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Winter Be My Shield

(Children of the Black Sun #1)

3.86  ·  Rating details ·  967 ratings  ·  148 reviews
A complex, adult epic fantasy from a new Australian author ... original, dramatic, unputdownable ...

Sierra has a despised and forbidden gift -- she raises power from the suffering of others. Enslaved by the King's Torturer, Sierra escapes, barely keeping ahead of Rasten, the man sent to hunt her down. Then she falls in with dangerous company: the fugitive Prince Cammarian
Paperback, 464 pages
Published January 6th 2012 by Harper Collins
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Average rating 3.86  · 
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 ·  967 ratings  ·  148 reviews

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Mar 30, 2012 rated it really liked it
Shelves: 2012-debuts

…the blizzard was her shield – without it she would never have come this far.

Sierra has escaped the clutches of the King’s Torturer, Lord Kell and his apprentice, Rasten. For two years she has been imprisoned and abused to break her spirit and her mind. Sierra, a Child of the Black Sun possesses a special gift, a power that feeds off and grows from the sufferings of others. So powerful is her ability, Kell will stop at nothing to bring her back.

After a failed coup ten years ago Prince Cammarian
May 10, 2020 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
DNF page 118 | 10/05/2020

Why am I so unlucky with high fantasy? I’m so bored.
Jul 28, 2017 rated it really liked it
This was so much more entertaining than I expected it to be! I added it to my shelf waaaaaay back in 2013 and I've picked it up a bunch of times, read a page or two, and decided to pick up something else instead. Finally I forced myself to read it (for an Aussie Readers challenge) and it was so much more captivating than I anticipated!

I find that I'm really easily affected by setting, so the fact that this was all snow and ice was initially off-putting but once I got into it I found I didn't min
Aug 19, 2015 rated it really liked it
I really enjoyed this. It was an emotionally intense piece of the growth of a mage in a group of cultures that have very different ideas of what to do with mages, pretty much none of them good. It's also the first part of a larger novel (and says so right there on the cover, well done!), but feels like a complete book with where the main characters end up. Of course, that's with the luxury of knowing that the full trilogy is already published, I don't imagine I'd be so sanguine if I had to wait ...more
Lady H
May 05, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: read-in-2020
This was a really solid high fantasy! Some thoughts:

★ There are some really interesting characters here! And they're all sympathetic, even one of the villains, who is my favorite type of bad guy: crazy and terrible but with understandable motivations. I loved his relationship with the main character, Sierra, because I love villain/heroine dynamics. This isn't a villain romance by any stretch of the imagination, but Rasten, the villain, is creepily obsessed with Sierra for various reasons, thoug
In the kingdom of Ricalan, winter is a formidable force for many months of the year, as well as a useful ally in this time of invasion and attack. It's not only the settlers from Mesentreia forcing the Ricalani tribes off their land as they've been doing for the last few decades, supported by Ricalan's Mesentreian queen. Now they must also contend with forces from the Akharian Empire to the west. The Empire is also feeling the pinch from Mesentreia and its settler-invaders, and is using Ricalan ...more
Jan 08, 2016 rated it really liked it
I received a copy of this book for free from the publisher, in exchange for an honest review. Also posted on my blog, Rinn Reads.

I have read a lot of fantasy novels in my life; it has pretty much always been one of my favourite genres since as far back as I can remember. Therefore, if I can find a fantasy novel that feels like a breath of fresh air, is unique and original, then I’m happy. Unfortunately, whilst Winter Be My Shield did not quite hit that high note, it was still a good, solid read.
May 03, 2014 rated it really liked it
This review forms part of my contribution to the AWWC 2014. I enjoyed this book. It was an excellent taster for what promises to be an excellent series.

Jo Spurrier is a clever writer, and has built a really interesting world. Having said that, this book was clearly a book that sets up the rest of the story, and I did vacillate somewhat over how many stars to give it. I was torn between 3.5 and 4, primarily because I became entwined in the characters enough to want to know what happens to them.

Karina Webster
Aug 24, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2019-favourites
I’m not sure I can summarise this novel better than the queen of fantasy herself, Robin Hobb:

“Unlikely heroes, villains you will cheer for, and cold that eats your bones. Winter Be My Shield will take you to an unforgiving place, but you won’t want to leave it.”

