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Through the White Wood

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Katya’s power to freeze anything she touches has made her an outcast in her isolated village. And when she loses control of her ability, accidentally killing several villagers, she is banished to the palace of the terrifying Prince Sasha in Kiev.

At the castle, though, she is surprised to find that Sasha is just like her—with his own strange talent, the ability to summon fire. Instead of punishment, Sasha offers Katya friendship, and the chance to embrace her power rather than fear it.

But outside the walls of Kiev, Sasha’s enemies have organized their own army of people who can control the very earth. Bent on taking over the entire world, they won’t stop until they’ve destroyed everything.

Katya and Sasha are desperate to stop the encroaching army, and together their powers are a fearsome weapon. But as their enemies draw nearer, leaving destruction in their wake, will fire and frost be enough to save the world? Or will they lose everything they hold dear?

416 pages, ebook

First published April 9, 2019

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About the author

Jessica Leake

5 books708 followers
Once upon a time, Jessica Leake was a psychotherapist, but even though she loved her clients, she couldn't stop writing. She wrote and wrote until she got her first book published, and then she wrote some more. In between all that writing she had four beautiful and hilarious children with her husband (best friend and man she's known since high school; also hilarious), moved back to her adopted hometown of Greenville, SC, built a chicken coop, and got a bunch of chickens that poop breakfast every morning. She also has two dogs to keep the chickens in line. (The dogs made her write that last bit.)

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5 stars
172 (22%)
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284 (37%)
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204 (27%)
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75 (9%)
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Displaying 1 - 30 of 192 reviews
Profile Image for ✨ Helena ✨.
368 reviews974 followers
January 1, 2021
3.5 stars, rounded up.

I love Slavic mythology, like the firebird and Baba Yaga, but I must say that this instalment doesn’t even hold a candle to the first one. It was nowhere near as compelling.

Is it because there was no enemies to lovers banter and less action? Maybe. I just didn’t buy into Katya and Sasha. They had such an instalovey relationship with stilted dialogue. It didn’t feel real to me. If anything, it was rather awkward. The best part for me was Ciara and Leif making cameo appearances.

I did enjoy it overall, but I’m still rather disappointed. :/
Profile Image for Ashlee » libraryinthecountry.
774 reviews643 followers
November 20, 2018
Another beautiful and rich tale from Jessica Leake! I cannot wait to get more from this author. She’s become a favorite of one!


Review copy provided by the publisher via Edelweiss in exchange for an honest review
Profile Image for Kelsey.
303 reviews65 followers
October 26, 2018
*** I received an ARC from the author in exchange for an honest review - and just because Jess is awesome***

Wow. Jessica has done it again. I love this world! I love the powers and the characters. And Jessica has a certain way of making you fall in love with animals within the book as well!

"I hadn't set out to be a monster, but what happened when someone was pushed too far? What happened when the dark swirls of regret were accompanied by a sense that maybe what I'd done wasn't so terrible? What happened if I liked it?"

Our main character is Katya. A girl who is an outcast in her village. Raised by surrogate grandparents and living a life under the harsh ridicule and mistreatment of her people. Katya has a gift. A power. A curse (in her mind). She is cold as ice. She can summon ice, sometimes when she wants to...and sometimes when she least wants it. After a tragic turn of events in her village, she is taken captive and forced to leave as a prisoner. Katya is being sent away to the kingdom of Prince Vladimir. The prince is rumored to want people with special abilities. The reasons he wants them is anywhere from he wants them for an army...to he wants to drink their blood and eat their hearts to gain the power for himself. Sounds like a great guy, right?!

Once Katya sets off with the prince's guards, her whole life changes. Unexpected friendships blossom, family history is revealed, battles are fought. This is a wonderful story of Katya coming into her own and believing in herself. I only had one problem with Katya, she was a little bit annoying...only in the fact that she never fully believed in her abilities. No matter who helped her or gave her information, she was still scared and not really willing to fully embrace and take on her power.

"But as I looked into his eyes, and he looked into mine, I wondered if there were more things than physical pain.Things like falling in love with a man who saw me as a means to an end."

I loved all the secondary characters in this book. Especially Elation, the eagle. I loved that Jessica brought back some beloved characters from "Beyond a Darkened Shore"!!! I've missed them!!! And she totally leaves this book with an ending that could lead to another book!!! AHHH!!! So...I need that book like now....please and thank you!!

I really think people will love this book just as much as they loved "BaDS". Jessica's writing style is fun and I was pulled into the story from page one!!
Profile Image for Danielle (Life of a Literary Nerd).
1,171 reviews251 followers
April 7, 2019
3.5 stars
"THERE ARE COUNTLESS MONSTERS IN THIS world. Some with fangs, some who skitter in the darkness just out of sight, some who wear human skin but whose hearts have turned dark as forest shadows....I knew that these men and women I’d grown up with—they thought of me as a monster, too. I wasn’t sure they were wrong."

