Series: Red Winter Trilogy #1
Genre: YA, Fantasy/Mythology, Romance
Release Date: October 21, 2016
Publisher: Dark Owl Fantasy
Rating: 4 stars
Emi is the kamigakari. In a few short months, her life as a mortal will end and her new existence as the human host of a goddess will begin. 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 yokai, a spirit of the earth, 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.
When I saw Red Winter available for review I signed up for it right away, because Japanese Mythology and diverse characters (yay for diversity)! I haven’t read Annette Marie’s previous novels, but I’m a huge fan of fantasy/mythology so I had to give this one a try. I have only come across a couple Asian Mythology based books so I was really excited to read Red Winter. I can happily say that it lived up to my expectations, despite a few bumps in the road in the beginning! Also, there’s artwork that goes along with the story and it’s gorgeous! I love it when books feature drawings in them. I wish it had more!
Plot: I don’t want to recap too much on the plot because I don’t want to spoil anything, but essentially Red Winter focuses on Emi, a kamigakari, or a human who hosts a godly spirit in her body. As expected of a Japanese mythology novel, there are a lot of Japanese terms featured. It was a little bit confusing and overwhelming in the beginning as everything was introduced to the reader all at once, but after about ¼ of the way through I got used to the flow of everything and became completely engrossed.
Admittedly, the plot isn’t the most original I’ve read. It follows the typical outline where the heroine believes being a host (or something of the sort) is wonderful, then they find out the truth, try to escape, and usually have some sort of deadline they’re fighting against. However, the Japanese mythology aspects added some novelty and kept the plot moving. The plot turned a lot more interesting once Emi banded together with Shiro and Yumei.
Characters: The characters were my favorite thing about Red Winter. The only thing I wished for was more character development, especially for Shiro and Yumei. They have such intriguing and mysterious backgrounds that weren’t delved into very much. However, they were mentioned in a way that set it up as a good foundation for the sequel, so I really hope we’ll get to know more about them. Emi does have some character growth, but she did have moments where she returned back to being a bit sheltered and biased.
My favorite characters were hands down Shiro and Yumei. I like how the reader was able to see the different sides of Shiro who was often snarky but also revealed his more emotional side. The hints about his past made me want to know more about him. Similarly, Yumei is also a very mysterious character. Not too much is said about his past, but there’s definitely a lot more to him so I hope there are more reveals about his character in the next book. I feel like both their characters have a large potential for development. Also, I loved the different creatures the Yokai could transform into.
The minor characters were simply that, minor characters. They were pretty cardboard cut-out to be honest, but they didn’t have much of a role in the plot overall so I wasn’t particularly bothered by their two-dimensionalism.
Romance: I don’t have much to say about the romance except for that I enjoyed it! Honestly, probably because I loved Shiro. I don’t want to spoil anything, so I’ll just leave at it was a cute romance. I’m pretty sure it gave me feels at one point. LOL
Overall, Red Winter was a really good mythology novel. Despite the slightly predictable beginning, the plot was definitely engrossing. I highly recommend this novel to any other fantasy and mythology lovers! I already can’t wait for the next novel!
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The yokai didn’t move, just held her in place with a strength she couldn’t fight. She tipped her head back to see his face, to gauge his intent. His gaze traveled across her room, intent and analyzing. Then his eyes flicked down and he appeared almost surprised to see her staring up at him. His mouth curved into a sly grin, flashing pointed canines.
His amusement at her terror sparked a tiny surge of anger. “Let me go!”
“Ah, little miko, didn’t anyone ever tell you not to run from yokai?” His deep, purring voice sent a shiver across her skin. He leaned down as his hand on her throat forced her head back. He brushed his nose along her jaw, from her chin up to her ear. “It’s the surest way to make us pounce,” he whispered, his breath tickling her ear.
Goose bumps raced down the back of her neck and she clenched her jaw. “Get your hands off me.”
He hummed as he pushed his face into her hair, inhaling through his nose. “But didn’t you put your hands on me first?”
“I was treating your wounds.” She summoned her most commanding tone, desperately hoping her voice wouldn’t quaver. “You’re proving that your kind’s reputation is well deserved with such disrespect and ingratitude toward the person who saved your life.”
His head came up and fear shot through her that she’d offended him, that he would surely kill her now.
Instead, he made a thoughtful noise, and his hands fell away, releasing her.
She almost leaped out of his lap but remembered his comment about running from yokai. With more self-control than she’d thought she had, she carefully stood, walked four steps, and turned to face him.
He stayed where he was, lounging on the bed with his feet on the floor, casually propped up on one arm. His head tilted to one side as he watched her, and that slight, knowing grin played about his lips.
She sank down to kneel on the floor, mostly because her legs were shaking so badly she was afraid he’d notice. As nonchalantly as possible, she slid her hands into the opposite sleeves of her kimono and pinched her hidden ofuda between two fingers, ready to pull the paper talismans out.
“No need for that, little miko,” he remarked, each word almost caressing her. How could he have such an otherworldly yet still human voice? “I will not harm you.”
She flushed, embarrassed she’d been so obvious, but didn’t let go of the ofuda. “What was that-that assault then?”
“Assault, you call it? That little embrace?”
“You—” She broke off with a small shake of her head. If he was determined to ignore the inappropriateness of forcefully holding a woman against him and rubbing his face on her, nothing she said would change his mind. “You have the manners of a dog.”
“What did you expect? The ritual greetings of the imperial court?”
“Some respect for the person who saved your life would have been welcome.”
“Ah, yes, you did save me, and I am very grateful.” He idly tugged at a lock of his hair as his gaze slid down her and back up again. “I am in your debt. Tell me your desire and I will fulfill it.”
“My—my desire?” she choked.
He smirked again. “A favor, little miko. I am saying I owe you a favor.”
Annette Marie is the author of the Amazon best-selling YA urban fantasy series Steel & Stone, which includes the 2015 Goodreads Choice Award nominee Yield the Night. Her first love is fantasy, a limitless realm of creativity where she can break all the boring rules of real life, but fast-paced urban fantasy, bold heroines, and tantalizing forbidden romances are her guilty pleasures. She proudly admits she has a thing for dragons, and her editor has politely inquired as to whether she intends to include them in every book.
Annette lives in the frozen winter wasteland of northern Alberta, Canada (okay, it’s not quite that bad). She shares her life with her remarkably patient, comparatively sensible husband and their furry minion of darkness—sorry, cat—Caesar. When not writing, she can be found elbow-deep in one art project or another while blissfully ignoring all adult responsibilities.
To find out more about Annette and her books, visit her website at www.authorannettemarie.com