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422 pages, Hardcover
First published October 14, 2014
I wanted to be a soldier. Someone who would earn standing in Winter. Someone Sir would look at with pride. Someone Mather would look at and—This is one of the best high fantasy I've read this year, which might not mean much, considering the crap I've read, but I can only attest to my enjoyment of it. This book is good.
I’m at the center of this, a weird possessive feud between the Winter king and the Cordellan prince.Why there gotta be a love triangle, man?! For all that's holy...
I’m running. Running through gray streets choked with smoke as hordes of people run too, more explosions corralling us into Angra’s grasp. That’s what they’re doing—corralling the Winterians like sheep so they can lead them to a life of slavery and pain.Young Meira's life is dire. She is an orphan, but she's not the only one. She's lucky to be an orphan, because that means at least she, out of her family, has survived.
Except for us. The seven who still live with Winter’s future king. Originally twenty-five refugees who kept Angra up at night, reduced to eight.
No matter our dire circumstances, no matter our shared upbringing, no matter the chill his smile sends over my body, he’s still him, and I’m still me, and yes, he needs to have a female heir someday, but with a proper lady, a duchess or a princess—not the girl who spars with him.The problem lies beyond Winter's destruction. It lies in the fact that Mather, the heir to Winter, is a male. The kingdom of Winter is a matriarchy, where magic is passed on through a female-blooded conduit. As a male, Mather is nigh useless. Except as a breeding stud for a future queen.
You don’t know anything, Meira, and I’m sorry if this...is hard for you to accept, but it will happen. You wanted to matter to Winter? This is how Winter needs you.”Or will Meira become the person she knew she could be all along?
“Don’t you want more than this?” I breathe.The Setting:
“Every day of my life.”
It’s so cold that foreigners have to wrap in layers of fur to walk from building to building, while our natural Winterian blood keeps us warm even in the worst conditions. And snow is everywhere, always, so much that the grass beneath it is white from lack of sun. An entire kingdom wrapped in an orb of eternal winter.Call it a GoT clone if you want, but I quite loved the setting in this book. There are the Rhythm kingdoms...countries with seasons, and the Season kingdoms...countries with just one season each. Spring. Summer. Fall. Winter. Each with their own characteristics. Each with their own eternal seasons. Each with their distinguishing features within their people.
But no matter how dire our situation, how desperate Sir gets, he will never see me as an asset. Just the overexcited child he had the misfortune of raising.Meira is one of the strongest characters I've read in high fantasy this year. Again, given the absolute crap I've read this year, that might not say much, but allow me to say that there is nothing about her that I hated.
I cannot die like Crystalla...I still have my knife. I still have a chance.Yes, Meira has feeeeeeeeeelings, but they feel normal, unobtrusive. A momentary spike of teenaged hormones instead of overwhelming insta-love or lust, or anything heaviliy romantic that persists throughout the book. Her feelings and her emotions are normal, and utterly relatable.
My hair, a giant array of pinned-back curls, hangs messy yet soft with a few white strands dangling free around my face.One of the things I loved most about Meira is her relationship with her guardian, Sir.
I click my mouth shut. Maybe being a little fancier isn’t a horrible thing.
Occasionally I could catch a flicker—a twinge around his eyes when Mather faltered in sparring, a twitch of his lips when I begged to learn how to fight. But that was all I ever saw of the general who once carried a baby for days to safety. Like all of his actual tenderness was gone, but every so often his muscles convulsed from the memory of it.I loved their complex relationship. I loved his harshness, and his unwincing criticism of her. I loved the way she constantly strives for, never quite reaching his approval. I loved his love for her, so obvious that anyone can see it but her. I love the way she constantly doubts herself, the way she constantly tries and tries and tries to just be good enough in his eyes. I love their love-hate relationship. It is one of the best relationships I've ever read in a high fantasy.
“Thank you.” I nod to his ankle. “For everything. You didn’t—”And this.
He shakes his head. “Yes, I did. You deserve to fight for your home as much as the rest of us do.”
Mather never got mad at me for pulling him into mischief or for breaking during Sir’s interrogations. He’d just smile, throw his arm around me, and say something encouraging.Really, I hated it. I loved Mather, despite his name, which always brings to mind Eminem (AKA Marshall Mathers of the I'm slim shady fame). Mather is such a good love interest, which made me root for him.
Mather has always been a king, every moment of his life.
He knows all of them. Every single one. And not only that, but he seems genuinely interested in them, remembering not only dozens of faces but also the smallest details about how that back acre of farmland is doing, did the trade with Yakim go well last week, is your daughter settled with her new husband yet?Why there gotta be a love triangle, man?
No matter what happens, no matter who turns on me, no matter what pompous swine thinks he has power over me, I am still me. I will always be me.
That’s how we all are, too hard for what we should be. We should be a family, not soldiers. But all that really connects us is stories, and memories, of what should be.
Just as Winter focused its magic on mining, Coredell focuses its conduit on opportunity--on helping its citizenswork a situation in their favor so they get the most out of it. Opportunistic, resourceful, swindlers: whatever they're called, they can make "leaves turn to gold"--a Cordellan phrase Sir explained in our many lessons, referring to the fact that they're so good at turning a profit it's as if they make leaves on a tree turn into gold coins. That explains Captain Dominick's curse earlier--golden leaves.
"No matter what I use, I always hit my mark."
No man can refuse to answer that call.
It's the kind of sword fight Sir has told stories about...
“Someday we will be more than words in the dark.”
"I can feel him eyeing Mather, both of them caught in an awkward web surrounding me. I'm at the center of a weird possessive feud between the Winter king and the Cordellan prince. How in the name of all that is cold did that happen?"
"It whacks into the center of the target, the handle wobbling from force.
Theron turns to me, half his face slight with the beginnings of a smile. "My weapon of choice doesn't matter," he says, continuing our conversation like nothing happened. His eyes flash to Mather over my shoulder. "No matter what, I always hit my mark."
"Just as Winter focused its magic on mining, Coredell focuses its conduit on opportunity--on helping its citizenswork a situation in their favor so they get the most out of it. Opportunistic, resourceful, swindlers: whatever they're called, they can make "leaves turn to gold"--a Cordellan phrase Sir explained in our many lessons, referring to the fact that they're so good at turning a profit it's as if they make leaves on a tree turn into gold coins. That explains Captain Dominick's curse earlier--golden leaves."
“No matter what happens, no matter who turns on me, no matter what pompous swine thinks he has power over me, I am still me. I will always be me.”
“Someday we will be more than words in the dark.”