When it became obvious that most of the action of Winter Song was going to be planet-bound, set among a devolving colony that had regressed back to peasant culture, I kinda cringed. I enjoy sci-fi with spaceships and Minds, aliens and unknowable Intelligences, super-evolved humans and creative 'what if?' scenarios. There seems to be a lot of this going on in the deep background to Winter Song -- it's all hinted at -- but the action is grounded on an isolated planet among Icelandic settlers who are fast losing their tech. So far, so ho-hum...
But the plot really picks up after the establishing chapters, so I found myself enjoying this book despite my initial misgivings. It reminds me very much of CJ Cherryh's Gate series, where the pivotal characters spend much of the time trekking across a strange land, becoming acquainted as they do and revealing a subtle sub-plot along the way. The core of this novel is pretty entertaining, especially as the planet's history is untangled and the mystery around the hero's weird behaviour is explained.
The ending is somewhat rushed, however (shame, cos that's the bit with the spaceship in it!). The writing / editing isn't ideal, either; bits of repeated text and phrases and occasional lapses into near-English. There are no new concepts in this novel, and it's not 'rock hard' in ny respect despite what the blurb says. There's barely any science in it at all, and not a great deal of speculation beyond the comfortable futures we're all familiar with.
So this is nothing like the high quality sci-fi of Iain M Banks, Alastair Reynolds or Richard Morgan; nor as jolly ripping as David Gunn or Justina Robson. But it was good enough that I'd look out for more from this author.