~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 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.
I've read Amber Argyle's other book, Witch Song, and enjoyed it, but I admit that I really wanted to read this book based entirely on the beautiful cover. After I read the synopsis, I wanted to read it even more!
When Tryon attacks, slaughters, and enslaves members of Argon clan, the Shyle clan is shocked. The clans have a treaty among them and until now, there has been no fighting amongst the clans. The Shyle clan is friends with the Argon clan and sends help. Ilyenna is clan mistress of the Shyle clan, her father is the clan chief, and is caught up in this. The Shyle clan is able to rescue a few Argons, but things get even worse when the Shyle clan gets targeted. When a raid occurs, Ilyenna ends up dying in the snow. But the winter fairy see promise in her and revive her to be the new Winter Queen, with a catch: she must lose all of her emotions. Ilyenna declines for now, in favor of helping those she loves, but ends up being captured by Darrien, who was the one that tried to kill her. Darrien is the Tryon clan chief's son, one of them. The other son was killed by Ilyenna the same night she was meant to die. Ilyenna has to be Darrien's slave and maybe wife if he has his way, in order to keep those she loves alive.
The book had a fairytale/folklore like quality to it, and I don't mean Disney. This book has the feeling of the original tales from various cultures, the darker kinds, and I very much liked it. The entire world-building in general was very well-developed. I was able to get a very good grip on the different clans and the lives of the clans, as well as their culture. All in all, my favorite part is still the fantastical storytelling in this book!
Ilyenna is a very strong and capable character. She has her own flaws, like everybody else, but she has an admiring amount of loyalty and strength. As clan mistress, she's very loyal to her clan and puts their needs above her own. She has to make very hard decisions for her clan and herself all throughout this book, sometimes putting her in horrible positions for herself. She has to go through so many horrible things as Darrien's slave and she's very strong throughout all of this. She does have her breaking points, but that makes her so much more human, as I wouldn't be able to believe that anyone to go through something like this without breaking at a few moments.
I have an odd relationship with the romance. I liked Rome, our obvious love interest, in the beginning. He was such a nice guy. He was enormously helpful towards Ilyenna, despite the fact that it put his life at risk, and was helpful towards both of their enslaved clan members. In the beginning, it was obvious that he loved Ilyenna, though Ilyenna thought he still saw her as a little sister. There was a defining moment in the book where Rome began to piss me off and come across as an a-hole. I will hide this due to spoilers, but I just didn't like how he began to treat Ilyenna. <highlight to view spoiler>So, Rome professes love and they have sex. Then, Rome becomes distant and doesn't even give any sign that he once professed love to her. Ilyenna is saddened deeply by this and eventually confronts him. He tells her that he regretted it. Nice move, asshole. In this society, she is now 'ruined', she's now pregnant (though, he doesn't know), and thinks he never loved her. He elaborates, much later, that he loved her, but he regretted ruining her. It wasn't that he regretted being with her, he just regretted 'ruining her'. WHAT THE HELL WAS SHE SUPPOSED THE THINK?! You are distant towards her, you say you regret it, and you think she would be fine with it?! So, yeah, my image of him was ruined after that. <end of spoiler>
For those who read the spoiler, I'm sorry about the rant.
Other than that, I didn't really have any issues with the romance or the book in general. The ending was a bit confusing and rushed, but I honestly can tell why it was this why and it actually makes sense based on how it was told.
This was a very great fantasy read and I do definitely recommend this book! I did have issues with the romances, but the plot, story, and main character really make up for it! I will be reading Summer Queen, which, from what I understand, is a companion book!