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DISCLOSURE: This book was sent to me as an ARC by the published in exchange for a review. This will not affect my thoughts or the review in any way.
I was SO excited when I received this book. 1. the cover is deliriously pretty and 2. I’d heard it had a similar feel to Caraval and The Night Circus, two of my favourite books EVER.
And being on holiday at the time, I was even more excited to lose myself in a magical read.
“Welcome to the Winter Garden. Open only at 13 o’clock.
You are invited to enter an unusual competition.
I am looking for the most magical, spectacular, remarkable pleasure garden this world has to offer.
On the night her mother dies, 8-year-old Beatrice receives an invitation to the mysterious Winter Garden. A place of wonder and magic, filled with all manner of strange and spectacular flora and fauna, the garden is her solace every night for seven days. But when the garden disappears, and no one believes her story, Beatrice is left to wonder if it were truly real.
Eighteen years later, on the eve of her wedding to a man her late father approved of but she does not love, Beatrice makes the decision to throw off the expectations of Victorian English society and search for the garden. But when both she and her closest friend, Rosa, receive invitations to compete to create spectacular pleasure gardens – with the prize being one wish from the last of the Winter Garden’s magic – she realises she may be closer to finding it than she ever imagined.
Now all she has to do is win.”
After reading the prologue of this book, I felt a little unsure about the writing style. It read a lot more like a middle grade to me, rather than YA or even adult. Even after the initial chapter (where the protagonist is only 8), the writing style remained the same (even though she is 25 for the main bulk of the book).
But, as I continued reading, I fell a little bit in love with the dreamy descriptions and slightly childlike style. I worried at the beginning that if I couldn’t get into the writing style, I’d struggle to keep going, but I actually finished the book in only one day!
In the end, the super unique concept and slightly odd characters lodged themselves into my brain and I just couldn’t put it down.
The storyline of this book was what really made it for me. Although it started a little slow, it quickly went up a beat and I was completely hooked.
When Beatrice (one of our MCs) was a young girl, she stumbled across a magical winter garden shortly after the traumatic death of her mother. Almost 20 years later, her and her best friends Rosa must compete to create their own gardens, filled with clockwork creatures, jaw-dropping spectacles and breathtaking magic. The prize: a wish.
Both her and Rosa had strong individual reasons for wanting the wish, which only built the suspense so much more!
The more I got into the writing, the more I felt completely captured by the gorgeous descriptions of various plants and animals. The winter gardens felt so vivid to me (even whilst I was on holiday in the height of Summer!!).
If you’re looking for an autumn/winter read with a similar atmosphere to Caraval or The Bear and the Nightingale, I would definitely recommend picking this up! But, in my opinion, the plot and characters don’t resemble those books at all and are unique to themselves.
The book is set in the Victorian period and I really would have liked this to have been explore more! It felt a little stereotypical, without the nuance of the period. As someone who really enjoys historical fiction, this was a shame for me.
I have a big confession- I really did not like our main character, Beatrice. She was set up as quite the quirky MC, but to me she just came across as very precocious, even as a 25 year old. In fact, it felt more like she was 12 throughout the book.
She did really enjoy insisting on not getting married and pursuing her own interests (botany). But in this context, it felt like an exaggerated trope (the Victorian woman who is determined to go her own way), rather than something that really developed her character.
However, the inclusion of an MC with a stutter was really refreshing and something I was happy to see (especially as she didn’t end the book magically ‘healed’).
Trigger warning- on and off throughout the book, Beatrice suffers with an opium addiction. Make sure to research the full trigger warnings if addiction might be difficult for you to read about.
Rosa is our second MC. The first few chapters of the book were written solely from Beatrice’s perspective so it was a little jarring when we suddenly switched to Rosa. However, I absolutely adored her character! She was fiery, smart and completely defiant.
Rosa and Beatrice’s initial friendship was lovely and their conflict throughout the book was played out so well! I also really enjoyed reading two opposing (and equally valid) perspectives to motherhood: Rosa wants to be a mother, whereas it’s the last thing on Beatrice’s mind.
Trigger warning- loss of a child. If this topic could be difficult for you, perhaps research more into the various warnings and maybe give the book a miss this time.
There were only a few major side characters: Eustace is intially Beatrice’s husband to be, but after she leaves him at the altar, he marries Rosa. Throughout the book, he’s a typical villain. I didn’t mind his role as an antagonist but I prefer when an evil character is fleshed out more so I can at least see a bit of their personality.
James, the local orchid collector/curator, is Beatrice’s childhood friend and later proposes to Rosa, but she turns him down for Eustace (on the basis of money/status). He was extremely lovely, but almost to the point of being unrealistic. However, I really liked how his friendship with Beatrice grew and changed throughout their adulthood.
This was a really magical read with some absolutely gorgeous description! It would be a great addition to your autumn or winter tbr. I would just say: bear in mind that the writing does have more of a middle grade feel so if you don’t enjoy that, it’s something to take into consideration.
Have you read The Winter Garden ? Will you be checking it out after reading my review? Let me know down below in the comments! You can also DM me directly on Instagram 🙂