I feel weirdly torn after reading this book. There was a lot of things I liked about it and I had a fun time reading it, but it felt like I’d read the story before. Through the White Wood is a Slavic-inspired fantasy story that brings elemental powers to life in impactful ways as the prince and a powerful outcast with an unknown history my save their country from being overrun.

Things I Liked
I always love elemental magic. It’s one of my favorite magic systems and I thought it was done very well here. I could feel the chill from Katya’s ice powers.

The slavic folklore influence was wonderful. I loved seeing the different spirits and witches sprinkled through the story. It really made the setting and atmosphere come alive.

Things I Didn’t Like
My biggest disappointment was the lack of tension and surprises throughout the story. The story never really hooked me because it never really surprised me. I new what was going to happen next, I could easily guess the reveals that were coming. It just made the story not exciting to read.

Even though the plot was lackluster, the setting was enough for me to enjoy the story. And it was such a quick read that I think it a great book to pick up if you’re in the mood for a fantasy, but it doesn’t require as much detailed focus as other high fantasy stories. Through the White Wood is a good story to pick up if you want an impactful setting and a cooling atmosphere.

I received a copy of the book from HarperTeen via Edelweiss in exchange for an honest review.
Profile Image for Joleen (starlightbooktales).
346 reviews308 followers
August 25, 2020
Received a copy from Edelweiss in exchange for an honest review.

4 Stars

Not going to lie, I was a little nervous to read Through the White Wood. I loved Beyond a Darkened Shore and I was afraid this companion wouldn’t be as good. But I was wrong. It's a new and fresh story that stands on its own legs. Jessica Leake created a new brilliant story and I am having a hard time deciding which one I like best!

Through the White Wood tells a new story about Katya, an outcast who has a power, the ability to control ice. Except Katya can’t really control it, leading to tragic events that end up with Katya banished from her village and forced to Sasha, a prince suspected of collecting people with abilities and creating an army. It's there at the palace that Katya begins to discover what her power really is and the destruction coming her way. Together Katya and Sasha must fight for survival and discover the secrets their powers contain to save the people they love.

I was blown away by the amazing storyline. The magic, the romance, the friendships, and the animal sidekicks were brilliant. I enjoyed so many different aspects of this book and I think its pretty obvious that Jessica Leake knows how to tell a good story. There were so many good characters, but none as great as Elation. Which by the way what a crazy little twist that was. But no spoilers here.

It should be obvious by now but I am definitely recommending this book to you guys. Even more, if you enjoyed Beyond a Darkened Shore, you will so enjoy this one. It has all the makings of a great book, slow burn romance, loyal sidekicks, and magic!
Profile Image for Jennifer.
944 reviews37 followers
April 12, 2019
Through the White Wood by Jessica Leake is the brilliantly told story of Katya and Sasha, an orphaned village girl and a prince. Katya was forced out of her home when the ice powers that she has got out of hand(I personally think it was well warranted). Her village contacts the prince and they think she is in for a brutal punishment. Little do they know, the prince might actually NEED Katya.

I worked with Jessica on her first book, Beyond a Darkened Shore, and I completely loved that book so when I was given the opportunity it to review Through the White Wood for a blog tour I knew I had to do it. And after reading this book I can say I am absolutely adding her to my auto-buy author's list. The author writes very vivid and beautiful stories with such amazing characters and worlds that it's impossible to not fall in love. 

I thoroughly enjoyed all of the characters in this book, even the not so nice ones. My favorite character has to be Elation, Katya's Eagle guardian/friend. If there is ever an animal friend like that in a book then they are normally going to be my favorite character. The relationship they had was so beautiful. I also think the dynamic that Sasha and Katya had was pretty great. The prince's kingdom was about to be in a big war and he needed her but she kind of needed him too and they both helped each other a lot. 

This story was Russian inspired and while I knew what most of the words meant, I was very grateful for the glossary in the back of the book because there were a few that I had not previously been exposed to in my other readings of Russian tales.  

I would just like to add as a little side note that the back of the book has a little blurby thing that says "The Bear and the Nightingale meets Frostblood..." and I have never felt the urge to read two books more in my entire life than after reading this book and hearing that those books might be similar to this amazing story. 

In the end, I am so grateful that I got to physically read this book. I have been stuck on audiobooks for months and felt my love of picking up and reading a physical book was slipping away but this story, world and the characters helped remind me how amazing it is to read a story and have your own voice in your head, not an audiobook narrator. If you get the chance, please look into this amazing author and give her beautiful books a shot!

Overall, I gave this book 4.5/5 stars. 
Profile Image for ʙᴇʟᴀ.: ☾**:.☆*.:。..
200 reviews99 followers
April 4, 2019
ARC provided by the publisher via Edelweiss in exchange for an honest review (Thank you!)

