Ekbäck takes readers on a journey to Swedish Lapland in 1717, a harsh and unforgiving place where the supernatural bleeds over into the difficult lives of the few settlers trying to make it through a hardscrabble winter.
It's June, and 14-year-old Fredericka and Dorotea, her 6-year-old sister, are herding goats in the glade near their cabin when they stumble across the horribly mutilated body of a man. Ever since the family moved to Blackäsen Mountain from their seacoast home, they've spent most of their time preparing for the difficult winter headed their way. Their parents, Paavo and Maija, recently migrated from Finland after trading their boat for a patch of ground and a cabin. Paavo couldn’t wait to leave fishing once he discovered his hereditary aversion to water. Now they're wondering what type of place they’ve settled in, with murdered men and secrets swirling around them. The dead man, identified as Eriksson, had been missing for three days, but no one seems particularly disturbed at his slaying, and word is out that bad things happen on the mountain. Maija decides to keep investigating Eriksson’s death, even though it’s not a popular move with the mountain's other inhabitants, and soon begins uncovering evidence of supernatural happenings on Blackäsen, along with a litany of unexplained deaths and events. And despite the unpopularity of Maija’s moves, she refuses to let it go, even when events begin to spin out of her control and her family is threatened. Ekbäck's straightforward prose lacks nuance, but her first novel takes readers into places that few will ever have gone.
This snapshot of life in a place where winter can be unspeakably cruel, where simply staying alive is a victory, proves irresistible.