From the Shelf
What Lives On at the Chelsea Hotel
The names most often associated with New York City's famed Chelsea Hotel don't live there anymore. They were writers and visual artists and musicians and fashion designers. "For many decades, an aura of fame and creativity emanated from the hotel," writes photographer Colin Miller in a note at the beginning of Hotel Chelsea. Built in 1883, the co-op's affordability made it ideal for working artists. But by the 2000s, the building's bohemian chic had garnered a significant following, and with it came the tides of gentrification.
The always polished Monacelli Press delivers a splendid coffee-table book documenting the living spaces of numerous eclectic residents who remain and continue to fight amid ownership changes and renovations. Although the overhaul of the hotel has been slow, Miller and documentarian Ray Mock shot some of the apartments years before a proper interview with residents, whose spaces were altered by new building owners in the interim.
Miller's impeccable photographs highlight each resident's distinctive decor. There are colorful rugs and textiles tenderly strewn about writer Raymond Foye's renovated apartment to "keep a sense of that old vibe." Sybao Cheng-Wilson maintains a sleek, spare aesthetic as curator for the artistic estate of her brother Ching Ho Cheng, who died in 1989.
Some people are hopeful, but not all are--made crystal clear by a somewhat jaded foreword by former residents Gaby Hoffmann (Transparent actress) and Alex Auder (yoga instructor), siblings raised in the milieu. Distilled from an e-mail exchange between the two, it conjures an ongoing tension between disgust toward the soulless onslaught of gentrification and mistrust of the "sweet sickness" of nostalgia.
Public curiosity about the building continues to grow, however. And what might have been a bleak ode to the past has become something more. "Things are changing, but they're not dying or dead, as I had originally speculated," Miller writes. "Over time, the project evolved from a requiem to a celebration of what lives on at the Chelsea."
In this Issue...
by Daniel Mallory Ortberg
Sidesplitting essays on the transmasculine experience through various pop culture lenses.
A workbook stemming from author Layla Saad's 28-day #MeandWhiteSupremacy Instagram challenge to help individuals learn to see and address systemic white supremacy.
by Jennifer Berne
The author of children's biographies about Albert Einstein and Jacques Cousteau teams with a fine artist to profile Emily Dickinson in this charming picture book.
Review by Subjects:
Major Finds in Old Books
Mental Floss shared "five amazing things found in old books."
The Petersen House in Washington, D.C., where Lincoln died, has a 34-foot-tall stack of "books" dedicated to the 16th president, Atlas Obscura noted.
"Jules Verne's most famous books were part of a 54-volume masterpiece, featuring 4,000 illustrations: see them online," Open Culture wrote.
More book nooks: Buzzfeed showcased 14 creative book nook shelf inserts.
Rediscover: High FidelityOn February 14, a new adaptation of Nick Hornby's novel High Fidelity premiered on Hulu. In this version, Hornby's protagonist, played by John Cusack in the 2000 film, is the female owner of a record store in Brooklyn (Chicago in the film, London in the book). Zoë Kravitz plays Rob, a pop-culture obsessed woman in her mid-30s who runs Championship Vinyl alongside several employees. All 10 episodes are now available for streaming.
In Hornby's book, Rob's preoccupation with top-five music lists leads him to reconsider his five most important breakups. Rob reconnects with his exes and gets back together with one, finding meaning in pursuit of a DJ career and by confronting his fear of commitment. High Fidelity has solid more than one million copies since its 1995 publication. Hornby is also the author of Fever Pitch (1992), an autobiographical essay about his obsession with Arsenal Football Club, and the coming-of-age novel About a Boy (1998). He wrote the adaptation of Cheryl Strayed's Wild: From Lost to Found on the Pacific Crest Trail and has twice been nominated for an Academy Award for Best Adapted Screenplay. Hornby's most recent book is Funny Girl (2014). High Fidelity is available in paperback from Riverhead ($16, 9781573225519). --Tobias Mutter
The Writer's Life
Reading with... Mary Higgins Clark
|(photo: Bernard Vidal)|
Mary Higgins Clark, who died last month at age 92, began her writing career in 1975, when she was nearly 50. She went on to write 40 suspense novels, four story collections, a historical novel, a memoir and two children's books. With Alafair Burke, she wrote the Under Suspicion series, including The Cinderella Murder, All Dressed in White, The Sleeping Beauty Killer, Every Breath You Take and You Don't Own Me. With her daughter Carol Higgins Clark, she co-authored five other suspense novels. There are more than one hundred million copies of her books in print in the United States alone. Her standalone thriller Kiss the Girls and Make Them Cry was recently released by Simon & Schuster. Mary Higgins Clark spoke with Shelf Awareness shortly before her death.
