Summary: A heartbroken girl. A fierce warrior. A hero in the making.
Sixteen years ago the Kingdom of Winter was conquered and its citizens enslaved, leaving them without magic or a monarch. Now, the Winterians’ only hope for freedom is the eight survivors who managed to escape, and who have been waiting for the opportunity to steal back Winter’s magic and rebuild the kingdom ever since.
Orphaned as an infant during Winter’s defeat, Meira has lived her whole life as a refugee, raised by the Winterians’ general, Sir. Training to be a warrior—and desperately in love with her best friend, and future king, Mather — she would do anything to help her kingdom rise to power again.
So when scouts discover the location of the ancient locket that can restore Winter’s magic, Meira decides to go after it herself. Finally, she’s scaling towers, fighting enemy soldiers, just as she’s always dreamed she would. But the mission doesn’t go as planned, and Meira soon finds herself thrust into a world of evil magic and dangerous politics – and ultimately comes to realize that her destiny is not, never has been, her own.
There’s quite a bit of described violence, that doesn’t shy away from blood.-
Winter was overthrown by Spring’s cruel king, the Winterians massacred or taken away to work camps. Our main character finds herself in one of those camps and witnesses the harsh conditions. (Whippings, beatings, near starvation), as well as experiencing her own pain at the hand of the soldiers. During that time, two characters’ broken ribs are healed and re-broken through magical means- one in an attempt to manipulate Meira. She is almost raped but retaliates by sticking a pin in the man’s eye. Consumed by rage, Meira kills him.
There are various battles between the Winterians and the Spring soldiers- swords are stabbed, arrows are shot and the chakram (a bladed, throwing disc/boomerang) inflicts injuries where it can- like slicing through an opponent’s leg. There are heavy casualties- people die, they are wounded or injured. But the Winterians won’t kill a soldier unless he’s holding a weapon.
A full-scale battle is fought between two armies, complete with cannons, cavalries, archers and foot soldiers. Meira is caught in the middle of it all, seeing the death of the men, their cries of pain and the blood soaking into the ground. She witnesses soldiers being cut down by cannons, dying as a result.
Characters spar (one which nearly goes too far). Talk and rumours circulate about the horrific violence done against the Winterians (some implied, some mentioned outright). Someone punches a character because he doesn’t care for his idea. Another falls to his death in one of the work camps, a soldier having pushed him. A wooden structure collapses, injuring and killing soldiers.
Meira is conflicted about killing people, telling Sir that “I don’t want [killing] to get easy… I want to feel always.”
Mather and Meira are attracted to each other- they embrace, hold hands, he kisses her jaw. But they intentionally put distance in between each other (mentally and physically) because he needs to provide an heir with a proper queen one day. Meira implies she might love him.
Meira is betrothed to Theron. She’s attracted to him and Mather’s place in her mind changes as a result. They hold hands, dance, flirt and he embraces her. They kiss once, quite passionately.
Spring soldiers joke about prostitution when Meira sneaks into the city. Couples embrace. Rumours circulate after Meira visits Theron’s room (where nothing happened). Soldiers (and a monarch and prince) spar without shirts on, which pleasantly shocks Meira.
Talk of marriage alliances between countries, and their heirs.
The book is peppered with d*mn and made up curses (like for the love of snow, or golden leaves). One as-.
Mather and Meira lie to Sir (even though he knows it).
When Theron’s father doesn’t step up and act as a leader on the threshold of war, Theron asks his father to stop being an as-.
Mention of drunks nearby taverns. Meira remembers when she and Mather had stolen wine and gotten tipsy (and the scolding that followed).
Overall Feel: An exciting, albeit violent, young adult fantasy. The main character grows into a strong leader and selfless queen… but the journey there is a hard (and bloody) one. One nation is specifically targeted by another, its people treated harshly and killed, which may bring to mind historical events and wars. It ends triumphantly, but the journey there may not be one all will want to witness.
This book feels like something really close to me- I’ve been on this journey since it came out. I fell in love with Meira and Mather and Theron… and I couldn’t stand it when there’s this love triangle and it doesn’t work. What the heck, man?
Anyway- this first instalment was worth it. It is really well done, the world-building, the character development, the emotional rollercoaster.
< 3 klara