Oh my I did love this book once I finally read it. And then I read it start to end on a two hour train ride. And you are getting a review in English because I am super tired and my Swedish grammar goes all to hell when I've been speaking English all day.
This is something of a ghost story, or what we used to call urban fantasy but in the Charles de Lint mold, rather than the Dresden Files: The dark and wild things that we have always feared walked in the forests and lakes at night, crash headlong into the 40's. There's something of a fairy tale sensibility in places, albeit one straight out of the Grimms rather than Disney. It's frequently and unrelentingly dark, yet equally frequently lyrical.
It's set in mid-last-century Sweden, in a tiny village, actually not too far from where I lived for many years, in a quite lovely area called Bergslagen. It is beyond atmospheric, set in misty valleys, snow covered pine forests and tiny reed-banked lakes, and does a fantastic job evoking both the setting and the era.
I want to write something about the characters, but I can't figure out what I want to say coherently, so this next bit is rambly. Most of the characters are women, and most of them are meted out the typical treatment of women characters in fantasy fiction: They're damsels in distress and plenty of it. And in a time and place where women were essentially powerless--during a war, in a remote and isolated and heavily conservative and religious society.
But these damsels rescue themselves and each other. OK, technically, they get a guy to help in a very minor fashion, but he's as much there to bear witness, and for closure, as to participate.
Nothing is perfect, and I did have a couple of niggles. I found the prologue confusing as all get out, and I found the two timelines a little disconcerting, until I more or less started ignoring that they were running on two different timelines (and that it didn't seem to matter to the story.) I think those two things could have been left out and it wouldn't have done any damage. But really, overall, this is the best new book I've read in quite some time.
(note to self: re-write this in swedish some time. And remember to wax lyrical about the goooooorgeous cover some time, the thumbnail here just does not do it justice.)
Disclaimer: I won this book in a GR First Reads giveaway. Which did not affect my review at all (which you'd know if you read my other giveaway reviews :)