On your nightstand now:
Finding Dorothy by Elizabeth Letts. Am just finishing this engrossing story about Judy Garland when she was first discovered. When I was a child, she was a superstar, first as a singer, then as an actress. This novel brings back lots of old memories.
Favorite book when you were a child:
Jane Eyre. I just reread it for the umpteenth time. A truly great story. Every time you read it you'll find something you missed the previous time.
Your top five authors:
Suspense novels were always at the top of my list. When I was looking for a genre, no surprise I chose this one!
Book you've faked reading:
The Americanization of Edward Bok. I did school book reports on this title several times. I was confident that my teachers knew even less about him that I did!
Book you're an evangelist for:
Where the Crawdads Sing by Delia Owens. This is a truly splendid tale, totally satisfying in its premise and resolution. My daughters have read it, and I've recommended it to my grandchildren.
Book you've bought for the cover:
Covers affect my purchase decision less than what's written on the book jacket. A good teaser summary can hook me.
Book you hid from your parents:
The Sheik by Edith Maude Hull. A very racy story for its day from the "desert romance" genre. A strong-willed young woman, against the advice of her friends, goes out into the desert for a month accompanied only by a male guide, and a love relationship develops. Not the type of book parents recommended to their daughters in the 1930s and 1940s.
Book that changed your life:
My book Where Are the Children? It launched my career!
Favorite line from a book:
"The end." Especially when referring to a story I wrote.
Five books you'll never part with:
To Kill a Mockingbird, Harper Lee
Confessions of St. Augustine
Trinity, Leon Uris
Tuesdays with Morrie, Mitch Albom
Evergreen, Belva Plain
Book you most want to read again for the first time:
Ulysses by James Joyce.
How technology has altered the way a mystery is written:
If in your story you want to put a body in a dumpster, it's hard to find one that doesn't have a camera pointed at it.
Follow Me to Ground
by Sue Rainsford
In this serenely haunting tale, told in prose at once lyrical and unsettling, a lonely inhuman girl running a magical curing business with her father searches for a way to come alive.
Ada and her father were born of the Ground; though they appear human, not all within is flesh. Vital to their acceptance in town is their ability to cure illness. The Cures, as they call the townspeople, need them to treat their sundry ailments. Ada and her father tease the Cures open, sing away their sickness, and temporarily bury them when necessary while their extracted organs heal. Stifled by the monotony of serving customers, Ada doesn't feel alive until she meets Samson, a Cure her father forbids her to love, believing he's dangerously sick. When Samson suggests they run away, Ada spooks. She won't lose him, but she can't leave. Her solution lies in the Ground--an act that might undo everything she and her father have built, and it rests on the precarious hope that she can have a fulfilling future.
Follow Me to Ground by debut author Sue Rainsford depicts the desperation fueled by loneliness. Tolerated only for her abilities, Ada craves true companionship. As a child, she wanted a sibling, but her father refused to create another. Ada has been "a long time in the desert," and her father's plan to extinguish her only pleasure seems like "sunshine bleaching everything." Visceral in its descriptions and carried by a spellbinding first-person narrative intertwined with lore from fearful Cures, this unworldly story is a well-crafted and eerie exploration of desire. --Samantha Zaboski, freelance editor and reviewer
Discover: Longing to end her solitude, an ostracized girl who supernaturally cures the sick pursues a forbidden love in this beautifully intoxicating novel of magical realism.
Mystery & Thriller
House on Fire
by Joseph Finder
In Joseph Finder's nail-biting mystery House on Fire, private investigator Nick Heller infiltrates a big pharma billionaire's backstabbing family to seek justice for the death of a friend.
Nick gets an urgent call from a military buddy's distraught wife. Her husband, Sean, saved Nick's life in Afghanistan, but was wounded and developed an addiction to the opioid drug Oxydone. Sean has just died from an overdose of the painkiller.
