Winter's End

Winter's End

4.0 12
by Jean-Claude Mourlevat

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In a gripping dystopian novel, four teenagers risk impossible odds to fight against tyranny in a world of dangerous choices — and reemerging hope.

Escape. Milena, Bartolomeo, Helen, and Milos have left their prison-like boarding schools far behind, but their futures remain in peril. Fleeing across icy mountains from a terrifying pack of dog-men sent

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In a gripping dystopian novel, four teenagers risk impossible odds to fight against tyranny in a world of dangerous choices — and reemerging hope.

Escape. Milena, Bartolomeo, Helen, and Milos have left their prison-like boarding schools far behind, but their futures remain in peril. Fleeing across icy mountains from a terrifying pack of dog-men sent to hunt them down, they are determined to take up the fight against the despotic government that murdered their parents years before. Only three will make it safely to the secret headquarters of the resistance movement. The fourth is captured and forced to participate in a barbaric game for the amusement of the masses — further proof of the government’s horrible brutality. Will the power of one voice be enough to rouse a people against a generation of cruelty? Translated from the French, this suspenseful story of courage, individualism, and freedom has resonated with young readers across the globe.

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Editorial Reviews

VOYA - Ann Reddy Damon
In this hero's journey, Helen Dormann receives the call when her friend Milena, remarkable for her beautiful voice, goes missing from the strict all girls' boarding school. Milos from the boys' school safely guides Helen passed the gates because he "never gets caught." In her quest to find her friend, she must cross the mountain, escape the police and the dog-men hunters on the same trail, and find a doctor when Milos gets hurt. Ultimately she learns she must join the Resistance to the Phalange, the evil power structure that usurped control fifteen years ago and killed her parents. Although the action is fast, the story is unconvincing. The Phalange is ill-defined except for being evil, and the dog-men, when released from their trainers and escape, are never heard from again. The plot, filled with multiple narratives, is too coincidental. Milena's mother, Eva, is the voice of freedom against the Phalange, and of course, Melina must sing the rallying song. Likewise, Milena's lover Bartolomeo walks in the same leadership role as his father. Finally when the brave countrymen armed with clubs and shields are gunned down crossing the bridge to reclaim their city, the Phalange simply turn away when Milena joins with her lover and walks across unscathed. The resolutions are too predictable and swift. This book may appeal to those studying archetypal criticism, but the plot, although fast paced, is unsophisticated. Reviewer: Ann Reddy Damon
Publishers Weekly
Mourlevat (The Pull of the Ocean) tells a riveting dystopian tale set in an unnamed country. Life is grim and austere for the children of resistors, whose parents lost their lives during a bloody revolution. They reside in prisonlike boarding schools and are allowed to leave the grounds only a few hours a year to be comforted by their consolers, parent figures assigned to be their counselors. When teenagers Milena, Helen, Bartolomeo and Milos run away from their neighboring schools, they not only put themselves in danger but also threaten the safety of classmates, who incur punishments in their place, and their consolers, who aid in their escape. Tracing the tense cat-and-mouse chase between the young fugitives and the vicious authorities (who track them with man-dog hybrids), the story unveils secrets about characters' histories and the bonds that tie them together. Teeming with heroic acts, heartbreaking instances of sacrifice and intriguing characters—such as the horse-men, a tribe of gentle giants willing to fight to the death for their masters—the book will keep readers absorbed and set imaginations spinning. Ages 14–up. (Nov.)
Children's Literature - Sarah Maury Swan
This is a gripping tale that I wish I had been able to read in French. The translation probably captures the dark mood of the story accurately, but I wish my French was good enough not to need a translation. Helen and her friend Milena are in a boarding school for orphan girls, a school which feels much more like a prison. They are allowed off the school grounds only in pairs and then only two or three times a year to see their "consolers." While on such an outing the girls meet two boys from the orphan boys' boarding school: Milos and Bartolomeo (Bart). Helen visits her consoler and Milena supposedly waits in the library, but when Helen comes back for her, Milena is gone. She has run off with Bart. A few days later Helen and Milos run off, trying to find their friends. It turns out that all the orphanage children are the sons and daughters of resistance fighters who were murdered during an uprising fifteen years earlier. They are hunted by special soldiers of the oppressive government and creatures which are half dog and half human. As they continue on their trek to freedom, the teens learn about their parents from villagers; and they learn they have roles to play in overthrowing the wretched government that brutalizes their country. There is a mythical feel to the story, with the dog-men and cart-horse people, so it is hard to tell when it takes place. It is an allegory against war and oppression in general and very well written. Reviewer: Sarah Maury Swan
School Library Journal
Gr 8 Up—In a dystopian world, an oppressive revolutionary group has taken over. Four teenagers escape the "boarding school" where they have been held since their parents were murdered 15 years earlier for being part of the Resistance. Milena and Bartolomeo become romantically involved and run away together, as do Helen and Milos, separate from the other two. Ultimately, Helen, Milena, and Bartolomeo are reunited in the capital city where they find work at a restaurant doubling as a front for the Resistance movement. However, Milos is imprisoned and sent to a training camp from which he will be forced to compete in one-on-one, barbaric arena fights to the death. As a translation from the French, this book is successful, with only occasional minor awkward moments that do not detract from the story's compelling setting, mood, and tone. Most characters are adequately drawn but some disappear and never return. For example, fierce dog-men are carefully introduced, kill a man, run off to the mountains, and vanish. Also, a few circumstances stretch belief, such as the teens riding buses without being recaptured. Suzanne Collins's The Hunger Games (2008) and Catching Fire (2009, both Scholastic) and John Marsden's "Tomorrow" series (Houghton) are stronger books.—Diane P. Tuccillo, Poudre River Public Library District, Fort Collins, CO
Kirkus Reviews
Growing up in a dystopian society reminiscent of mid-20th-century Europe, four teens move from darkness and despair to light and hope as they pursue freedom. Best friends in their repressive boarding school, 17-year-old Helen and Milena bond instantly with Milos and Bart from the neighboring boys' school. Together Milena and Bart escape, tracked by dog-men trained to kill. When they discover their parents were assassinated as Resistance leaders 15 years earlier during the Phalange's brutal coup d'etat, Milena and Bart vow to return and fight rather than flee. Finding refuge in the resurging Resistance, Milena inspires all with her beautiful voice while Bart rallies horse-men as allies. After Milos is held captive in a gladiator training camp, Helen joins the heroic uprising hoping to find him before it's too late. With its ironic twists and moral dilemmas, the action-packed plot darts from one protagonist to another with compelling urgency. Bell's fluid translation captures the peril, power and pathos of this truly epic drama in which four young heroes taste love, camaraderie, grief and triumph. Bravo! (Fantasy. 14 & up)

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Product Details

Candlewick Press
Publication date:
Product dimensions:
5.90(w) x 8.40(h) x 1.40(d)
HL730L (what's this?)
Age Range:
14 Years

Meet the Author

Jean-Claude Mourlevat once wrote and directed burlesque shows for adults and children, which were performed for more than ten years in France and abroad. The author of several children’s books, he lives in a house overhanging the River Loire, near Saint-Etienne, France.

Anthea Bell is an award-winning translator of French and German fi ction, including the Inkheart trilogy by Cornelia Funke. She lives near Cambridge, England.

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