The Winter King by C.L. Wilson (Weathermages of Mystral #1)
Genre: Fantasy Romance
Publisher: Avon on July 29, 2014
After three long years of war, starkly handsome Wynter Atrialan will have his vengeance on Summerlea’s king by taking one of the man’s beautiful, beloved daughters as his bride.View Spoiler » But though peace is finally at hand, Wynter’s battle with the Ice Heart, the dread power he embraced to avenge his brother’s death, rages on.
Khamsin Coruscate, Princess of Summerlea and summoner of Storms, has spent her life exiled to the shadows of her father’s palace. Reviled by her father, marriage to Wintercraig’s icy king was supposed to be a terrible punishment, but instead offers Kham her first taste of freedom—and her first taste of overwhelming passion.
As fierce, indomitable Wynter weathers even Khamsin’s wildest storms, surprising her with a tenderness she never expected, Kham wants more than Wynter’s passion—she yearns for his love. But the power of the Ice Heart is growing, dangerous forces are gathering, and a devastating betrayal puts Khamsin and Wynter to the ultimate test. « Hide Spoiler
C.L. Wilson’s THE WINTER KING is the first in a fantasy-romance series that introduces a world of wild weather magic…and even wilder passions. If you’ve been looking for a story that’s equal parts fantasy novel and sweeping love story, look no further!
Khamsin Coruscate is a daughter of the rose and a princess of the kingdom of Summerlea, but her uncontrollable weather magic and her father’s hatred of her have made her an outcast in her own palace. So when her father is forced to give one of his daughters in marriage to the enemy king of Wintercraig, Wynter Atraliam, Khamsin is suddenly plucked out of obscurity and thrust into the spotlight. Knowing Wynter’s brutal reputation and the harshness of life in the Wintercraig, everyone expects Khamsin to perish after her marriage. But she’s stronger than anyone realized, and her will to live is greater than even she could’ve imagined. But Wynter has embraced an evil power in his quest for vengeance against Summerlea, and if he isn’t careful it will turn his heart to ice before Khamsin’s love has a chance to melt the walls around his heart.
Fantasy-romance is a difficult subgenre to pull off and many authors fail to hit the right balance between world building and crafting a solid romance — neither is a problem for Wilson. THE WINTER KING manages to introduce a medieval-style fantasy realm with complex magics while also developing Khamsin and Wynter’s respective characters enough so that their romance was both believable and compelling. Khamsin is a fantastic protagonist, and my heart was breaking for her after only a few chapters. She’s stubborn, headstrong, and proud, but also riddled with insecurities and self-doubt thanks to her upbringing; in other words, Khamsin is wonderfully flawed and totally relatable. Wynter is also a well-developed character, with his love for family and his people at the core of everything he does…even when he’s making all the wrong choices (more on that later).
Seeing the icy beauty of Wintercraig through the eyes of a foreigner and its king provided insight into the people, culture, and magic of the winter kingdom without any info-dumping. As with any culture clash love story, there are significant misunderstandings between Khamsin and Wynter, but rather than being annoyed by them I actually appreciated the realism: after all, two people from completely different cultures are bound to have different interpretations of at least a few things. I particularly enjoyed the idea of the mercy of the mountains, a mysterious form of punishment offered to those who commit criminal offences in Wintercraig. From ancient mythology, magical beasts, and individual powers, the fantastical side of THE WINTER KING is also really strong. I can’t wait to learn more about the other kingdoms in the upcoming sequel!
My only real complaint is something that most of y’all probably saw coming: Wynter falls into the “alphahole” trap multiple times, and his high-handed behaviour early on in the story was unsettling. Yes, he mellows out when Khamsin stands her ground, but I was disappointed by the overt machismo of it all. Is it too much to ask for a fantasy-romance hero who’s not over the top and controlling? I don’t think it is, yet this seems to be an issue in most of the fantasy-romances I’ve read. Here’s hoping that the hero of THE SEA KING, the highly anticipated sequel, is more mellow. Despite my issues with Wynter’s behaviour I still really liked this one and I’m dying to read the sequel!