Review: Red Winter - Annette Marie

Red Winter
Red Winter by Annette Marie
Series: Red Winter Trilogy #1
My rating: {★★★★★}

YA Fantasy
Published October 21st 2016 by Dark Owl Fantasy Inc.

Source: Xpresso Book Tours
In a few short months, Emi's mortal life will end when she becomes the human host of an immortal goddess. Carefully hidden from those who would destroy her, she has prepared her mind, body, and soul to unite with the goddess—and not once has she doubted her chosen fate. Shiro is a spirit of the earth and an enemy of the goddess Emi will soon host. Mystery shrouds his every move and his ruby eyes shine with cunning she can’t match and dares not trust. But she saved his life, and until his debt is paid, he is hers to command—whether she wants him or not. On the day they meet, everything Emi believes comes undone, swept away like snow upon the winter wind. For the first time, she wants to change her fate—but how can she erase a destiny already wrought in stone? Against the power of the gods, Shiro is her only hope … and hope is all she has left.

A huge thank you to Lindsey for first bringing this series to my attention and making me curious enough to request it from Xpresso Book Tours. It's quickly become one of my very favourite YA series EVER.

This book (and series) was unlike anything I had read before. THIS BOOK IS A GEM THAT SHOULD BE ON YOUR TBR. It's amazing. Seriously.

Go read it.

Not only is the COVER divine but guys there are gorgeous illustrations included in the book making the whole thing a truly wondrous piece of art.

I haven't read a lot based on Japanese mythology and folklore and yet I was never too confused - Annette Marie managed to explain the setting well and while the first few chapters (probably the first six?) were mainly world building and relatively dense the plot quickly takes over and I didn't feel as though it was too info dumpy, especially in retrospect.

I LOVED the richness of this world and the fantasy brought to life: Magical creatures that you don't hear about very much in YA literature - kitsunes, various other yokai and a whole wealth of legendary creatures and gods and goddesses.

Not only was the world building both rich and immense, the CHARACTERS were incredible too and the illustrations that were provided really helped to bring a richness and depth to both.

Emi is a Kamigakari which means that she is the mortal host for a Kami (god/goddess). She has known since she was eight years old that she would be the host for the goddess of the wind, Amaterasu. She isn't a warrior or particularly skilled in any way, she is naive, somewhat of a damsel (especially in the beginning), and she's sacrificed a lot in her life to become the perfect vessel for the descension of Amaterasu. I loved that her character was so believable, so layered and that there was so much room for the development we got to see both over this book and the entire series, and yet this was never implausible.

Shiro is a Kitsune, a fox spirit of the Earth who is morally ambiguous, sly and enigmatic. He was a character that I adored getting to know and the swift peeks that I had at his softer side just melted my YA fantasy loving heart.

Yumei is a raven spirit of the Earth. He is also the lord of crows and harbinger of war. His character was incredibly well portrayed with a wonderful depth and very true to the nature of a Yokai: He never deviated from being ruthless, unrelenting or selfish and yet he showed loyalty and some glimmers of human emotion. I was truly intrigued at his character and where the story would take him in future books.

While this book isn't really romantic, I have to say that I loved what little there was included here and the complete slow-burn and anticipation. The aspect of the forbidden romance and the promise of what is to come is just so enticing and delicious that it's totally worth it.

“Because you are more to me now. Because you keep secrets like a kami and I’m curious what you hide. Because you are lonely and scared and I don’t understand why. Because you trust me when you know you shouldn’t. Because I believe you when you say you will keep your word.”

There's quite a few action sequences that are really written coherently and choreographed seamlessly. The plot, while a little slow in the beginning (and rightly so) is propelled along nicely with great pacing, a perfect climax and ends with a definite need for MORE and yet there is hope and friendship blossoming.

There's a good sprinkle of mysterious antiheroes, forbidden romance, enchanting characters and action packed fantasy with just enough of the real world to make it relatable.

Please do yourself a favour and ADD THIS TO YOUR TBR IMMEDIATELY

“Don’t forget me, Shiro,” she said hoarsely. “You’re not allowed to forget me.”
He blinked slowly and something shifted in his gaze. His lips curved in his familiar crooked smile.
“You’ll forget me someday, little miko.” His voice was even hoarser than hers, rough and coated in a hint of an animal growl.
“I’ll never forget you,” she told him. “I’ll remember you to my last day.”
“Do you promise?”
Her heart gave an odd little flutter. “Yes, I promise.”

AAAANNND!!! For those of you who like book trailers, this one is pretty excellent!

Dark Tempest (Red Winter #2)→

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