I really liked the author's debut, BEYOND A DARKENED SHORE. However, in this one, I guess this was a case of "it's me not you" thing.
THROUGH THE WHITE WOOD was pitched as The Bear and the Nightingale meets FrostBlood so I had high expectations.
However, besides the Russian Mythology, it had nothing to do with the Bear and the Nightingale but it gave some Frostblood vibes.
I was really happy to see Leif and Ciara from Beyond a Darkened Shore (Because I loved them both) but it was not enough to keep me from losing interest.
We follow Katya, a powerful Ice Magic user that is sent to the prince of Kievan Rus as a death sentence because she used her power and destroyed half her village. She ends up being recruited by him in order to protect their land against invasions of other princes.
We follow Katya's journey in order to master her power and their encounters with mythical creatures.
I think there was a lot of unnecessary descriptions, and mostly about Katya's thoughts. I could not connect with Katya. The action scenes and the world building were nice. As for characters, I came to like the supporting characters more than the main ones. Kharan seemed an interesting character and I loved her power. Her friendship with Katya was great and female friendships are needed in YA genre. I also liked Elation and Ivan.
As for the hero, Sasha was way too naive for someone of his reputation. Also, he instantly fell for Katya. He fell in love way too quickly and treated Katya as special snowflake at first sight and it was a major let-down to me.
Grigori was utterly predictable and the villains lacked complexity.
So in conclusion, for me it was an okay read.
People who enjoyed Frostblood might like this;)
Profile Image for - ̗̀ DANY  ̖́- (danyreads).
257 reviews92 followers
April 6, 2019
. : ☾⋆ — 3 ★


ARC provided from the publisher via Edelweiss+ in exchange for an honest review (thank you HarperTeen & HarperCollins!!)

yes, hello, can I please get a cast of lovely characters with found-family dynamics, awesome elemental powers, a side of Russian folklore, a bit of Frozen/Grisha vibes, and just a sprinkle of round-the-world self-discovery quests? thank you, that’s perfect. exquisite. finally some GOOD FOOD.

now, listen. although I didn’t find myself fully loving every bit of Through the White Wood, I’ll say it was trope-y as hell and that’s one aspect of any book that I definitely and thoroughly enjoy. I’ll own up to it as well!! if your book has: hidden, dangerous supernatural powers? prince(s) as love interest(s)? action girls? a chosen one (kind of)? royals drunk on power? all of the above and more? sign me up!!!

the only downside for me with Through the White Wood was that at one point it just got repetitive and underwhelming, not to mention a little cringe-y. I mean, sure, the character dynamics were amazing, but I truthfully got kinda tired of the romance. the book just got so un-exciting all of the sudden because Katya/Sasha was all we were focusing on. Jessica Leake made it so that the war we had going on was basically on the back burner, while Katya and Sasha were front and center. their powers were important, saving their country was important, but….. it all just turned into a big mushy love fest, and Katya and Sasha were kissing in the middle of battlefields and that’s just not my kind of tune at all. I wanted more Russian tales, more character development, more about Katya’s family history—I truly and honestly just wanted more of everything in this book except for the romance.

I’ll confidently say, though, that this book was GREAT. aside from Katya and Sasha sentimentally and lovingly dismantling the second half of the book, Through the Winter Wood had a FANTASTIC storyline going for it, and I really, really enjoyed myself while reading. Jessica Leake is a great writer, and I can’t wait to read more from her!! thanks again to Edelweiss+, HarperCollins and HarperTeen for providing a free copy of this book!!
Profile Image for Carol (StarAngel's Reviews) Allen.
1,683 reviews595 followers
April 14, 2019
****4.5 Icy Stars****

This is the second book I've read from Jessica Leake and each time she didn't disappoint me with her ability to suck me into a story and to hold my interest from beginning to end.
Profile Image for Sasha .
293 reviews286 followers
December 31, 2021
I have read A Darkened Shore and absolutely adored it and this one was good but not as compelling as the first one in my opinion. I was still very intrigued and loved all the slavic folklore included in this story with Baba Yaga and the Firebird for instance but I was expecting something even more captivating!

It is a companion novel a Darkened Shore but I think it is also its own book/story! Love the adventure, the magic, the bit of romance, the story, the storytelling, pacing, writing style it was just missing that tiny teeny thingy that would have make that book as good as the previous one!

Profile Image for Jessica.
Author 5 books708 followers
February 20, 2019
I have a preorder giveaway running to thank all of you for your support! You can find all the details here: bit.ly/2RFNbPc (open INTL)

I’m so excited to share Katya and Prince Sasha’s story filled with elemental magic and Russian folklore with you soon!
Profile Image for Lau.
189 reviews21 followers
April 16, 2019
Thank you so much to HarperTeen for sending me a free ARC of this book in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the contents of my review.

Wow. Okay, so let me just start by saying, if you know me well enough, you will know that I LOVE any book set in Russia, with the whole Russian vibe going on, the snow and cities...This book did not disappoint me at all!

