Series: (Red Winter #1)
Author: Annette Marie
Length: 346 pages
Publisher: Dark Owl Fantasy Inc.
Rating: 5 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.
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Red Winter is one of those books that you simply fall into. Unlike most books however, those whose points of interest are limited to one or two main catagories. The list for reasons that one is utterly captivated by this read is an endless one.
Let's start with the world building shall we? This is the perfect blend of modern Japan wrapped in timeless tradition, and tied with a magical bow. This is a place where cars, cell phones, and modern convenience exists along side majestic Shinto temples, and you never know when a devilish yokai will pop out from behind the nearest tree.
Characters. While our heroine may not wield a sword. (Ahem...she has people for that!) Her compassion, intuition, and problem solving skills put Emi ahead of the world saving pack time and time again. More importantly, her self determination in the face of a seemingly impossible fate, is a message that will speak to the hearts and minds of readers of all ages.
Shiro...quiet...strong...watchful...intelligent...ever present...Shiro. There is so much about this character to love. Surprisingly, what just may appeal to readers most about him however, is what we don't know.
That is to say...
What we along with Emi have the pleasure of discovering about this most enigmatic of heroes and heart melting of romantic leads.
As far as baddies. Well let's just say that there is one here that you are sure to hate to love.
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It becomes quite clear from the first interactions within this book's opening pages, that no matter the character, or how big or small their role. They each possess a unique nuance tailor-made to add color, spice, and drama to each scene, chapter, or sentence.
The writing. What we have in Red Winter is a story written as a feast for the imagination. This is by no means a meal to be rushed or devoured in a few bites. The moderate pacing of this book ensures that readers take the time necessary to fully experience each facet of character development, character metamorphosis, and plot maturity. The words and phrasing found here are an effortless composition of image, sound, motion, and emotion that come together to build a somewhere and introduce readers to someones that they want to know forever.
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 Annette Marie
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