Maybe you’re really feeling the season. Maybe you watched Frozen II and want to keep up the ice vibes. Maybe you’re someplace warm and want the illusion of cold as you swelter. Whatever your reasons for wanting more snow in your life, here are ten books that are wonderfully wintry and icily incandescent.
The Cold Is in Her Bones (Peternelle van Arsdale) – van Arsdale loves to write about smallness and superstition set against the indomitable hearts of young women, and while that can sometimes be heart wrenching, it’s also very powerful. Milla, a sheltered girl kept isolated and ignorant on a lonely farm, begins to blossom when she makes friends with Iris. But Iris begins showing signs of demon possession. Milla, unwilling to abandon her friend, begins to search for the source of this curse that affects only young women—and what she finds is far more complicated and terrible than mere wickedness.
Breath of the Sun (Isaac R. Fellman) – This is a story about Everest, if Everest were also God, and if ascent were revelation. Even though Lamat barely survived a deadly attempt many years ago, she agrees to take Disaine on another excursion. Their journey strips away everything Lamat holds dear, objects and illusions and identities alike, until she finds herself at the height of her striving.
Sorrow’s Knot (Erin Bow) – The dead haunt the cold shadows in this world, but weavings and knots can keep them out. Amazingly original thread magic is at the heart of this story, and also stands as a beautiful metaphor for the ties that bind families, friends, communities, and generations. The stripped-down lyricism of the prose perfectly suits this tale that is part myth, part coming-of-age story of mothers, daughters, and the love that can bind or break them.
Iceling (Sasha Stephenson) – This is a criminally underrated tale of a girl accompanying her sister on a mysterious quest to a frozen island. Callie cannot speak or otherwise articular why she wants to go north, but she and all the other orphans discovered on that island are being irresistibly to return. Lorna, her adoptive sister, only wants to help her. Their strange pilgrimage is fascinating, although fair warning: the cliffhanger ending has no sequel to resolve it as of yet.
A Winter’s Promise (Christelle Dabos) – Though she’s clumsy and bookish, Ophelia is not your typical heroine. She is a powerful reader, a psychometrist who can “read” the history of objects when she touches them. Her powers arouse the interest of an aristocratic clan of the Pole, and they arrange a between her and taciturn bureaucrat Thorne. Citizens of the Pole deal in illusions and psychic violence, and Ophelia will need all her courage and cunning if she even wants to live out her engagement.
The City in the Middle of the Night (Charlie Jane Anders) – A narrow band of habitable land exists on a non-rotational planet, the only place where humans can survive between the boiling heat and the freezing cold. In parallel with the two extremes of temperature are two cities, one hedonistic and the other highly regulated. Sophie is a rebel exile, and in her travels she finds a third city, one inhabited by the planet’s original inhabitants who might want to make contact—if humans are capable of reaching back in return.
The Raven and the Reindeer (T. Kingfisher) – A lovely, queer retelling of “The Snow Queen,” this brings Kingfisher’s trademark wry humor to a classic. It’s just so lovely and fun, and so heartfelt.
Snow Like Ashes (Sara Raasch) – The seasons are kingdoms in this start to a YA trilogy, and Meira is one of the few exiles left from the conquered realm of Winter. She wants to help regain the kingdom, and thinks a magical artifact might be the way to do it. Even though I read this in the dead of a Boston winter, this made me appreciate the snow rather than resent it.
Girls Made of Snow and Glass (Melissa Bashardoust) – This feminist retelling of Snow White examines the relationship between stepmother and stepdaughter in a patriarchal world. I’ve often thought that, despite all the retellings, stepmothers and adoptive parents still get shortchanged, but this book makes good on the complexities of blended families and on the troubling way women are often pitted against one another.
The Blue Salt Road (Joanne M. Harris) – This is technically more about the ocean than any particular season, but I loved the description of the winter seas, the ice floes and the lonely islands, and all the creatures who thrive below the surface. This is a story of a selkie prince, a shape-changer who can be human or seal, and the human woman who both loves him and imprisons him. The people of the land and the sea have ever been at odds, but the lovers might have a chance to end the bitter rivalry if they can forge some kind of understanding.