When I first started this book I was so excited, I went into it with high expectations as being pitched as 'The Bear and The Nightingale meets Frostblood' - I LOVE The Bear and The Nightingale with all of my heart and soul, I've never read Frostblood despite owning it for about a year and a half now. So yeah, my expectations were literally through the roof.

When I started this though for some reason I just wasn't feeling it, I think maybe I was in a bit of a slump and I found that when I forced myself to read it I loved it but then I had times when I would find myself doing something else so I didn't have to pick this book up which was nothing to do with the book, just me. I didn't feel like reading. So I started Summer Bird Blue as it's a contemporary and I thought that might help.

And MY GOSH it did! I managed to read the majority of this book in 2 days and I have no other words but I am in love.
This book had everything I wanted and more. It had magic, it had Russian named people, it had Russian history, creatures from Slavic folklore, it had travel through lush sceneries and it had - yes I'm saying it - some faces we know and love from Beyond A Darkened Shore.

This book follows a young woman called Katya who is seen as an outcast in her village because she has the power of ice. She is raised by her 'adoptive' grandparents and knows nothing of her mother and father apart from the fact that they left her in a village to die when her grandparents find her. After a tragic event unfolds in her village, Katya is being sent away to the Prince who she has heard many terrifying tales about, to face her punishment. But when she arrived at the palace, the Prince isn't terrifying at all and infact, he is just the same as she is, trying to search for the truth of his past, and learning to hone his abilities. Along the journey, Katya strikes up amazing friendships, she learns the truth about who she really is and there are many battles.

This story is about the journey it takes to believe in yourself, your abilities and coming to terms with the truth of your past. As someone who struggles everyday with anxiety and depression, I know sometimes it's hard to believe in yourself and this book just made me feel good. It gave me the courage to want to believe in myself.

I loved everything about this book, I couldn't get over the amount of twists it had, when I was thinking one thing it took a whole new twist and revealed something that left me gobsmacked.
Profile Image for Sue (BeautyBookCorner).
431 reviews57 followers
August 19, 2019
I’m going to start this review by putting on my library worker hat. I think this is a book middle schoolers will love. We have a lot of younger teens and preteens that love reading “darker” fantasy books but aren’t allowed to go into the older teen section by their parents who don’t want them to read the more steamy romantic scenes. This is perfect for this age group. There are brief kissing scenes but that’s it.

Now, putting on my personal reviewer hat, this book was good but could have been better. There wasn’t enough tension throughout the book. Not just between characters but in situations. Every situation became a way to tell us something about the character. Characters didn’t feel real. More like the events were there to push the characters to do something.

There was a lot of repetitive sentiments such as Katya constantly having to say she needs to control her magic. For awhile it seemed like every chapter ended with her thinking this. Also a lot of repetitive statements like fire and ice competing or complementing each other. Not enough showing and way too much telling.

And the story itself was nothing new we haven’t seen so all the twists were predictable and so easy to guess. The romance, which I personally love in books, lacked passion. There simply wasn’t enough depth to each character to paint a realistic romance between them.

So I know this sounds all negative but there were some really great aspects to the book. First, this book has a really fast-paced and interesting beginning that hooked me in right away. I loved the historical old Russian setting. This really set the backdrop for the awesome world-building.

The magic system is one of my favorites: elemental magic. I loved how people can control fire, earth, water, and even darkness. I wanted more complexity between the fire and ice magic wielders but overall loved the magic system.

One of my favorite aspects of the book is the way Russian folkore was intertwined with the political events happening in the story. Those who like reading about gods and old magic will love this. I won’t go into detail because of spoilers.

Overall, I think it could have been a much richer story, but it was still a great story and I actually want to check out her previous book, Beyond A Darkened Shore, because the main character in there is a side character here. And she was one of the best characters in this story.
Profile Image for Shelley.
5,157 reviews458 followers
April 8, 2019
*Source* Publisher
*Genre* Young Adult, Historical, Fantasy
*Rating* 4.0


Jessica Leake's Through the White Wood is her follow up to Beyond a Darkened Shore. It is a story that takes place in Eleventh century Russia. Through the White Wood draws inspiration from Russian mythology and explores a world that is much beloved in fantasy. Through the White Wood is a stand-alone fantasy title, but it does feature characters Ciara and Lief that readers were introduced to in Beyond a Darkened Shore.

*Full Review @ Gizmos Reviews*

Profile Image for Sonja.
444 reviews55 followers
March 23, 2019
4.5⭐️ Guys, this was such a pleasant read for me! It held so many elements that I look for in a good book! Beautiful writing/descriptions, characters I connect with emotionally, quests of self discovery, a dash of romance, history, folklore and action. I loved the elemental powers and the Russian culture along with their history with Scandinavia being touched upon as well. If you’re a fan of the Grisha Trilogy or love folklore and history woven together, you need to snag this beauty!
Profile Image for Scrill.
407 reviews205 followers
Shelved as 'dnf'
August 8, 2018
ARC provided through Edelweiss for a fair review

I'm getting Slavic inspiration vibes, and I am here for it!
Profile Image for Katerina.
356 reviews55 followers
August 13, 2019

A riveting tale following a young woman facing discrimination and orphaned by the family she has only ever known. Katya has been given the short end of the stick, born with a gift she doesn't understand and looked at with disgust by her village - she is left alone in the world and frightened. Especially after an event that sends her on a journey to a palace where the, said to be, terrible Prince Alexander resides. She is given choices, faces down enemies, and finds trust in her new friends.