At Sean's funeral, Nick is approached by Sukie Kimball, the daughter of billionaire Conrad Kimball, who owns the company that makes and markets Oxydone in the form of an easy-to-use inhaler. Sukie wants to expose her father's company for hiding the truth about Oxydone's addictive properties. Nick poses as her date at family functions to search the Kimball mansion, but Sukie's dysfunctional siblings quickly see through the ruse and will do everything they can to stop Nick--even murder.
Finder (Guilty Minds) delivers tight writing with sharp characters, especially the cast of Kimball family members. There's a pseudo-intellectual about to publish a book--as soon as he can settle on a topic; a theater producer who can't gain any respect due to the family name; an alcoholic lothario turned pyromaniac; two siblings seeking to take control of the company; and Conrad's Russian mail-order bride, who may just become the sole beneficiary of the Kimball empire. Fans of HBO's Succession and dynamic murder mysteries will eagerly inhale House on Fire. --Paul Dinh-McCrillis, freelance reviewer
Discover: In this engrossing thriller, a private investigator targets the billionaire family that owns a pharmaceutical giant and is hiding a drug's habit-forming test results.
The Mitford Scandal
by Jessica Fellowes
Jessica Fellowes (The World of Downton Abbey; The Mitford Murders) explores the dramatic end of the 1920s in The Mitford Scandal, the third entry in her Mitford Murders series. Louisa Cannon, former nursery maid to the Mitford sisters and new ladies' maid to Miss Diana Mitford, is appalled when a young housemaid falls to her death at a large party in 1928. She thinks it's merely a freak accident, until further deaths take place within the illustrious social circle of Diana and Bryan Guinness, her wealthy new husband, over the next few years. Louisa realizes that all these deaths cannot be mere coincidences, and turns to Guy Sullivan, a detective sergeant who has made no secret of his affection for her, to help her discover what is going on.
Meticulously researched, The Mitford Scandal draws on the lives of the six real Mitford sisters, and their roles among the "Bright Young Things" in the late '20s. Moving in exalted and bohemian social circles that included artists, writers such as Evelyn Waugh, and aristocrats, the Mitford sisters were at the top of avant-garde English society. Louisa's position as ladies' maid, which places her somewhere between the upstairs aristocrats and the downstairs servants, affords her excellent opportunities for eavesdropping and investigating, creating a slow-paced but enjoyable mystery. Fellowes, niece of Downton Abbey creator Julian Fellowes, knows the history of this era well, and uses her knowledge and a flair for appealing fiction to create a delightful entry in this historical mystery series. --Jessica Howard, bookseller at Bookmans, Tucson, Ariz.
Discover: This charming historical mystery follows lady's maid Louisa Cannon as she investigates a series of deaths in 1920s English high society.
Science Fiction & Fantasy
by Gish Jen
On the list of passions that are as American as apple pie, the game of baseball occupies a prominent place. That's what makes its presence at the heart of Gish Jen's clever dystopian novel The Resisters so meaningful, and so disquieting.
In the middle of the 21st century in the country now known as AutoAmerica, Jen (World and Town) vividly imagines a world that's been transformed into the ultimate surveillance state through the pervasive AutoNet (dubbed "Aunt Nettie" by its detractors), a powerful amalgamation of artificial intelligence, automation and the Internet. Teenager Gwen Cannon-Chastanet and her parents are among the benighted segment of AutoAmerica known as Surplus, who subsist on a government-supplied Basic Income and the produce they grow in their backyard.
Gwen's preternatural talent at pitching a baseball--once a banned sport, but now designated an Official National Pastime--lands her a spot at Net U, an institution otherwise barred to those of her social caste. As a result, the family experiences tension arising from her new life among the Netted. They ponder whether her exposure to its allure will induce her to Cross Over into that privileged social stratum.
Jen revels in creating a fully realized world that's sufficiently recognizable yet infused with enough alien elements to qualify as frighteningly realistic speculation on a potential future. Blending realistic family drama with sly social commentary, The Resisters raises a host of provocative questions about what a ruthless combination of omnipresent technology and economic inequality might look like. George Orwell would be proud. And scared. --Harvey Freedenberg, freelance reviewer
Discover: Along with her family, a young woman with an outsized talent for pitching a baseball struggles for survival in an America where technology drives economic inequality.
