Thursday, February 13, 2014

Review: "Winter Queen" by Amber Argyle

Title: Winter Queen
Series: Fairy Queens #1
Author: Amber Argyle
Publisher: Starling
Year: 2013

"Becoming a winter queen will make Ilyenna as cold and cruel and deadly as winter itself, but it might be the only way to save her people from a war they have no hope of winning.

Mortally wounded during a raid, seventeen-year-old Ilyenna is healed by winter fairies who present her with a seductive offer: become one of them and share their power over winter. But that power comes with a price.If she accepts, she will become a force of nature, lose her humanity, and abandon her family. Unwilling to pay such a high price, Ilyenna is enslaved by the one of the invaders, Darrien. 

While in captivity, she learns the attack wasn't just a simple raid but part of a larger plot to overthrow her entire nation. With the enemy stealing over the mountains and Darrien coming to take her to his bed, Ilyenna must decide whether to resurrect the power the fairies left behind. Doing so will allow her to defeat Darrien and the other invaders, but if she embraces winter, she will lose herself to that destroying power-forever."

Holy hell and the seven freaking dwarves. Well. I did not really dare to expect that the contents of the book will be as good as the gorgeous cover-art. If you look at the cover there is just so much expectations to live up to. But I was not disappointed. This was brilliant.

Let me explain to you why. First of all the background. While there are numerous fairy stories and it is fairly popular to divide them into either light and dark or summer and winter (or both), then you do not really get the high fantasy fairy story that often. I loved the way the world was built up. Have you noticed how medieval most of the high fantasy stories are? Women are for breeding and being pretty. Here they fight. Sure there is still segregation between the roles of men and women but women do have a voice. The idea of an influential clan mistress and women who carry knives was great. 

The story was superb. The magic was more of a superstition there and I liked that it was not the most dominant part of the story. The story has a war-like situation between clans, struggle for power and love. No spoilers but it is bloody brilliant. Amber Argyle can really make you feel for her characters. And not only compassion and love but also hate, burning, churning, bubbling hate. I must admit the descriptions were quite graphic, I found myself cringing gleefully a few times.
The only little thing I have to knock on this story is that the big action scenes felt a little hurried. Most of the story was near-perfectly paced, but every time something really monumental went down, it was over in a few pages. After every that kind of sequence I felt myself reading and thinking that wait, wait, wait, this HUGE, ginormous thing just happened? It just started, how on earth is it over? But when I kept reading and the events worked themselves through the rest of the story then I just could not stay mad at this.

Ilyenna was a great heroine. Kick-ass but still finding herself. She was already fairly special in her world but that was nothing compared to the storm that hit when she also managed attract the attention of the fairies. Careful Darrien, this time self-sacrifice comes in a rebellious and prideful package.
On to Darrien. I like that for once we got a villain. Not the kind that redeems themselves with their last act but someone who is despicable to the bone. Darrien was extremely well-written and a scary/nasty character.
Rone. A childhood friend to Ilyenna, he was also a big part of the book. Sort of your regular white knight to the rescue. He couldn’t help but want to always help and always care for all the women, and Ilyenna in particular. While not my favourite, he was still a decent character, once again brought to life by my very eyes by Argyle.
We also get quite a few really awesome side characters, whom I couldn’t possibly all introduce. So these will be left for you to meet because the journey to them is wicked. Trust me on this one.

“Winter Queen” has challenged my favourite faery series to a duel. I cannot wait to see who wins at the end, but for that I will need the next book, which I am so very anxiously waiting. I’m counting the days Amber, I am just saying. But five ice-cold stars to the “Winter Queen”. I shall now resume staring out of the window and waiting for Leto, I mean Summer, to come.

 This review has been brought to you by your Book Mistress for the day.


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