This book, fantasy wise, captured me from the beginning, especially since it had small pieces of Russian history woven throughout the tale. I am always on the lookout for historical retellings and incorporation into young adult literature. This book definitely hit the tea of Russian fairy tales of Babba Yaga, the chicken house, the fairy tale of winter and spring, and more.

Katya is a girl who just wants to be normal. All her life she has been different, empowered with a gift to freeze anything with the slightest of touches. A gift that is out of control and wild. Alone in the world, her only companion an eagle that soars with her.. protecting her from the evils that she faces. I found Katya to be bland at moments throughout the book. Her dialogue felt monotone and dead. Which is quite bothersome when, as the reader, we are trying to connect to these characters. She tended to develop at a very slow pace and seemed immature and reckless for the period we are given. I expected some recklessness; however, here is a girl who constantly says she is afraid to use her gift but will use it at any given turn...so there was a lot of hypocrisy.

Prince Alexander was an interesting character with a lot of hidden secrets. However, in the first 100 pages he opens up everything to Katya. I understand that when you meet someone who understands you, telling your story is normal. However, I was left with little suspense due to this. He tells his life story, his hidden gift is shown, a traitor is found...all within 100 pages of this 350 page book. This lead to difficulties in the rest of the book - slow, boring at parts, and an uneventful plot.

The plot and journey was, as I said earlier, uneventful. Not that there weren't adventurous parts to look forward to. I just felt that because so much was given to us within those first 100 pages I was left with - what more can the author tell us. It lead to a disappointment in many areas where the book tapers off and doesn't pick back up. Or the characters would say what they will do next, like they are narrating a 'to-do' list.


The romance was rushed and dead. I can not really explain the romance that happened. One minute Katya was all "I can't be with him because of my gift" and the next they are making out. The romance also happened fairly quick, with no given warning that the characters actually had feelings for each other. The ending was even stranger because it all felt forced. A forced romance, a forced journey, a forced togetherness because they both have these insane powers.

In the end so much could have been developed, but it was not. We are left with this strange ending that honestly makes no sense. We are left with a romance that was not love at first sight but like magic and just appears on one page randomly.

However, there were moments that I did like. The friendships that were created were not forced, they were beautifully written. The historical moments throughout the book were also written very well and I enjoyed those moments immensely. This is the second book I have read by Jessica Leake and her last book Beyond a Darkened Shore was written insanely well. So I have hopes that her writing will grow as she grows.
Profile Image for Tressa (Wishful Endings).
1,724 reviews185 followers
April 15, 2019
THROUGH THE WHITE WOOD is a story of a girl who comes into her own against all odds and the prince who helps to balance her world. Russian culture and a mix of their folklore are woven through the story with a richness that historical and fairy tale fans will enjoy. Readers who enjoy character driven stories as well as romance will also find much to love here. Definitely a story not to be missed!

These characters are easy to relate to and likable from the beginning. Katya is exceptionally powerful, but very insecure. Her childhood was rough and then her worst fears come to pass, inflicting more wounds on her heart. She is constantly fighting her fears and doubts, which I think most of us can relate to in one way or another. She also is trying to figure out her place in the world and in her new situation at the palace. I enjoyed seeing how she slowly develops over time and that she is still figuring things out as this story ends. Sasha is very much the opposite of Katya. He has been groomed to be the prince and, even with his troubling past and the dangers he and his kingdom faces, he still carries himself with confidence, strength, and the ability to make tough choices. He has some vulnerabilities too, which allowed him to connect in some ways to Katya. I loved how he counters Katya and how they fit together with their personalities, strengths, and with their powers.

I also really enjoyed this fantasy world that is really a part of ancient history with the author's twists and magical elements added in. The Russian culture with their way of life, clothing, and mannerisms added a richness to this story that I appreciated and found interesting. The way the author weaves in different folklore and how different individuals came to posses these powerful abilities was also interesting. I definitely wouldn't mind visiting this story-book world again.

My one complaint would be that I wanted more chemistry from the romance and more development in that area. I kind of felt like these two hardly spoke to each other and then were in love and I wanted there to be a lot more "meat" per se to their relationship before love developed. I still enjoyed the romance and the sweetness of it regardless. And I could have handled even more cultural and magical development.

In the end, was it what I wished for? I thoroughly enjoyed this story from beginning to end! With the rich setting, magical aspects, character development, a motley crew, and romance, there's not much more readers can ask for. I'm looking forward to more from this author!