Spring Rain: A Graphic Memoir of Love, Madness, and Revolutions
by Andy Warner
As far as semesters abroad go, few can rival the six months that writer and illustrator Andy Warner (Brief Histories of Everyday Objects) spent in Beirut in 2005. Spring Rain, the resulting illustrated memoir of his time in Lebanon, intertwines the country's violent upheaval in the wake of political assassinations with Warner's struggles to define his sexuality, his creative purpose and, as things progress, his own sanity.
As random car bombings plague the city amid social unrest, Warner's curiosity about his sexual orientation--as well as lingering angst over an ex-girlfriend--compound circumstances to a point where the author must question whether he has begun exhibiting symptoms of mental illness prevalent within his family. He uses a fairly realistic, unembellished drawing style to capture the essence of the friends, family, colleagues and strangers who populate his memoir in subtle but remarkable ways--be it the strategic crease of an eye or the slight slump of a shoulder. In other cases, it's the shading of bullet holes that mark a statue Warner visits in Beirut's Martyrs' Square.
Whether he's depicting the reality of a nation in revolt or the nightmare of a personal break from reality that threatens the possibility of tragic consequences, Warner's skills as a cartoonist serve both to offer the story cohesion and to ensure the (extremely helpful) passages on Lebanon's history aren't too dense. In total, Spring Rain is a timely work that never oversteps itself by narrowing its focus to provide a fleeting glimpse of revolutions both personal and political. --Zack Ruskin, freelance reviewer
Discover: A captivating graphic memoir in which a young American details his 2005 semester abroad in Lebanon at a time of great political and personal upheaval.
Me and White Supremacy: Combat Racism, Change the World, and Become a Good Ancestor
by Layla Saad
Author, speaker and podcast host Layla Saad channels her work exploring the topics of race, identity and social change in Me and White Supremacy, an interactive workbook designed to help individuals learn to address anti-Blackness and white supremacy at both the individual and institutional level. While the book is designed as a 28-day course, which grew out of her #MeAndWhiteSupremacy live Instagram challenge, Saad notes that it is important for readers to realize that the book is a map for lifelong practice in antiracism and anti-oppression.
The introduction provides insightful and helpful advice for readers, acknowledging that deconstructing white supremacy is hard work, and providing tips such as going at one's own pace and using the book in a supportive setting, while also stressing the need for personal accountability in antiracist practices. Broken into four sections, or weeks, the first covers the basics of looking at various components of white supremacy such as white fragility, privilege, silence and exceptionalism, and tone policing. It then moves to the topics of color blindness, anti-Blackness, racist stereotypes and cultural appropriation in week two, while weeks three and four highlight how to become an effective ally and make personal changes before moving forward to structural ones. Each chapter ends with engaging questions for personal journaling, and each week ends with a reflection on the work done previously.
Further resources include guidelines for using the book in a group setting, a glossary, further readings, and notes. Me and White Supremacy is an effective tool for individuals to start their journeys into the work of addressing larger systems of racism and oppression. --Michelle Anya Anjirbag, freelance reviewer
Discover: A workbook stemming from author Layla Saad's 28-day #MeandWhiteSupremacy Instagram challenge to help individuals learn to see and address systemic white supremacy.
Reference & Writing
Murder Your Darlings and Other Gentle Writing Advice from Aristotle to Zinsser
by Roy Peter Clark
Journalist and writing instructor Roy Peter Clark makes it clear from the beginning that Murder Your Darlings and Other Gentle Writing Advice from Aristotle to Zinsser is not a list of the best writing guides. Instead Clark, himself the author of several respected books on writing, including Writing Tools and How to Write Short, shares some of his favorite writing books and what he learned from them.
Clark engages in discussion with each author he introduces, sometimes carrying that discussion across authors or even beyond the subject of writing. (For example, an examination of Dorothea Brande's fascist leanings leads Clark to a rich discussion of good work by bad people.) He begins with On the Art of Writing by Sir Arthur Quiller-Couch, the source of the often misquoted and misattributed injunction to "murder your darlings"--putting that advice in its original and less draconian context. He distinguishes between books about writing craft and books about living the life of a writer--while pointing out that many of the best books straddle the two categories. Clark distills one or two pieces of advice from each work he considers--sometimes technical, sometimes inspirational. He ends with a piece of advice distilled from all 50 works together: "writers use everything."
