Seasonal Fears

Alchemical Journeys #2

By Seanan McGuire

ISBN13:  1250768268

Author’s website: seananmcguire(.)com 

Brought to you by OBS reviewer Omar


Spring is almost here, and with it comes the death of the personifications of Winter and Summer, the crowns are open for taking. Melanie has always been sick, her heart has not beaten to the same tune as other normal people and sometimes it even has stopped for a moment, but as her senior year of high school is coming to an end, she knows her life is also ending. Harry has loved Melanie since the moment he meets her in preschool, he knows she is dying and will not be able to marry her, but he will try to stay with her until her end. 

On the early morning of Prom Day, Melanie sneaks out of her house to go cheer Harry at his football practice and as they stare at each other across the field, the current monarch of Summer kills herself and takes Winter with her. Across the United States, potential candidates for the crowns feel the change, and Melanie’s heart stops, Harry sees her fall and faint. 

Both wake up to feel different and soon learn that they are part of an ancient trial to become the personification of Summer and Winter, others have also started the race and if they want to stay together, they will need to win.

Seasonal Fears takes place in the same world of Middlegames by author Seanan McGuire. While it is not a sequel to that story it does use the same magical, alchemical, and scientific ideas as the previous book, and we enter once again into a world where concepts of the universe take human forms and walk among us. 

I liked Seasonal Fears. While in the previous book we follow the story of two individuals that were alchemically created to be the incarnation of the Doctrine of Ethos, in this book we follow the natural trials that occur when the last incarnation of the seasons of Summer and Winter die and the new individuals have to take their place. It was interesting to see from where the alchemist Asphodel D. Baker got the idea to conceive the Doctrine of Ethos and learned that some humans are born with an attachment to the seasons, some can feel it and connect to it, and others have the chance to embody them. 

Melanie and Harry are star-crossed lovers that want to stay together and have to go through the personal trials of trusting each other and the feelings that they have for one another. It was fun to read their story and follow their growth both personal and mystical, as they learn about the potential of what they can become. While Harry was naturally born to be a Summer candidate, Melanie was created as the perfect vessel to hold Winter by alchemists. It was interesting to read how the seasons started to take over them and to navigate the changes.

Seasonal Fears lets us see the natural process of the aspects of the world taking human forms, and we get to meet individuals that are touched by those seasons. We get to meet Jack Frost, the young girl that is the attendant to Melanie, and tries to teach her what she knows. Among other individuals are Corn Jennies, who attended the Summer Candidates like Harry, and Jack in the Green and Stingy Jack who are the attendants of Spring and Fall respectively even though the seasons don’t have an actual incarnation, but still have a role to play in trials.

It feels like the first thaw, when winter starts to break and the spring starts pushing through. Like snowdrops breaking ice, like icicles melting in the eaves. It feels right…

Many of the characters that we meet are potential incarnations of Summer and Winter like Harry and Melanie who are trying to do their best to win the crowns. Some of the individuals are scary and will try to do anything they can to win, while others will play dirty but are not that bad. 

Because it is the same world of Middlegames, we get to meet Dodger and Roger once more. They are the incarnation of the Doctrine of Ethos, and who are interested to see the outcome of the trials while giving their opinion on the matter. And with them we meet Erin as well, who is still herself, Order incarnated, and knows of Melanie’s origins and her sister’s. 

No story from Seanan McGuire will be complete without some family rivalry or drama. In this case, it comes in the hands of Melanie’s deceased at-birth sister, Aven, who was supposed to be the other half of the experiment and be the incarnation of Summer. Alchemists don’t like to fail or die and Aven was not the exception. 

I really like the Seasonal Fears and the world that inhabits our protagonists.

If you are a fan of Seanan McGuire and her works, then I recommend Seasonal Fears. In this story, the world has embodied the two major seasons as a necessity, and now a couple has to face many trials to stay alive and together, and become Summer and Winter themselves.