4 stars

Annette Marie – Red Winter (Red Winter Trilogy #1)

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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I received a copy of this book from NetGalley in exchange of an honest review.

I absolutely loved Annette Marie’s Steel &Stone series so when I saw she is publishing another book I was ecstatic. Especially after reading the blurb (love Japanese culture) and seeing the cover. That cover is simply beautiful; they hit the jackpot with that color scheme. Those purples, red and pinks are giving off such an inviting and pleasant vibe.

Back to the story. The plot takes place in the modern world, however in a way that it’s hard to tell. Basically the focus on the Japanese mythological elements and belief system makes it feel more like the feudal times. This also indicates that the author used mostly already existing parts to create her world. She didn’t have to build something completely new. That doesn’t mean she had an easier job. I think it’s hard to pick out what you really want to use from such a huge pool of information and after choosing you still have to find the best way to equip them. Annette Marie did a fantastic job selecting her material.
Although, I personally had one little problem with the presentation. In the very beginning of the book I felt it was a bit boring how painstakingly she describes every little detail about the buildings, clothing, gods and such. But really it’s probably just a personal thing since most of the stuff I already knew from before, however for someone who is not so familiar with the Japanese mythology or customs it can be very helpful. Also she kind of remedies this when she uses a simple conversation between 2 characters to explain the kami world in more depth. I loved this solution.

The main character is Emi. In the first third of the story I really didn’t like her. She is soft, helpless, kind of ignorant and honestly have no real personality. She has this grand idea which is really stupid if you ask me. Even the most layman human being can see the fault in it and the truth behind it if she/he has a little brain. She was placed in a protected world from a very young age and she simply believed everything they told her. She let herself lulled into a false reality and she lashed out at anybody who dared to question it. And underneath it all she has a kind of lonely aura. AAAND the she finds out the truth and after that the last two third of the book she starts to improve. She starts to question thing, fight and finds herself. She lets herself feel and really becomes a little adventurer. I really liked her transformation and I admired her determination to accept and see through her ‘destiny’ even knowing the dire consequences. At the end she became a pretty strong person.
The other character I would call a ‘main’ character would be Shiro. I absolutely loved him. When I read the description of him my first thought was Inuyasha. And there are a couple of similarities of between the two characters but nothing overly much. Shiro is strong and funny and mischievous. He is the one who starts to help Emi with her problems. He is also a bit conflicted he started to like his life like it is now but he also wants to get his past back. He just doesn’t know if it’s worth it. There are a couple of scenes where he is so adorable and vulnerable at the same time. I love his interactions with Emi.
There are a couple of interesting supporting characters too. But overall they are all great and strangely diverse. Where you don’t really know whether to like them or not. I constantly was asking myself that ‘Is she/he friendly? Good? or Is she/he deceiving them? ‘. So they are a bunch of well developed characters.

The plot itself doesn’t picks up until 85-90th page. Before that it’s slow and more of an introduction to the world. But after that it’s full of excitement and secrets. The scenes with the yokai are the best in my opinion. In the second half of the book the story starts to really unfold and it’s quite fast after that. Especially since the whole conflict and find a solution timeline has to fin into a couple of weeks (future books included).
The author has a really good and efficient writing style. She created something quite amazing in this book. Also there are illustrations in the book. A few black and white drawings which I think are a really nice touch. Usually I don’t like when they take away my freedom to imagine the characters in my preference but these pictures are somewhat generic but a fantastic visual surprise for the reader.


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