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Tuesday, November 18, 2014

'The Winter King' Weathermages of Mystral #1 by C.L. Wilson


From the BLURB:

Wynter Atrialan, the Winter King, once lived in peace with his southern, Summerlander neighbors, but when the prince of Summerlea steals Wynter’s bride and murders his young brother, Wynter calls upon a dangerous Wintercraig magic called the Ice Heart and marches against Summerlea.

After three bitter years of battle, a victorious Wynter arrives at Summerlea’s royal palace to issue his terms of surrender. The prince of Summerlea stole Wynter’s bride and slew Wynter’s Heir. He wants the loss replaced. The Ice Heart is consuming him. Wynter hopes holding his own child in his arms will rekindle the warmth in his heart before he becomes the monster of Wintercraig legend, the Ice King.

The Summer King has three very precious daughters whom he loves dearly. Wynter will take one of them to wife. She will have one year to provide him with an Heir. If she fails, he will send her to face the mercy of the mountains and claim another princess for his wife. And so it will continue until Wynter has his Heir or the Summer King is out of daughters.

The plan is perfect—except for one small detail. The Summer King has a fourth daughter. One of whom he is not so fond. And she is a fiercely passionate creature, with a temper as volatile as the forces of her weathergift, the power of storms.

‘The Winter King’ is the first book in a new fantasy romance series from C.L. Wilson, called ‘Weathermages of Mystral’. This is a completely new series, separate from her wildly popular ‘Tairen Soul’.

So, I did read the ‘Tairen Soul’ series on the strength of multiple bloggers whom I respect a great deal raving about it. But I wasn't as in love with them as many of my fellow-bloggers, and can honestly barely remember the basic gist of the story even now. But, to be fair, at the time of reading I really wasn’t a fantasy fan. I’d just ventured into paranormal romance and was still tentatively stepping into those reading waters, but found fantasy too ‘out-there’ for me. It would take Melina Marchetta’s Lumatere Chronicles series to turn the tide on fantasy for me, and I’m sure if I revisited ‘Tairen Soul’ I’d have a very different experience. But it’s because I don’t count myself among the legion of ‘Tairen Soul’ fans that I’m sort of surprised by how much I enjoyed (even loved) ‘The Winter King’.

In this first book of a new series, C.L. Wilson presents a Helen of Troy-esque story of young King Wynter Atrialan, whose betrothed was stolen away from him by a Prince of the neighbouring Summerlea territory, who also murdered Wynter’s young brother during his escape with the would-be Queen … cut to three years and a devastating war later, King Wynter is the victor and as part of a peace treaty he is to marry and beget an heir with one of the three famous Summerlea Princesses.

What Wynter doesn’t expect is to find himself wed to a fourth Princess – Khamsin is a weathermage like Wynter, but she has spent her young life hidden away in a castle tower, the ire of her mad King father who blames her for the death of his beloved wife.

The book covers Kham and Wynter’s troublesome first meeting, wedding and the first year of her marriage to the powerful King and her sworn enemy – a year spent as an outsider queen, hated and regarded with great suspicion by all in her new Kingdom, including her husband.

As well as the Helen of Tory initial trigger, the book also reminded me a little of Elizabeth Vaughan’s ‘Chronicles of the Warlands’ for the story of a claimed royal bride having to fit into her husband’s conquering nation, and even start to sympathise with what both sides of the war have gone through.

C.L. Wilson book is still very fantasy – there’s a major story thread about Wynter succumbing to something called his Ice Heart, a complicated magic that I’m going to admit was sometimes over my head (particularly towards the end of the book, when everything comes to a climax). But I really enjoyed ‘The Winter King’ because of the romance aspect in Wilson’s book.

Wynter and Kham were such an interesting pairing, and while they do have a heady dose of love at first sight – it’s cloaked and complicated by their respective political alliances and a marriage seemingly fuelled by diplomacy. They have a lot to cut through until they can start to realise how much of their marriage is built on more than just strategic alliances and peace treaties.

“I hadn't thought you such a faithless coward. You are a princess of the Summer Throne, wedded Queen of the Craig, and my wife. You swore an oath, before a priest and your father's court, to accept my counsel and my care. You swore to offer me all the fruits of your life. And now, you would deny me that which you swore to offer? Do you have so little honor?"
The accusation stole the silver from her eyes, leaving them pure, plain gray filled with shock and dismay.
"I...No! Of course not! I'm no oathbreaker."
"Then come to your bath. Accept my care, as you swore you would. Offer me the fruits of your life, that I may dine once more on peace instead of war.”

There were a few niggling little things that stopped me from giving this book five stars – a seemingly repeated storyline of ‘Kham is sick/injured and needs to have Wynter sit by her bedside’ became somewhat tiresome in the beginning. But I’ll forgive a lot because Kham was actually a very fiery and fierce female protagonist. And even if a lot of the book’s ending got into very complicated (for me) fantasy territory, it carried me all the way through and left me keen for the next ‘Weathermages of Mystral’ book (set for 2015, supposedly about The Sea Lord).

I really – surprisingly – enjoyed this fantasy romance of a conquered Princess finding her way and love in the Kingdom of her victorious husband King. C.L. Wilson ensured I’d be coming back to the world of ‘Weathermages of Mystral’ having enchanted me with this sexy, thoughtful fantasy romance instalment.

4/5

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