While this is the second book in the series, I hope you give this review a look over as it will surely compel you to read this series (which I loooove so much!) read on to learn more…
Red Winter Trilogy #2
by Annette Marie
Published January 6th 2017
by Dark Owl Fantasy
Emi is a kamigakari, the human host of an immortal goddess called Amaterasu. Shiro and Yumei are the yokai allies assisting her in an urgent mission: to find the missing Kunitsukami, the four leaders of the yokai: Inari of the Fire, Susano of the Storm, Sarutahiko of the Mountain, and his wife, Uzume of the Wood. In each stage of her journey she sees a little more of her Shiro slipping away, with the survival of the world at stake will she be able to sacrifice for the sake of them all?
I was totally a fan of Red Winter (read why here) so I eagerly started the second book in the series. I was a bit put off by the start. Emi realizes there is only one person who can get them the information they need, her guardian, Ishida. He is quite a sexist jerk with old man syndrome. It quite dampened the beginning as I felt he dragged his feet to give time for a big recap of the first book’s information. This was the first 20% of the story, by the time we hit 30% we were speeding along at just the right pace. Rightly I should dock a half star for this rough start but I so loved the unexpected latter half that I gave the other half back!
Emi continues to grow as she sets aside the truth she learned in Red Winter to complete the requests of her goddess. The faith she needs to keep going forward is huge and yet I never felt she is one of those heroines who feel the need to say how ballsy she is or how much of a badass. I really respect that. In fact Emi is a special snowflake but what sets her apart isn’t that she is the vessel of a goddess but that she reacts like few of us would be able to in the same situation and she’s not pretentious about it. One of my favorite character traits is that of sacrifice but it is THE hardest to carry off in a fictional story, Emi is an example of that trait that works and works well!
Shiro and Yumei continue to make the journey worth my while. A protagonist worth rooting for is great but it is their companions that make the journey fun and dynamic. We get a new crew member in the silver-haired, tiger-eared Byakko who helps Emi with a magical gold thread at a critical moment. The Kunitsukami she meets are also the best! I won’t say who or why or what or anything because that would be spoilers and giving away some of the funnest parts…!!
That leads me to talk about plot… We are taken on this wild ride through a yokai rich world and it is even better than the first book! I thought Red Winter did an excellent job with world building and showing us the beings that we are dealing with on a scale small enough not to overwhelm but great enough to be blow away. Now the blinders have been yanked off and we are seeing the world with even greater awe and potential. Even in this world of goddesses and gods and super powered supernatural beings little miss human Emi still has the capacity to wow us… This makes Shiro’s own thrall with Emi even more believable while also making her a smart and capable woman which has nothing to do with her special snowflake status. It is quite compelling! I won’t talk about specifics of plot so as to leave plenty of surprises but I love the cave, memory, pool, webs, Kodama, the inn and the dragon – in no particular order! The unexpectedness of the plot while also following the path that must be followed to complete the plot was surprisingly good…
The storycraft in this series is exquisite! The writing is serviceable, not purple but balanced. You can read the example here in her initial description of the Kodama:
“Their bobble-like heads were too large for their bodies, and their unkempt hair only emphasized the disproportionate size. Leaves and twigs stuck out from their crimson locks and their pale bodies were clad in green leaves that shouldn’t have existed this late in the year. “
We get a little more about how they are only a foot tall and can change the wood texture with a touch but you can see what I mean about balance and service. I’d much rather read a book that is compelling AND supremely readable than a book heavy with description where nothing much is going on.
What leads us to see a love interest as insta-love is that there is so little interaction between our lovers except for them to wax poetic about loving each other or to whine about their terrible situation. When there is a genuine exchange of thoughts and feelings with characters acting on some and simply sharing others there is a trust built between the lovers that the reader becomes a part of as well that sucks you into their relationship. Shiro’s mysterious past and Emi’s tragic future work together as they communicate to show us why these two are falling in love! This makes for the perfect kind of conflict which arises naturally from forces beyond their control.
There are illustrations spread throughout the story. They were not as compelling this time around, probably because only one really impressed me of Byakko (that I remember). The cover is recognizable and is definitely focused on Emi which makes sense. It’s not a perfect cover but works well for the series as a whole. I love the title! It works well with the plot and has the same tone as Red Winter has to its plot.
BOTTOM LINE: A Dark Tempest worth traveling into with some really special characters and exquisite storycraft!
This review is riddled with the different ways excellent storycraft was present in the story. Even in the rough beginning the ideas were present. Development is about getting past your first thoughts and brainstorming other reactions that are still in line with the character but will make for more dynamic story. This the author does in spades, so good!
Thanks to Xpresso Book Tours and Dark Owl Fantasy for providing me with an ARC in exchange for an honest review.