Content: Some violence but clean.
Source: I received a complimentary copy from the author through Prism Book Tours, which did not require a positive review nor affect it in any way.
Profile Image for leonie.
567 reviews
April 30, 2019
i wish i could give this 5 stars :((( I LOVED THIS all the russian folklore vibes i got from this, the atmosphere & characters were amazing. but it lacked depth :( i wanted and needed to know more of the magic system, the politics & the characters ... and also the ending was so abrupt and open? everything felt rushed i wish it was longer or a series! but still an amazing book
Profile Image for Alice.
298 reviews113 followers
Want to read
January 27, 2019
It's unfair that this cover is so pretty, but I wasn't too into Beyond the Darkened Shore.
Profile Image for Nemo (The ☾Moonlight☾ Library).
625 reviews302 followers
April 29, 2019
This review was originally posted on The Moonlight Library

Through the White Wood appealed to me because I love elemental-based magic, especially when it's ice/water vs fire.

I also learned through reading the book that it's based in an area of Russia centuries ago, except this version of Russia has real magic. I really liked that it was based here, and it was really cool to see this diversity in a Medieval-era fantasy. I loved the concept of Katya's cold fire - a fire that burns by instantly freezing, and a power she has little control over to begin with. I really liked Katya's journey, from frightened peasant to royal confidante. A lot of the Russian-inspired and elemental fantasy books I read start with a common magical girl leaving her village life and travelling to meet a royal, and even though it's waaay overused, it's still a trope I kind of love. Fight me.

However, there were loads of inconsistencies with it being based in Russia that bothered me. I didn't like, for example, when a Russian word was used in the place of an English word (unless there was literally no translation). The book is being told in English, so the language used should be English, even though the characters are Russian and are speaking whatever version of Russian/Slavic existed back then. The use of Russian/Slavic in speech, and especially in italicised speech, was used only to Other several characters, to make them seem foreign or exotic (one of them was a no-name servant girl? That made no sense), when the character was just as equally Russian/Slavic as the main characters. They are literally speaking Russian/Slavic to each other, so how can you put the Russian/Slavic word in the book? It makes no sense. Just like Lumiere having a French accent in Beauty and the Beast. They're all French! They should all have French accents, except that they're all speaking French to each other (English to this audience) so they should all have the same accent?! I mean yeah, so that bothered me a little. I just wanted some consistency. If the character is saying Yes in Russian, the listener should hear Yes, not Da.

I also kind of lost interest about three quarters of the way through the book, not really for any reason except that I was bored. It took some effort to pick the book up and finish it. I felt like some kind of conclusion had been found at that point and I could easily have ended it there. It should have been exciting. There was international travel and a bit of romance and some espionage... but at this point, the characters from this book met the characters from Leake's other Medieval-esque standalone, so I think she was relying on fans to be excited at this crossover and ride on that. However, I have not read Beyond a Darkened Shore, so I didn't really give a shit about the characters (except that Mr Viking seemed really hot... I'm kind of into barbarians... hmm maybe I will read it). So our heroine kind of took a bit of a backseat at this point, which is where I kind of lost interest a bit.

Also, I wouldn't say it's romantic, but there is a love interest. I mean, I wouldn't call this a romantic fantasy. It's fantasy with a romance element. I wasn't feeling it personally. It was obvious from the start that the prince fell in love quite early: he was exceptionally kind to Katya at all times and quickly drew her into his trusted, inner circle. Katya was more suspicious and took a bit of convincing that the prince wasn't just faking it. I don't feel like it was instalove, at least not from Katya's point of view: even at the end of the book, she's got more important things to do than hang around with the prince in his palace and make moon eyes.

This was a really good addition to the elemental fantasy genre, and I'm stoked that there was loads of Slavic worldbuilding. It built a convincing case for this book being non-English based and I loved seeing the world through Katya's eyes. If you're looking for something exceptional, maybe this isn't it, but if you enjoy non-English based Medieval elemental fantasies then this might be a good choice to spend some time with.

I received a copy of this book from Edelweiss in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.
Profile Image for Morrighan Rose.
141 reviews24 followers
August 17, 2018
**I received an ARC in exchange for an honest review
Our story opens with our main character, Katya, being ripped away from the only home and family she has ever known. It is a heartbreaking first scene and pulled at my heartstrings immediately. I knew nothing about this girl, only that she was losing everything in the blink of an eye and there was not a soul there to defend her. The members of her small frozen village, a village she had grown up in, looked on with hatred in their eyes. They were terrified of her and only wanted to be rid of the girl with powers they could never understand.

