Winter and I go way back.
Keven mentioned the other day that Winter was entered in the Marcher Lord Select Premise Contest back in 2009. For those of you who weren’t around for that, this was an online contest where readers voted on which stories they wanted to see more of. When the contest got to the synopsis round, I was pretty critical of the synopsis for Winter because I felt it didn’t detail the plot sufficiently. I wrote, “I need to be able to see whether the guts of this story are as gutsy as the guts of the others. And from what’s been given, I can’t.”
Oh, my friends. How little I knew. Winter is the gutsiest character and Keven Newsome is the gutsiest writer I know.
Keven must have forgotten about my remark, because in spite of my critique (or maybe because of it?) he asked me to be part of New Authors Fellowship when it launched in January of 2010. And then I had the privilege of line-editing Winter for its release the following year. Winter was the first novel I edited as a freelancer. So she has a special place in my heart.
With each book in the series, Keven takes more risks, reveals darker secrets, and shows more guts than in the one before. Mantle is a tour de force. Months ago, Keven mentioned on Facebook that he had a 40,000-word chapter. I thought that was fine for a rough draft and just needed editing. Not so much. That chapter really has to be there, and it has to be that way.
I won’t tell you why, so as to keep this review spoiler-free, but I will say that unique chapter involves Keven taking a gutsy risk with his prophetess character that I wouldn’t have the nerve to take with mine.
I had one little quibble at the end with a viewpoint trick that <ahem> if I were editing Mantle I would have advised against. Nevertheless, the reveal packs a punch, so much so that I said “no way!” And then I opened up my copy of Winter and looked … and I’ll be blasted but Keven actually planted the seed for that punch in one line during the early pages of Book One. That’s some plotting chops, y’all.
Mantle is a powerful supernatural thriller—bordering on horror—and contains one of the most astonishing portrayals of spiritual warfare I’ve ever seen in fiction. It’s masterfully written and the story is a runaway roller coaster. The characters are real—after four books, intensely so—especially Winter. Her journey will break your heart and then put it together again.
From the beginning, the Winter series has always been about Winter’s journey into darkness and back out again. Mantle reveals far darker depths than I had imagined, but it also features brighter heights.