4 out of 5 stars | Goodreads
I received a copy of this book for free from the publisher, in exchange for an honest review.
I have read a lot of fantasy novels in my life; it has pretty much always been one of my favourite genres since as far back as I can remember. Therefore, if I can find a fantasy novel that feels like a breath of fresh air, is unique and original, then I’m happy. Unfortunately, whilst Winter Be My Shield did not quite hit that high note, it was still a good, solid read.
The story follows a girl named Sierra, who until recently was held prisoner and forced to work for a sorcerer named Kell. The reason she was so useful to Kell is because she can use the pain and suffering of others to draw power. The book never really explained how this works; I can only assume that Sierra becomes a conduit of power around those who are suffering or in pain, and others can draw upon that power, as well as drawing upon it herself. Sierra is a bit of a mystery, and for much of the book the reader knows about as much as the characters know about her, which is little. This was both effective in that it kept me reading, wanting to know more, and slightly frustrating in that she was then harder to empathise with.
A quotation on the cover claims that this book will contain ‘villains you will cheer on’, and I can see where the reviewer is coming from. Although Rasten was, quite frankly, disturbing in his thoughts towards and about Sierra, it was also obvious that his mind was twisted by Kell. Occasionally, it was clear that he wanted to be free of his master, and I did want him to succeed in that pursuit, if not others.
By 130 pages in, I had not noted anything that made this fantasy world particularly unique. By 250 pages, I was still waiting for something big to happen. There was a potential romance/relationship which seemed pretty cliche, but then managed to change things round a bit and avoid it. However, it felt like both characters were constantly thinking ‘it couldn’t be love…’, which seemed like foreshadowing. I also had an issue with one of the main male characters, Isidro. We were told that he was, before being captured and tortured, a strong and fierce warrior. However, since he was never shown that way in the book, I had real trouble imagining him as anything but the weak and broken young man he had become. There were also far too many chapters ending ‘And everything went black…’. One of my biggest problems with the book was more edition specific: the font was far too small! Teeny weeny letters…
All in all, I did enjoy Winter Be My Shield. It didn’t feel like a particularly special fantasy novel, not in the way that other series have, but it’s a good, solid fantasy read and I’m interested to see where the second book goes.