Review: Red Winter by Annette Marie

red-winterReviewed by Janelle

Kimura Emi has dedicated every waking moment of the last ten years to being the perfect kamigakari. Now, only a few short weeks remain before her life as a mortal will end and her new existence as the human host of a goddess begins. She’s heard tales of the good she will be capable of once she’s imbued with Amaterasu’s divine power. Not once has she doubted her responsibility, her purpose, nor has she deviated from the stringent preparation of mind, body, and soul.

That is, until the discovery of a book in an abandoned storehouse shatters her perceptions of what it means to be a kamigakari. Angry, frightened, and desperate to have one experience for herself, she makes a reckless choice that puts her in the path of danger… and Shiro.

Shiro is a yokai—a spirit of the earth and an enemy of the goddess Emi will soon host. But when he saves her life and is badly injured in the process, she puts that knowledge aside to rescue him. As it turns out, nothing about Shiro is what it seems and when he claims he owes her a debt, Emi requests his help to discover the truth of her impending fate.

But can a fate set in stone be changed? And can she trust a yokai, a creature she has always been taught is utterly untrustworthy, truly be her only hope?

***

*wide eyes* Can… I don’t… I don’t even know where to start, so I’m going to fangirl for a minute.

This. Book. Was. AMAZING!

No, seriously, this is the absolute best book I’ve read in a very long time. I’m so glad I somehow missed this being a YA novel before I started reading, because…well…look, I’m not too proud to admit that I’m a little jaded when it comes to the genre. To my sheer delight, there was nothing standard, trope-y, or tired about this book. If every coming-of-age story could be this unique, classy, and riveting, the world would be a much better place.

Why do I love it so much, you ask? Well, let me tell you why.

Ms. Marie has penned vivid, beautiful characters that ripped my heart out at times (at one point, I cried. I haven’t cried because of a book since before I was legally old enough to drink. That’s 21 in the U.S., in case you’re curious, but I digress) and a fantasy world that has enough realistic touches to be relatable. It’s a place that, with a little magic, we could very well be living in. Every character had a reason for being there and a role to play. Those that were, to borrow a phrase from the gaming world, a bit of an NPC (non-playable character) still supported the main cast wonderfully. Red Winter brought up some tough themes, dealt with some scary choices, and yet ended on a note of hope. The action scenes were detailed without being overwritten and while it occasionally annoyed me how often a section or chapter ended with Emi blacking out, it was all to a purpose.

Oh, and typos? Grammatical errors? Editorial issues? Not. A. One… that I noticed, anyway, and anyone who knows me knows that I’m like a hawk on a mouse with that stuff. Red Winter was as beautifully and flawlessly edited as it was written. Ms. Marie, if you’d share the name of your editor with us, that would be fabulous!

I know I don’t normally gush over books like this, so I hope what I’ve written does not come off as sugary or disingenuous. I just enjoyed Emi, Shiro, Yumei, and the rest that much.

Bottom line: I am hopeful and devastated and all the best things one should feel after reading a book as close to perfect as they come. I do not usually enjoy YA, but “Red Winter” is very much an exception to that rule. I highly recommend this to lovers of contemporary romance with a realistic fantasy setting (you think that’s an oxymoron now, but just wait). Actually, scratch that. I just highly recommend it. Go read it and thank me later, ok?

Rating: Can I give better than an A++?

Click to purchase: Amazon

Red Winter
by Annette Marie
Release Date: October 21, 2016
Publisher: Dark Owl Fantasy Inc

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