This is definitely a 4.5 star read for me, I found it utterly immersive with an intriguing political landscape and complex characters. I can’t believe this was a debut, the writing is superb and the pacing is great. For the ground and tim
Peter Greenwell
Jan 28, 2014 rated it it was ok
I tried my hardest to wade through this book but in the end, it was simply not possible. I'll agree with other reviewers here that the book does possess a lot of originality, but I can't empathise with their enthusiasm for it.

My issues with this book are many - for starters the characters for most of the book, do nothing except wander about in seeming circles from one snow-bound location to the other. There's lots of dialogue, lots of going back and forth, but little of substance happens. Nothi
Jan 05, 2016 rated it liked it
Solid world building and nuanced characterization make this fantasy novel worth reading. The pacing is slow and there is a lot of trudging through snow and setting up tents, but also some bracing (by which I mean brutal) action scenes. It's not that original, but refreshing all the same. There's the mandatory exiled prince, but he's not the protagonist - his foster brother Isodro is. Isodro is nobel and brave enough for a hero, but he is also disabled and suffering PTSD after enduring torture an ...more
Jack Lanigan
Feb 23, 2016 rated it it was ok
Fine, I think is the word that I'd use to describe this book. Just fine. Nothing harmful or particularly terrible but nothing that really engrossed me either. Probably the weirdest thing was the tonal shifts. Obviously it's going to be a bit dark, what with the whole magic from pain thing, but for the majority of the book it reads more like YA with how many internal monologues there are, and how much so many of the characters elaborate on their plans and feelings.

Then we start talking about pris
Oct 17, 2016 rated it really liked it
Chiefly a story about Sierra, a sympath - a mage who gathers energy from the pleasure/pain of those around her - after she escapes a powerful mage find of torture and meets up with one of her former Master's victims and his foster brother, who happens to be a prince hunted by his mother and King brother.

Very good, though with a couple of weak points - the biggest of which was that the book ends on a cliffhanger without much resolved - definitely not a stand alone read.
Tsana Dolichva
Apr 29, 2012 rated it it was amazing
Winter Be My Shield is Jo Spurrier’s debut novel and the first book of Children of the Black Sun trilogy. I was lucky enough to receive an advanced review copy of this book from Harper Voyager.

Set in a country where winter lasts about six months and involves piles of snow (much like the cover depicts), the story follows Sierra, Cam and Isidro. Sierra is a powerful mage but was enslaved by the sadistic Blood Mage Kell and forced to feed him power while he tortured various prisoners. She was parti
"Black Sun" count: 95. Gee, what series is this again? I can't remember; better repeat it another BILLION times.

I probably wouldn't have noticed if the rest of the book had been good, but it wasn't at all. I didn't care about a single character; in fact, I was rooting against all of them by the end simply for something interesting/entertaining to happen. They trudge around in snow, whine, call each other infuriating nicknames, yadda yadda. The magic system wasn't interesting enough to save this
Nicole Luiken
Nov 10, 2017 rated it really liked it
Strong world-building (as a Canadian I can really get into a wintry setting.) A three-sided war with no side that doesn't want to use or kill the heroine leads to hard choices. Ditto for the tortured hero. I will definitely look for book two.

Quibble: I was hoping for more of a climax, but this was more of a character-makes-a-choice ending for book one in a series.
Aug 04, 2013 rated it it was amazing
I choose this book because I was at the public library and decided to give some fantasy a go. Aside from the Hobbit and Lord of the Rings (which I of course enjoyed!) - I have absolutely hated most fantasy when I have previously attempted to read it, mainly because it has seemed so hard to believe and because all fantasy books seem to involve similar themes, namely, dragons, swirly whoosy magic and unlikely heroes rising to defeat a powerful force of evil! I know many people like these types of ...more
Feb 11, 2014 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: No one ever
I was on the struggle bus with this book from pretty much page one. I don't know what it was, but there was just something about it that dragged. I made it about 25% of the way through and seriously considered throwing it on the DNF pile because I was JUST. SO. BORED and it had taken me days to read that far, which never happens. I never felt like I was making any progress with it - you'd turn page after page after page, and my Kindle was all "Nope, you're still only 11% done. LOL."

