The Winter volume of the Hyddenworld tetralogy rounds off this seasonal series in a wonderfully effective manner. The writing, as always is lyrical and poetic, at times exuberant and emotional, at other times romantic and searing. It is important in a review of any book, but especially the last in a series, that no spoilers are revealed so I will concentrate on general themes. It is a great shame that the book shops at present are full of cook books, ghost written "autobiographies" of so-called celebrities and annual books churned out by authors who write in a formulaic way which proves to be surprisingly successful, although the number of such tomes that appear in bargain bins in the New Year reveal that too many were printed or that the authors are not as popular as their publishers wish us to believe. Due to all these rather cheap looking volumes with very few gems [unlike the the seasonal gems portrayed in the Hyddenworld books] to be seen and the mass of so-called amusing Christmas books with famous names on the front (but usually that is the extent of their involvement) Mr Horwood's wonderful books struggle to find space to be displayed. His vision for this series was not carved in the menhirs of Stonehenge but was more organically formed such as the flora of Duncton Wood. This can be seen by the way the titles of some of the books changed before publication, the way the first book had some substantial changes before its appearance in paperback, the acknowledgements that William Horwood makes at the end of this book in which he thanks his structural editor and also another editor who was unconnected to the publishers for their support and advice. Even the covers of the books changed in style after the first one from a photographic image to a pastel style. I expected the final book to be less local and more universal and worldwide in its content; universal themes are certainly covered but the action concentrates on the characters that have been painstakingly developed during the earlier books in the series. The final chapters were breathtaking and took the reader into a direction that was surprising but somehow seemed the correct route and was a thoughtful and fitting denouement which could not have been predicted.The book is split into two parts but the final one is only a seventh of the book which may give a clue as to the development of this final volume Fantasy seems to be too trite a classification for this amazing series of books which explores the worlds of the hydden and the human and William Horwood may not have written exactly the series of books that he initially envisaged but he has produced something very special that will remain with the reader a lot longer than most books available in the shops which are as worthwhile as the motto in a Christmas cracker!