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  • Quincy Felix

The Girl from Shadow Springs

IN TWO WORDS? Raw and Wild.

AUTHOR: Ellie Cypher

RATING: 4 stars out of 5



The answer to what freezes first is the eyes. That ain’t what most people would guess.

Everyone in Shadow Springs knows that no one survives crossing the Flats. But the threat of a frozen death has never deterred the steady stream of treasure hunters searching for a legendary prize hidden somewhere in the vast expanse of ice. Jorie thinks they’re all fools, which makes scavenging their possessions easier. It’s how she and her sister, Brenna, survive.

Then Jorie scavenges off the wrong body. When the dead man’s enemy believes Jorie took something valuable from the body, he kidnaps Brenna as collateral. He tells Jorie that if she wants her sister back, she’ll have to trade her for the item he thinks she stole. But how can Jorie make a trade when she doesn’t even know what she’s looking for?

Her only source of information is Cody, the dead man’s nephew and a scholar from the South who’s never been hardened by the harsh conditions of the North. Though Jorie’s reluctant to bring a city boy out onto the Flats with her, she’ll do whatever it takes to save her sister. But anything can happen out on the ice, and soon Jorie and Cody find they need one another more than they ever imagined—and they’ll have to trust each other to survive threats beyond their darkest nightmares.


Hello Fair Friends! I picked up this book as many reviewers said it was reminiscent of Jack London’s arctic tales. Was it? Absolutely with plenty of originality. The author captured the raw wonder and deadly games of the frozen North with shocking realism. Even as the story was intertwined with fantasy and a hidden foe with proportions of the White Witch.

The Writing

The prose was unusual, to say the least. Written in the first person, it captures Jorie’s rugged practicality. While it did take a moment to warm up to and understand the style, it did not feel like the first person. The author did an excellent job keeping you in the wilds beside Jorie, not stuck inside her head.

This is a survival story. While the book is clean from sexual content and extreme violence (I will get into that later), it is grim in its descriptions and does not shy away from the stark deadliness of arctic survival. Raw is the word that comes to mind when describing the prose. I was impressed and very much pleased with the vividness of the story.

The Characters

I didn't like Jorie... for the first half of the book. When the story starts, she is colder than the icy flats and has enough hardened walls around her heart to keep out a 13-ton mammoth. Her only concern is the survival of herself and her sister. If that means scavenging off of frozen corpses and viewing near everyone as either a threat, a fool, or an obstacle, so be it. She is sharp and rugged like the wilderness. Her goal is to survive until she dies.

Enter Cody. After Jorie’s sister is kidnapped for something she doesn’t have, Jorie ends up bringing Cody, a southern boy with too much hope for his own good, with her across the flats. Jori believes him a useless fool, but as he begins to prove his worth and she learns about his life, she begins to soften. She subconsciously and slowly lowers her walls as he reminds her that there is more to life than barely surviving. That life is hard, but it is also good.

I loved the character development. It was very satisfying to watch Jorie spark a fire in her previously cold shell of self. However, she doesn’t suddenly go from heartless to caring at the flip of a switch. That's unrealistic. Change takes time, A LOT of time. She is not perfect by the end of the book, but she is changing. Now, before you assume this is your classic “sweet guy gets tough girl to open up” let me clarify, it’s not. Cody also matures, he keeps his love for life but grows from a naive boy to a young man. When the story starts Cody is, well, quite useless. While I love strong heroines, I do not like when authors make the female the only capable character. You can't make someone strong by tearing other people down. Ms. Cypher mostly avoided this cliche mistake by having Cody mature and prove his worth as the story progressed, often surprising Jorie and the reader.

(pictures found on Pinterest)

Content Warning

As previously stated, this book is clean as far as sexual content goes. Towards the end, it is obvious that two characters have feelings for each other, but it doesn’t go beyond that. There is, however, a fair share of violence. Characters are knocked out, frozen, impaled, shot, stabbed, kidnapped, battered, have violent seizures, you name it. Along with a myth about a twisted girl whose heart was shattered and needs a new body to house herself. I am not easily affected by violence, but sensitivities vary from person to person. However, I believe it is safe to say a mature tween/early teen should have no problem. For those who it may concern, there are mentions of alcohol and a drunk character.

Worldbuilding & Plot

It's hard to go into the worldbuilding and plot without spoilers but I will do my best. The author near flawlessly brings her world to life and the scenery is quite stunning. She adds a fantastical side to the otherwise white and empty wilderness. My only complaint would be that I wish she had mixed survival and fantasy a little better. The first half of the book is very much like your classic wilderness survival story while the second half takes a more drastic fantasy turn complete with an ancient evil. Perhaps this is partly my fault as I went in believing this book to be purely wilderness fiction without any magical influences. Though there is not any hint that the world is our own. The only recognizable land names used are “The North” and “The South”. I, of course, did not mind the whole “oops, the legends we thought were myths are actually true” twist halfway through as I am a great lover of fantasy. I just wish the author blended the two sides of the book, classic survival and straight fantasy, a little better.

To wrap it up, The Girl from Shadow Springs brings a raw and wild tale that most modern fiction lacks. While this book may not be for everyone, as the wording is often straightforward, blunt, and doesn’t mess around, it is unusual and offers a sharp beauty. The ending fit the story and left me with a smile on my face. Also, I loved the sled dogs ;).

Favorite quote (yes, it is long, but I encourage you to read it):

“‘What is her life worth? I spat back incredulously. “You may as well ask what is the sun to the moon? Or the shore to the tide.” All the memories that made us who we were, that made a family what it was, every one had Bren in it… The good, the bad, it was all there and would always be. But it was ours. Mine and hers and Ma’s and Pa’s. In a world of ice and hunger that ate away everything good in people, slow year by year, till there were nothing left but the whites of their bones, Bren’s unwavering kindness were near to true magic as I'd ever known.

It takes courage to live your life with gentleness, when all around you is nothing but easy anger…

“Life ain’t something you can trade, Vela, one for the other. This is for that. We ain't just things.” I was near to shaking. “You ask what is one life worth? I say that ain’t no right kind of question… because life is everything good and right in this forsaken world. And no matter how small or insignificant it might seem to you, that will always be worth fighting for”’ - The Girl from Shadow Springs

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