Murder Your Darlings is an opinionated, lively and occasionally critical discussion of books that have made Clark want to write and why such books matter. Be warned: readers may be inspired to add new books to their writing bookshelves, or to re-read ones they already own. --Pamela Toler, blogging at History in the Margins
Discover: A respected writing instructor opens his office door and gives readers a glimpse of his favorite books about writing.
Something That May Shock and Discredit You
by Daniel Mallory Ortberg
It can be difficult to pinpoint exactly what makes Something that May Shock and Discredit You hang together so spectacularly. The razor wit? The self-effacing candor? The oddball moments of cultural redux? The truth is that Daniel Mallory Ortberg (now known as Danny Lavery; The Merry Spinster) has a discerning and oracular ability to illuminate personal experience through media touchstones--not least of which is the Bible.
"One of the many advantages of a religious childhood is the variety of metaphors made available to describe untranslatable inner experiences," he writes in the opening essay of a book that largely considers his gender transition. Readers, regardless of spiritual discipline, however, will be glad such variety is at Ortberg's disposal--although he has plenty of originals to dispense as well, like when he writes of the Rapture as "being swept up by the Raisin Bran scoop of heaven."
All this within the first four pages, because Ortberg is just warming up before delving openly into his transmasculine experience with unrivaled panache. Passage after passage sees him refining a riveting portrait of his life and transness fit for the pages of an illuminated manuscript. Biblical stories of transformation, transfiguration and renaming become equal to the T4T energy ("couples, usually fictional, mostly heterosexual, that somehow manage to emblematize a particular trans-on-trans dynamic") between Gomez and Morticia Addams. Ortberg's Something that May Shock and Discredit You most certainly astonishes and amazes--it may even be transformative. --Dave Wheeler, associate editor, Shelf Awareness
Discover: Sidesplitting essays on the transmasculine experience through various pop culture lenses.
The Big Goodbye: Chinatown and the Last Years of Hollywood
by Sam Wasson
Fans of Peter Biskind's Easy Riders, Raging Bulls and Mark Harris's Pictures at the Revolution will adore Sam Wasson's (Improv Nation) superbly written history of the making of the 1974 noir classic Chinatown. This Oscar-winning masterpiece was created by combining the talents of Jack Nicholson (in his first romantic leading man role), screenwriter Robert Towne (suffering from writers' block after spending two years writing Warren Beatty's Shampoo), producer Robert Evans (the new head of a floundering Paramount Pictures who brought profits back by producing Love Story and The Godfather) and director Roman Polanski (whose two films post-Rosemary's Baby had tanked).
More than half of Wasson's brilliant book is just a lead-up to filming Chinatown--but what a thrilling first half it is. Wasson backtracks to create full and psychologically insightful biographies of all four men, leading up to their friendships and working partnerships. The murder of Polanski's eight-months pregnant wife, Sharon Tate, in 1969 devastated him and changed Hollywood. "That was the end of the Sixties," said Towne. "The door closed, the curtain dropped, and nothing and no one was ever the same." Wasson's detective work goes beyond juicy tales of Faye Dunaway's alienating behavior. He uncovers several surprises, including Towne's longtime (but secret) writing partnership with Edward Taylor; the disastrous first previews of the film; and the last-minute jettison of the film's musical score to one composed and recorded in 10 days by Jerry Goldsmith.
The Big Goodbye reaches beyond the filming of Chinatown to create a fascinating and superbly reported look at Hollywood in the 1970s and beyond. --Kevin Howell, independent reviewer and marketing consultant
Discover: The Big Goodbye is a richly detailed and superbly written biography of the four men who forged a strong friendship and created the film classic Chinatown.
The Blue Absolute
by Aaron Shurin
Aaron Shurin (Flower & Sky: Two Talks) dazzles the sense of self in his transportive and indelible poetry collection, The Blue Absolute.
Luscious prose poems populate the four sections of this book. Most entries stand like a single paragraph on the page the reader enters. By the end of each poem, a transformative magic has occurred. Shurin's sentences embrace the poet's surroundings--both pastoral and urban--with zeal and exuberant intelligence, showing how space relates to the self and expands it. These poems "flirt with distances" in a poetic dance, balancing the past, the "cargo of facts," with the depth of the present and possibilities of the future. "The Edge" reveals what the poet uncovers with the force of his imagination: "a perfectly unzipped set of affirmations." Likewise, in "Clear," the ultimate purpose is "seizing the husk of every disappearing hour."
