In Summerwood, twelve-year old Rosalind Hero Cheung can't wait to spend the summer in Toronto with her teenaged sister Julie and their famous author grandfather. Years ago Walter Denison wrote a series of bestselling children's novels about a magical land called the Summerwood. But to Hero's dismay, Walter is cold toward his granddaughters and Julie derides Hero's hope that the Summerwood is real.
Nevertheless one day she and Julie stumble into the Summerwood. Ruled by the beautiful and enigmatic Lady of Summer, it is the idyllic fantasy land out of Walter's books, complete with quaintly dressed talking animals. However, Hero discovers the Summerwood is far more sinister than Walter had ever let on. Julie is abducted and to save her life, Hero must find the Summerwood's sacred winter stag. Hero quickly learns that seeing out on a fantasy quest is far more prosaic and terrifying than she'd ever imagined, and there is a steep and bloody price to pay for being the hero.
In Winterwood, three years have passed since Lindy Cheung went into the Summerwood and emerged changed and broken. Now she's geting into trouble starting fights, skipping school, dating unsuitable boys. After her mother grounds her again she runs o to Toronto to her sister, the only person who knows what really happened three years ago. But Juliet has moved on from the trauma, and Lindsay finds herself back in the Summerwood, where an old enemy tells her: The stag must die again.
And this time, in order to save the Summerwood, she has to be the bad guy instead of the hero.
"E. L. Chen has crafted an engaging and magical tale reminiscent of, and obviously influenced by, C. S. Lewis's "Chronicles of Narnia" series. Aside from the somewhat one-dimensional grandfather figure in the first book, Chen's characters are well-developed, relatable, flawed, and complex. Chen transitions effectively from modern day Toronto and a teenager's daily trials, tribulations and family troubles to a dark, surreal, fantastical world inhabited by sarcastic clothed rabbits, evil queens and talking birds. The battles and killings in which Hero engages are described in detail and not Disney-fied, the lessons learned not black and white or glossed over. Aside from a trigger warning due to some violent duels and graphic death scenes, and a minimal offensive language warning for those readers on the younger side, this duology will fit the bill for fans of C.S. Lewis, Lewis Carroll, Eoin Colfer, Madeline L'Engle and Diana Wynne Jones. Summerwood was longlisted for the Sunburst Award in 2020.
— CM Magazine