Katya is a damaged 17 year old girl from a small village on the outskirts of Kiev. Orphaned as a baby in the frozen forest, she is discovered by an older couple who take her in. She calls them Babushka and Dedushka, the Russian word for grandmother and grandfather, but they are no relation to her. She is a lost girl whose family gave her up and left her to die in the cold. Katya could never succumb to the cold though, for she has powers that would keep her alive in the harshest wintery terrains. She has the power of cold. Ice. The ability to freeze water in any temperature. There is also a power she possesses that is a bit more destructive-- something she has labeled 'cold fire'. A power that has gotten her exiled from her village and sent to the rumored 'evil prince' of Kievan Rus'.

"As long as I can see the stars, I told myself, I won't feel so far from home."
I was able to connect with Katya, and I fell in love with her. She is a lost girl, searching for a way to be strong in a world she doesn't understand. Her ability to trust is non-existent from years of ridicule, but her want to overcome that is one of my favorite aspects of this story. She wants to be better, and that drive in her is stronger than her past. I admired her ability to change when faced with new situations. She is an open-minded, multi-dimensional character, well-written and fierce! SO very fierce and protective of the ones that she cares about.
Sasha is the young prince of a city on the brink of war. He has long since given up on using his own power to control fire, and is in search of other powerful element wielders to help defend his city. I fell in love with this young prince. His determination to protect his people, and his drive to do that at all costs is admirable. When faced with adversity, he doesn't get angry. He finds a way around or through it.

I enjoyed the world building in this story. While this is not a sequel to Beyond a Darkened Shore, it is still set in the same world, close to the same time period. The Russian and Slavik folklore is very present, including tales of Baba Yaga and the Firebird! The mythology is woven so well throughout the adventure; I absolutely enjoyed learning more about this culture that is rarely found in YA literature.

Jessica Leake has quickly become one of my favorite story-tellers. I find myself falling in love with her characters and worlds, to the point that I dream about them. As a constant reader, that is my ultimate differential of a good book and an excellent book. Throughout the day, drifting off to a frozen world where princes are passionate about the people that they rule. Where young, damaged girls find the power within themselves to change their future. And ultimately, where a group of young people can band together to try to defeat an enemy that threatens their world. I LOVED every second of this book!

Thank you so much to Jessica Leake and the publisher, Harper Collins for sending me an early copy!
Profile Image for Kristina.
67 reviews9 followers
February 9, 2019
3.5 stars (possibly rounded to 4)

I read Jessica Leake's "Beyond a Darkened Shore" in this last year and absolutely fell in love with it. It was everything that I wanted in a young adult historical fiction-based novel: just-the-right amount of romance, strong female lead, complex family relationships and most importantly, some really interesting folklore and mythology that made me feel like I was transported to another time.

Through the White Wood didn't blow me away as much as Beyond a Darkened Shore. I really did enjoy the parallels between Ciara and Katja: complicated familial relationships, leaving villages that rejected them and made them feel alone or like they had to make up for a part of themselves that they couldn't control. Unlike Beyond a Darkened Shore, Katja didn't reel me in the way Ciara did. I didn't feel like I was rooting for her as strongly as one should a female protagonist; I didn't feel as if she had a strong enough quest or purpose driving her forward. She just kind of went along with the show because she didn't know what else to do.

I do love the way that Jessica Leake brings in different creatures of folklore and intertwines fantasy and history so perfectly. Usually, it's difficult to find a ya fantasy novel that incorporates enough history that I feel like I'm still actually learning something. While my memory from high school history classes is Rusty at best, I loved being transported to the time of the Byzantine Empire and Constantinople. I wish we had a bit more history at the beginning of the novel to better lead us into battle with our characters.

I do have to say, that Prince Sasha gave me a bit of a Darkling vibe from the Shadow and Bone trilogy... if the Darkling was actually a good guy we would want to fight for. The juxtaposition of Prince Sasha and Katja, with his being a wielder of fire and her being wielder of ice, set them up as great foils and I was looking forward to tension between their characters. We didn't get tension. We didn't even really get passion. I felt their relationship wasn't as complex or complicated as it could have been because they were so distinctly paralleled - I wanted to question whether they would hurt or help each other, and even though we were TOLD Katja questioned him, I didn't feel it.

I wanted to know more about Sasha. I wanted to know more about his family lineage and WHY his empire was being taken over. I don't feel as if I ever got an answer for that. Why? Why did this war happen? Why!?!????

I wanted more showing and less telling. I wanted more blood and guts. I wanted steamier romance. I wanted more character development from Katja. I wanted MORE. I still want MORE.

Will we have another book? I hope so. I don't feel like the story has finished.

Overall, I'd say THWW is a solid 3.5 stars: I liked it a lot! I loved the story. I love the way Jessica Leake weaves together folklore and real history and treats them both as equally valuable. I didn't love the character development, or lack thereof. I want richer backstories and more emotion. The voice and tone of THWW is a little too....upbeat for the story.

Leake really is a great author and I'm already eagerly waiting for her next book.

***ARC provided by Harper Collins in exchange for honest review
Profile Image for Cassie James.
Author 14 books87 followers
August 5, 2018
I received an ARC of this book from the publisher but this doesn't influence my opinion of it.


