close in on your tail? Some frightened peasants saw you pass by. Need the baron’s men to lose you for a bit? The peasants are too steadfast to tell his men anything.

There’s even a literal red shirt for crying out loud, red hair, red dress, with just enough dialogue to cement the certainty that she’s going to die.

You know what though, it’s a shame because the world was full of ingredients for some classic fairy tale fun. A castle plunged into endless winter, an evil witch spurned by her lover, a princess without parents trying to find what it means to be royalty, a mysterious war, magic, old men guarding ancient books. Who doesn’t love all these things?

But at the end of the day, Heart of Winterland is supposed to be New Adult Fiction, not Middle Grade, or even YA fiction, and the fact of the matter is, no matter what other merits of the book the writing is simply too juvenile for NA fiction. From the insta-friendships to the patronising explanations of characters who fall into the ‘grey area’ on the moral compass. If the book is really for adults why do we need the idea of someone not being all good or all evil explained? I felt no connection to any of the characters or any of the events because they’re all about as complex as peeling a banana.
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