The Winter Wars by Ian H. McKinley

I’ve been a fan of McKinley’s stories since I read The Gallows Gems of Prallyn. When it was available, I moved on to his next novel, Harbinger. I was not disappointed. Since that time Harbinger has been reviewed here on TMR. The newest development with the Northern Fire series is that now, Harbinger has been developed into two novels, books one and two of the series. The Winter Wars is book three.

McKinley refers to his stories as Fantastic Realism.  His descriptive prose and precise storytelling create a world that comes across as tremendously real. The characters, the setting, the weather, the clothing, the intrigue- it all works so well.

As Esmyralda danced, her red skirt whirled up, revealing glimpses of honey-coloured thighs, and the oak brown hair bound in its long tresses with a length of forest green cord swung back and forth hypnotically. And for all the colours, for all the hypnotic movements, it was her smile that dazzled, even if all her teeth weren’t straight.

Initially, we are introduced to his main characters, Fjordlanders or Thorn People, as well as a prominent Polgatia merchant who has hired them as guards. In a joyous setting, we also meet the head of the Sukovi clan of the Drovers – dealers in horseflesh, merrymakers and roamers, a version of the Romani people we are familiar with. It’s a splendid setting for what is to come.

We also meet a character that adds mystique to the story, a man of multi-talents. Some accuse him of necromancy. He’s an interesting character you will meet throughout the novel. You’ll meet the Dark Prince and his network of spies, and what lies behind their mysterious deaths. You’ll soon discover the common enemy that seeks to disrupt the peaceful kingdoms and the band of soldiers that arise to confront an army of trained cavalry and infantrymen. McKinley puts it all together in an exceptional entertaining way.

Will the band of soldiers triumph over the cruel Oberherg of North Straeland? You’ll have to read the story to find out.

My only concern with the novel is the many characters we meet. You must follow the story closely to understand its parts. McKinley has foreseen this and cleverly added a list of characters, a Dramatis Personae, at the beginning of the novel to help the readers along.

Another nice touch is the glossary of terms and the list of Fjordlander Gods at the end of the story. I might recommend you read these first. All in all, McKinley offers up a delightful tale for fantasy lovers. I recommend it highly.

Ian McKinley is a guest on the South Branch Scribbler and he talks about his novel and shares an excerpt for your reading pleasure. Please go here – South Branch Scribbler: Returning Author Ian H. McKinley of Gatineau, QC. (

Ian H. McKinley is a former Canadian diplomat. He writes “fantastic realism,” fantasy that escapes the traditional tropes of pure good versus ultimate evil. Rather, Ian’s narratives are driven by alignments and/or collisions of human interests and values. His first novel, The Gallows Gem of Prallyn explores an explosive mixture of zealotry, class oppression, and nationalism, the results of which take the reader on a gripping adventure. Ian was born in Calgary, Alberta, and grew up in Northern Ireland and on the Canadian prairies. He has served Canada abroad in Colombia, Kenya, Zimbabwe, and at the Permanent Mission of Canada to the United Nations in New York.

  • Publisher ‏ : ‎ Ojo de Vidrio / Lugar Comun Editorial (May 18 2022)
  • Language ‏ : ‎ English
  • Paperback ‏ : ‎ 362 pages
  • ISBN-10 ‏ : ‎ 1987819969
  • ISBN-13 ‏ : ‎ 978-1987819960

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Growing up in South Branch, Allan Hudson was encouraged to read from an early age by his mother who was a schoolteacher. He lives in Dieppe, NB, with his wife Gloria. He has enjoyed a lifetime of adventure, travel and uses his many experiences as ideas for his writing. He is an author of action/adventure novels, historical fiction and a short story collection. His short stories – The Ship Breakers & In the Abyss – received Honourable Mention in the New Brunswick Writer’s Federation competition. He has stories published on, The Golden Ratio and his blog - South Branch Scribbler.