Through the White Wood by Jessica Leake is a splendid continuation of this series. I was really excited to get into it because the premise sounds amazing and it did not disappoint.
It's set in the same world as the first book but with different main characters.
Katya has lived all her life in fear. Fear of letting go and unleashing her deadly power over ice on the spiteful people in their village. She was abandoned as a babe and raised by an elderly couple who brought her up as their granddaughter despite the consternation of the villagers.
Named the Ice Witch, she's ostracised and barely tolerated. Her life came tumbling down when an attack on her grandfather by some randy fools led to her destroying half of her village and killing a lot of people her grandfather included.
Condemned, Katya is sent to the palace of the Prince of Rus' who is said to gather people with abilities for nefarious reasons.
Scared by her power and believing herself a monster, Katya accepts the sentence and leaves expecting to arrive to her doom.
She is surprised when the Prince is not as devilish and evil as the rumors portray. Prince Sasha is only gathering people with powers to aid him in the upcoming war that will leave Runs massacred in the hands of their enemies whose army is filled with earth elementals that have vast control over it.
Katya might be Rus' only hope if she can learn to control the deadly and delicious power contained within her.
The Prince also has secrets of his own as he's a fire elemental.
Their meeting leads to many revelations about their various origins.
The main antagonists the Drevlian and Novgorodian Princes (the rulers of the kingdoms in cahoots) are dangerous because not only are they desperate for more power but they are rumored to be the most powerful earth elementals alive.
Only Fire and Ice can hold back the earth.
One of the things I adore about Through The White Wood is the lush and rich Russian folklore. From the fearsome creatures (Russalka, Baba Yaga etc), to the kingdoms and the descriptions, it's all brilliant.
As the world is something we've had a feel from in the first book, it was easy to assimilate to. The main characters from the first book makes a significant appearance to, I so love sort of crossovers. The camaraderie is just sweet.
The secondary characters such as Kharan, Boris, Ivan etc with their own powers and stories are also quite intriguing.
The pace is fast and makes for an easy read. The romance between Sasha and Katya is expected but still welcome and I like the way he brings her out of her shell and makes her blossom.
The ending has me really excited for the next things this series has to offer, I commend Jessica Leake for weaving this entrancing world.

P.S: There's a part of the book that gave MD Frozen feels!! Loved that.
Profile Image for Lauren the Book Slayer.
380 reviews58 followers
April 10, 2019
Let me start by saying that, although it wasn’t necessary to read Beyond a Darkened Shore before Through the White Wood, I wish I had. Both books take place in the same fantasy world, and some prominent characters from Leake’s first book, make an appearance in this latest.
Here’s my thoughts on Through the White Wood –


The Setting and time period. It took place in Ukraine and then Constantinople around 1000 AD. I love books set in Medieval time: bathing in streams, heating rocks to cook, traveling by sleds, etc. Day-to-day life was harder then, but I feel like, also more rich, and simple at times.

The mythology/folklore. Jessica Leake clearly did a lot of research on slavic folklore. There was a handful of great folklore beings such as —SPOILER ALERT— Baba Yaga.
Lots of action! I liked that there was action right in the beginning. We didn’t have to wait long before we got a taste of Katya’s icy powers.

The terminology. Through the White Wood wasn’t an easy story for me to slip right into. There were a handful of slavic words in the beginning of the story, that caused me to; stop reading, put the book down, grab my phone, Google the term, then return to reading. They were for minor words like shirt, and pastry, but I couldn’t enjoy the story without knowing what they were.

The romance. One of the biggest reasons I wanted to read this book is because of the alluded to romance between Katya and Prince Sasha. I liked Katya and I liked Sasha, but most of their scenes together felt a little stiff to me. I felt like there just wasn’t enough heat.

Overall I enjoyed Through the White Wood. I’ve actually had Beyond a Darkened Shore on my shelves since last year and never got around to reading it. But now that I know that Jessica Leake excels at world-building and folklore-researching, I’m going to make a greater effort to finally read it – and soon!
Profile Image for Rory.
15 reviews7 followers
April 18, 2019
*I received an ARC in exchange for an honest review*

I first read Jessica Leake's Beyond a Darkened Shore last year, when it came in m April Fairyloot box, and absolutely loved it. I also love how Leake takes small events from throughout history and turns it into such an amazing story! It began my obssession for young adult historical-fiction-based novels. So you can imagine my excited when I saw the announcement for Through the White Wood.

THROUGH was definitely everything I was hoping for. Katya's development from a lost, damaged, and scared 17 year old girl, to a girl more confident and sure of herself, her strengths and her power is truly inspiring. I also loved that, though THROUGH is a standalone, Leake featured our two favourites from BEYOND, Ciara and Leif, into the story.

I'd defintely recommend this book to fans of Beyond a Darkened Shore, as well as to fans of historical fiction!
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