Review of Third Winter’s War (Seventh Realm, #3) by M.L. Little

This third book continues in the Seventh Realm to bring us more of what every reader is likely to adore from the first two including a large cast of colorful characters and an intriguing plot with expert world building. 

It begins where the last book left off and shapes into a culminating encapsulation of the themes the series tackles on both a social and intimate, personal scale.

In some ways making use of a traditional fantasy aesthetic, M. L. Little employs many aspects of unique world building and ample humor to bolster her elegant writing style and form a tale both heart-warming and heart-rending by turns. Elowyn, Gabriel, and the menagerie of other characters, some of whom are family, friends, and part of a circle of influential people, both strangers and creatures of every description, have at times reminded me of moments from the Hobbit, where merry companions endeavor to face a darkness that threatens to overturn their gleefully imagined world.

Taking place in the heart of an icy climate, this book earns its title. Atmospheric details swathe the reader in a chilly aura while a strong tension pervades the plot as the story unfolds. The war offers an ominous backdrop to our main characters’ travels while the reader is carried along by their delightful dialogue, which never dwells too much on the negative situations, but pulls from the scenario a sense of purpose and lithe whimsy, a resurgent positivity that falters but returns to triumph as the characters extricate themselves from trouble, political entanglements, and very real dangers. This charming dialogue also develops their plans and marks their adaptation to their situations. All this to say that the tone grew dark when necessary but never lost sight of its lighthearted underpinnings. Rebels locked in a struggle with a destructive government, and the many-layers beyond the personal pursuit of freedom and growth, contribute to the pervading expression at the center of this epic narrative, which is the longing for an elegiac past. While it depicts a fraught, unhallowed present, the protagonists fight for a brighter future, striving to right the past’s wrongs and start their young lives on a promising course. That to me, is the appeal and essence of high fantasy.

While the world often underestimates the characters we follow, we continually witness their courage, resolve, and teamwork. This series demonstrates why it is better to let your characters make decisions rather than allowing plot twists to have their way with them. They make things happen, and so become, in their myriad ways, living people in our minds, deeper sometimes than the dreams we invented on the playroom floor with our action figures. Literary journeys are usually about finding ourselves vicariously, living through heroic accounts and strengthening this faculty to envision our own worth in relation to our peers. But at bottom, fiction is about finding the good in a dark world and fighting for it against all odds. Because we live in a dark (or fallen) world and must fight to live. Life is a gift. And thankfully, this book reminded me of the joy there is in living, in fighting, and even, in creating the microcosms that sustain our intellectual maturity, which, no matter how adult we seem, is rooted in the experience of our youth, and foremost, its appreciation. For that and many other reasons, I enjoyed my tenancy in this magical realm. And the frigid wastelands and dripping caves, as wars resonate emotional tides, and social ramifications, I cheered on the protagonists as they navigated the slippery present for the sake of the future.

This is a fast-paced finale with unexpected turns of events to defy convention and leave a lasting impression, with memorable characters, both multi-faceted and realistic, which contemplates youth, innocence, experience, wisdom, pain, loss, perseverance, hope, loyalty, and family.

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