In addition t
Georgia Claire
Apr 23, 2015 rated it liked it
Shelves: fantasy
I liked this book, but honestly got so bewildered by who was on what side in their ongoing tussles that it became very difficult to follow any of the machinations. Basically: Isidro and Cam are against literally everyone else, including their own mothers. I think. I don't know, I got really confused. Honestly, the depictions of surviving winter in a perpetually frozen landscape were far more interesting.

One significant nitpick, speaking as a geographer. A major plot point revolves around the cli
Maja Ingrid
Feb 21, 2017 rated it it was ok
The book started slow. It took almost a 4th of the book before stuff actually started to happen. The action scenes that came after that were interesting but the rest of the book was dull. It was also lots of chunky info-dump on info dump. Seriously it felt like the first 100 pages was nothing but. Now I don’t mind info-dumps because high fantasy novels do need to exposition, but it gets heavy to handle when there’s more exposition than actual plot in the book. Because bigger parts of the book wa ...more
Sep 29, 2017 rated it it was ok
Shelves: own
Both heavy on characters and world. The characters were fully fleshed, though I did not particularly connect. Isidro was my most favourite character, followed by another that works directly with him but doesn't appear until 75% of the way through the book.

The first third of the book kept me interested - the world fascinated me and the characters interactions with each other. Then a switch flipped and I suddenly no longer cared. There was no upping of stakes, I became disinterested in the story a
Sep 23, 2015 rated it it was ok

Winter Be My Shield is Jo Spurrier's competent debut novel. It's not your average fantasy book, as there's some interesting and unique ideas going on in it. The magic system in particular is a good one. However, this is brought down by bland story-telling and irritating main characters. These problems are off-putting enough that it made it a chore to finish the book, let alone continue on to the rest of the trilogy. It's hard to say if Winter Be My Shield is worth the effort, but each to th
Renee V
Mar 18, 2013 rated it really liked it
A great high fantasy novel from an Australian author. Recommend to lovers of fantasy. I enjoyed this story so much I bought the second one almost as soon as I had finished. (Sadly though I didn't enjoy the second one as much and was frustrated with how the character development happens) The character stories in this one however really drew me in and I'm still looking forward to seeing how it all pan's out for them. ...more
Jan 06, 2017 rated it really liked it
Shelves: fantasy
3.5 - 4 stars
An intriguing world with layered characters. Quite gritty in parts and you can tell that the author is trying to illustrate the violence of the world in a subtle matter. However, dropping a C-bomb in the last 10 pages did not lend any effectiveness, rather, it turned me off. Hence the drop by half a star. I will give the second one a go though.
Jun 11, 2012 rated it really liked it

Full review to come, but OMG, best fantasy I've read in ages. Think Te good bits of Robert Jordan, JV Jones, Sara Douglas....just darn good story telling, with great characters.
Nov 10, 2015 marked it as to-read  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fantasy, kindle
10 November 2015: $1.99 on Kindle ...more
West Hartford Public Library
"A terrific, complex fantasy that you cannot put down. I have the ebook. It's awesome!"--patron ...more
Alyssa Grace
Jun 30, 2019 rated it really liked it
Shelves: fantasy
It was wonderful to read this tale of a devastating blizzard-covered escape on a 37 degree summer day. I can't believe how hard this series is slept on. I've been waiting to read Winter Be My Shield forever, and it was as good as I imagined.

I know I'm seven years late, but hell, you wouldn't understand how much I want to drop everything right now and make a Save Isidro Balorica campaign. I really wonder if Jo Spurrier was answering a challenge to make a character suffer the most humanly possible
Mar 08, 2017 rated it liked it
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
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Jo was born in 1980 and has a Bachelor of Science, but turned to writing because people tend to get upset when scientists make things up.
Her hobbies include knitting, spinning, cooking and research. She lives in Adelaide with her husband and spends a lot of time daydreaming about snow.

Other books in the series

Children of the Black Sun (3 books)
  • Black Sun Light My Way (Children of the Black Sun, #2)
  • North Star Guide Me Home (Children of the Black Sun, #3)

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