Shurin is a gay writer, and a certain eroticism animates these poems. His attempt to "make the walls sing" reveals a deep well of life force, sexually charged but also reaching heights of universal love, the same way his poetry mixes the sensuous with the abstract, until the whole world seems to be throbbing with life. The end of the collection is a five-part poem called "Shiver"--structured differently than the other poems--dedicated to San Francisco, "to meet the city that made me and that I make."
Taken together, the poems in The Blue Absolute are liberating in the way they lean toward sky, breaking ceilings and conjuring the absolute richness of the moment. Shurin is a bright voice in the wilderness, one that illuminates and builds worlds with words. --Scott Neuffer, writer, poet, editor of trampset
Discover: This life-affirming collection of prose poems explores space and time with glorious imagination and abiding affection.
Children's & Young Adult
On Wings of Words: The Extraordinary Life of Emily Dickinson
by Jennifer Berne , illust. by Becca Stadtlander
With gentle reverence and eloquence, Jennifer Berne (On a Beam of Light) introduces young readers to Emily Dickinson in this winsome picture book biography. Alternating between the poet's work and her own lyrical prose, Berne illustrates the challenges and discoveries that defined Dickinson and led her to a life of words.
Berne's approach to On Wings of Words is seemingly designed to help young readers identify with Dickinson by encouraging questions and self-reflection. It seems unlikely anyone would not want to "mount a grasshopper and gallop around the world." And who among us has not "explored with her eyes, her ears, her thoughts--"? The combination of vivid imagery and an empathetic subject invites young minds to a time and place they might not ordinarily choose to visit. Berne gently and positively exposes readers to an often-intimidating genre through the integration of Dickinson's poetry, which emphasizes its power to convey feeling and experience.
Accompanying Berne's narration are the atmospheric illustrations of Becca Stadtlander (illustrator Made by Hand). Using gouache and watercolor, Stadtlander makes visual the world and imagination of Dickinson, such as a butterfly-winged Emily to showcase "butterflies that were poems that flew... on wings of words." Much like Dickinson's poems, the rich, detailed illustrations are full of vibrant and improbable life. The combination of Berne's writing and Stadtlander's paintings emphasizes the magic of poetry as it represents the life of a master of the art. On Wings of Words is a visually stimulating introduction to an amazing poet. --Jen Forbus, freelancer
Discover: The author of children's biographies about Albert Einstein and Jacques Cousteau teams with a fine artist to profile Emily Dickinson in this charming picture book.
by Addie Thorley
This soaring saga about redemption, loyalty and the folly of war portrays a warrior with the power to wield darkness.
Once highly ranked in the Sky King's army, Enebish is marked as a traitor when she loses control of her Kalima ability to spin the night and accidentally massacres innocents. Her adoptive sister, Ghoa, commander of the Kalima warriors, offers her a bargain: infiltrate the rebellion and locate its leader, Temujin, in exchange for reinstatement. Enebish sets out to prove her fealty but is appalled by treacherous conditions across the tundra. Her people have been "thrown at the battlefront like chaff" while thousands of shepherds risk death from exposure in ice fields the king's Sun Stokers should have thawed. The only aid comes from Temujin, who supports the freezing caravans with stolen supplies and rescues children from the war. When she finds Temujin's rebellion, Enebish is enlisted to ferry soldiers to freedom.
Torn between two causes, Enebish's plight highlights the ambiguity of war. Though Enebish wants the Sky King's war to succeed, she doesn't want victory at the cost of her people, forcing her to slough her insecurities and make a stand. As her "heart aches... for friendship and acceptance and healing," Enebish holds fast to ancestral values as she tries to protect innocent lives. Night Spinner by Addie Thorley (An Affair of Poisons) shows Enebish's internal transformation, seeing herself first as a "whimpering dog, desperate for a master" then, eventually, as "a girl made of flame and smoke and heart" created to "call down starfire like rain." Through a strikingly grim atmosphere of magic battles with bloody consequences, a despised girl's dazzling courage shines as she abandons her need for outward approval and embraces her inner strength. --Samantha Zaboski, freelance editor and reviewer
Discover: In this stunning YA fantasy set in a brutal winter landscape, a young woman able magically to control the night must choose a side in an ever-changing war.