Series: Red Winter Trilogy #1
Published by Dark Owl Fantasy Inc. on 10/21/16
Genres: Young Adult, Fantasy, Asia
Source: Blog Tour, NetGalley
My content rating: YA (Nothing more than kissing, Some violence)
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.
RED WINTER includes 10 full-page illustrations by artist Brittany Jackson.
Lately I’ve been fascinated with Japanese culture and mythology (my son actually got me into it), so when I saw this series, I knew I had to pick it up. First off, can we all drool over that cover for a moment? All of that gorgeousness deserves to be admired. Can’t. Look. Away.
Emi has dedicated her entire life to making herself the perfect vessel for the goddess Amaterasu. She has never questioned that dedication, never wavered in her devotion. But then she learns something that puts her whole life into a completely new—and frightening—perspective.
What Fed My Addiction:
- The mythology. This book is set in modern day Japan, but this isn’t one of those books with just hints of mythology. The story centers on the spirit world and Japanese deities. It’s obvious that Marie has done her research because of the detailed worldbuilding. But I never felt overwhelmed or confused—she wove the facts and terms into the story beautifully. The end result is a compelling story that introduces you to complex mythological characters and fascinating folklore.
- Duty vs. Freedom. Emi has always shown complete devotion to her duty. She has sacrificed everything—friends, family, romantic entanglements, all of the pleasures of life—so that she will be a pure vessel for her goddess. And she’s done it all completely willingly. She’s never questioned her dedication. After all, it’s a huge honor to be chosen. But one short conversation has her flustered, wondering if it’s possible she’s missed out on too much. And then she learns devastating news. News that changes everything. Suddenly, Emi wonders if all of her sacrifices have actually been worth it or if she should be rethinking her destiny—not that she can. I loved seeing Emi’s inner turmoil over this question of duty and sacrifice versus personal freedom. Once Emi starts to question her role, there are no easy answers. Her decisions aren’t black and white by any means, and the spirits she meets along the way only complicate things more.
- Shiro. Shiro is the type of character that’s impossible not to love. He’s cocky and a little dangerous, but it’s obvious from the start that he isn’t the evil spirit that Emi believes him to be. My favorite types of characters are “villains” who turn out to be much more, and Shiro and the other yokai fit this description perfectly.
- The romance. The romance in this story isn’t overwhelming. In fact, there are only hints of it, which makes complete sense considering Emi’s circumstances. There is a tiny hint of a love triangle, but I don’t know if you could even call it that because it’s so minor (and it felt incredibly realistic and non-dramatic).
What Left Me Hungry for More:
- Teensy bit slow at the beginning. I found that it took me just a little while to find myself completely engaged in the storyline (but I was also really busy, which definitely had an affect on my reading at the beginning). Once Emi met Shiro, though, I was hooked.
If you’re a fan of mythological stories and retellings and you’re looking for something a little different, this book is perfect for you! (Plus, you need this book on your bookshelf so you can stare at its pretty cover.) I give this book an enthusiastic 4.5/5 stars.
***Disclosure: I received this book from the publisher via NetGalley and Barclay Publicity in exchange for an honest review. No other compensation was given and all opinions are my own.***
Excerpt for RED WINTER (Red Winter Trilogy Book 1)
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.”
About the Author:
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.
Runner-Ups: 3 Winners will Each Receive one $10 Amazon Gift Card Each
Sorry to hear it was a bit slow in the beginning, but it does sound like the rest more than made up for it! I LOVE that cover.
That book sounds good. I am reading a Chinese mythology fiction book series. I had heard that the Chinese book series I’m reading on is going to be made into a movie.
Pretty sure I need this one! You need to just hit me via email every time you see a Japanese book. Lol. And Amaterasu! I named a moon in Nogiku series after this particular god. Love it. 🙂
Yep, between you and Jaden, you guys have me suddenly obsessed with Japan. I’m even writing it into my NaNo book (in a small way). 🙂
Sounds interesting. It isn’t available on audio yet, but I will try to file it in an accessible brain cell for when it does get released.
This sounds really intriguing! And that excerpt….my desire….ohhh he sounds like a fun one to figure out while reading! Thanks for letting me know about this book Nicole!
I’m glad you can enjoy this one so much! It sounds like the plot of this book was well developed and that it was a really good story done well! I also am someone who is really big on mythology, and although I haven’t really gone into Japanese mythology myself, it’s something I want to try! This seems like a good book to work into for that!
I specifically came and searched this review out of this author on your blog. And I hope it pops up in your notifs or emails or something!
I’m so pleased you loved this book so much, and I agree with everything you mentioned. It was a little slow in the beginning but wow, the characters and the mythology and the plot and the…. Everything. ?
Did you ever finish the series? I ended up reading book 2 in one sitting one night and the next night book 3 in one sitting!
Awesome review and again, I’m so happy you enjoyed this!
I’m sad to say I never finished it, but I definitely plan to!
This was one of my favorite series! You mentioned that there’s not much of a romance in the beginning but it turns into such a good slow burn, which I loved. (I also thought it started pretty slow, but was definitely worth the wait.)
Yes! You’ve reminded me that I need to finish this series…