Winter Must-Reads

Winter is here, whether New England likes it or not! If you're celebrating the new year or simply trying to avoid going outside during the frosty months, we here at Pandemonium think you could use a good book. Ghost stories used to be a Christmas tradition back in the days of Dickens, so why not celebrate the snowfall with a fantasy story to fit the genre? Whether the characters are braving the elements or keeping cozy like you these novels aren’t just good to read during wintertime; they’ll bring a pleasant chill any time of year, and maybe even the feeling of reading them by the fireplace!

Hogfather by Terry Pratchett (part of the Discworld series, although it works perfectly well standing alone) is perhaps the best take on Christmas in modern fantasy. What, it asks, are the heathen roots of a jolly toy-centric holiday? If so many children believe in a mythical gift-giving figure, what else could they be made to believe? And what happens if that sleigh-riding fat man is nowhere to be seen? That last question, at least, can be answered quickly- Death itself has to take his job! The reaper’s granddaughter must race against time to prevent a man with a mind like a broken mirror from killing off a symbol of childhood, while Death has to put on a red, fur-trimmed suit and remember to say “Ho ho ho!” without following it up with “Cower, brief mortals!”

That isn’t the only word Pratchett and Discworld have on winter! Wintersmith features the apprentice witch Tiffany Aching, who catches the eye of a boy who turns out to be the titular embodiment of winter. This isn’t particularly romantic when it means an eternal home for Tiffany amid the ice and snow, and she isn’t going to be bullied into any of it. Full of tiny, temperamental creatures, eccentric witches and games of quick-thinking, this is a Young Adult installment withplenty for adult readers to enjoy, especially if you have a taste for magical worldbuilding.

One of my favorite novels of recent years has been Spinning Silver, a haunting take on the story of Rumplestiltskin that probes into the dark possibilities of being a magical money-changer. No matter how much her anti-semitic village hates her for it, Miryem has to do her job as moneylender so her family can survive, and when she boasts about being able to turn silver into gold, the king of an eldritch people who rule over winter hears her and takes her up on it. Miryem has to learn to navigate the kingdom of the Staryk, while a recently crowned tzarina faces down a demon of fire. Perhaps the creatures of ice and fire could destroy each other, or perhaps there are some traces of humanity in both...

Perhaps H.P. Lovecraft’s finest work, At the Mountains of Madness and Other Tales of Terror contains the titular novella about an Antarctic expedition that finds far more than it bargained for among the glaciers and frozen ground. Humans, as it turns out, were not the first sentient beings to ever visit such a place, and the last visitors left signs behind them that tell of a terrible, civilization-ending tragedy. Lovecraft and his narrator command sympathy for these poor doomed aliens, much like ourselves no matter how they looked- but there’s only so much time to mourn when the very thing that killed them may still be out there.

And how can we talk about ice and snow without a trip up north? Neil Gaiman’s Norse Mythology is a delightful tragicomedy that tells of the reign and ultimate fall of the gods. Loki is eternally up to his tricks, Freya does not appreciate being dragged into contracts with giants, and Thor just wants his hammer back! Gaiman has been incorporating mythology into his work since the days of the Sandman comics, and this straightforward telling is accessible, entertaining, and powerful on the ultimate archetypal level.

We hope you enjoy the coming months, whether that means family gatherings, mugs of hot apple cider, or just turning on as many lights as you can to fend off the early night! Stay warm, stay cozy, and most of all, stay well-read.


Written By: Mira G.

Edited By: Irenee W.

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