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Winter is coming. With snow on the ground and a frigid chill in the air, there is no better time to curl up with a good book and a mug of hot cocoa. Embrace the cold with these five recommended books for winter reading.

Christmas at Wheeldale Inn by Gemma Amor

Christmas at Wheeldale Inn

Christmas at Wheeldale Inn by Gemma Amor is the holiday horror I didn’t know I needed.

The novella opens during a Christmas Eve snowstorm in the moors of Victorian England. Mr. and Mrs. Wilcox battle the harsh weather, traveling westward in a horse-drawn carriage, away from London and the threat of debtors’ prison.

Mr. Wilcox’s unscrupulous business dealings and lavish lifestyle have finally caught up with him. Meanwhile, Mrs. Wilcox grieves over a terrible loss, much worse than that of the family fortune.

The blizzard ultimately gets the best of the traveling Wilcoxes, forcing them to seek refuge in the Wheeldale Inn, where the friendly innkeeper and his silent son are mourning their own tragedy. The only other resident of the inn is a corpse, whose funeral and burial have been postponed indefinitely by the harsh winter conditions.

Confinement at the Wheeldale Inn forces the Wilcoxes to confront the troubled reality of their broken marriage and determine whether they face a future together. Meanwhile, their isolation and fevered mental states plunge them into conditions ripe for horror.

Christmas at Wheeldale Inn is a modern-day Victorian classic and the perfect holiday gift for the horror fan in your life.

Check out my full review here.

Norylska Groans by Michael R. Fletcher and Clayton W. Snyder

Norylska Groans

Norylska Groans is a tour de force of urban grimdark fantasy from Michael R. Fletcher and Clayton W. Snyder. The novel is set in the Russian-inspired industrial city of Norylska, bathed in filth and constantly groaning from its brutal cold and wind—the perfect setting for an gritty grimdark novel.

As an avid fan of both classic Russian literature and grimdark fantasy, I loved every aspect of this book. With an assortment of pseudo-Russian slang and an ultraviolent cast of characters, there is also a clear inspiration from A Clockwork Orange.

Much of the book revolves around memory stones, which store memories and even personality traits from the individuals who wear them. Fyodor Dostoevsky would be impressed with the depth of psychological analysis in this book, as the traits from the memory stones fight against the personality (and often sanity) of those who wear them.

The concept of this book is so creative, combining some of my favorite literary elements from across multiple genres. It’s the type of book that makes me think: “I wish I had thought of this idea.”

But is it grimdark enough? Ummmm…yes.

Fletcher and Snyder cranked the grimdark knob up to eleven, and then kept turning it up until the knob broke off and sank into a pool of blood. This book is manna from hell for grimdark lovers.

Norylska Groans is perfect winter reading for grimdark fans.

The Girl and the Stars by Mark Lawrence

The Girl and the Stars

“It’s what you do with time that makes it matter. I’d rather spend a year making new memories than a thousand wandering around in the same old ones.”

The Girl and the Stars is the first volume of Mark Lawrence’s Book of the Ice trilogy, which takes place in the same world of Abeth as the Book of the Ancestor. Abeth is a planet orbiting a dying sun, almost entirely covered in ice. The planet has an artificial moon constructed by a long-lost people known as the Missing. The moon focuses the weak light from the sun onto a thin ribbon encircling the planet called the Corridor. In the Book of the Ancestor, the action takes place within this narrow region of life.

In the Book of the Ice, the main character, Yaz, is a teenaged girl living in the inhospitable world of ice outside the Corridor. Only the heartiest can survive amongst the ice tribes. The others are cast away into the world under the ice.

This book has a pervasive sense of claustrophia. Many of the scenes read like a fever dream.

As with many of Mark Lawrence’s other books, there is a great combination of fantasy and sci-fi in The Girl and the Stars, together with excellent worldbuilding and a dynamic cast of characters. Parts of it feel almost like steampunk, but under the ice. (Icepunk, anyone?)

The Book of the Ice is where it all comes together for Mark Lawrence’s five trilogies. If you are a fan of any of his other books, be sure to check out this highly rewarding series.

Saturnalia by Stephanie Feldman

The slow-motion collapse of modern civilization is reason to party in Saturnalia, the sci-fi horror by Stephanie Feldman, which takes place in a near-future Philadelphia amid growing climate disaster. As the world gradually succumbs to increasingly severe hurricanes, droughts, and killer mosquitos, the newly paganized City of Brotherly Love lets loose with Saturnalia, the riotous multi-day celebration of the winter solstice honoring the Roman god of abundance.

The protagonist of the story, Nina, is a tarot card reader formerly associated with the prestigious Saturn Club, the go-to venue for Philadelphia’s elite society and a thinly veiled center for alchemical experiments and other occultist practices. Nina knows that her fortunetelling is rubbish, but her cards may reveal more truth than she realizes.

The plot of Saturnalia focuses on Nina’s attempts to infiltrate her former club and unravel its mysteries. Nina finds the perfect opportunity to sneak into the Saturn Club unnoticed during its masquerade party, which opens the winter solstice celebration. Nina deftly navigates the labyrinthine club and discovers the horrifying secret lying beneath the façade of the Saturn Club’s debauchery.

Check out my full review here.

A Game of Thrones by George R.R. Martin

A Game of Thrones

Winter is coming.

Life is full of insignificant events, small perturbations that are rarely of any consequence. But occasionally the conditions are right for a small perturbation to escalate into something that alters the entire world, leaving a permanent mark on history. Whether it’s the start of a World War or the beginning of a global pandemic, the impact of a single, seemingly insignificant event can grow to outsize proportions, pushing the world out of its delicate balance.

The same is true for A Game of Thrones, the first volume of A Song of Ice and Fire by George R.R. Martin. A society full of opposing political factions and personal deceit hangs precariously on the assumption that hidden duplicity remains behind its shroud of secrecy. But then a seemingly insignificant event shatters that illusion—a young boy climbs a wall and sees something that he shouldn’t see and doesn’t even understand.

The impact of A Game of Thrones on the world of fantasy cannot be overstated. Its publication in 1996 brought about an irreversible step change in fantasy literature, which for decades had been following the blueprint laid out by J.R.R. Tolkien in The Lord of the Rings.

A Game of Thrones is one of the finest and most influential fantasy books ever published, and its impact only continues to grow. If you have somehow put off reading A Game of Thrones, this winter would be the perfect time to dive in.

Check out my full review here.

Five Recommended Books for Winter Reading

Five Recommended Books for Winter Reading

Five Recommended Books for Winter Reading

Five Recommended Books for Winter Reading

Five Recommended Books for Winter Reading

Five Recommended Books for Winter Reading

Five Recommended Books for Winter Reading

Five Recommended Books for Winter Reading

John Mauro

John Mauro lives in a world of glass amongst the hills of central Pennsylvania. When not indulging in his passion for literature or enjoying time with family, John is training the next generation of materials scientists at Penn State University, where he teaches glass science and materials kinetics. John also loves cooking international cuisine and kayaking the beautiful Finger Lakes region of upstate New York.

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