Saturday, November 5, 2016

Review: Red Winter by Annette Marie

Book: Red Winter
Author: Annette Marie
Series: Red Winter Trilogy #1
Source: Netgallery (ARC copy)
Pages: 367
Publisher: Dark Owl Fantasy Inc.
Release: October 21st 2016

In a few short months, Emi's mortal life will end when she becomes the human host of an immortal goddess. 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 spirit of the earth and 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.

RED WINTER includes 10 full-page illustrations by artist Brittany Jackson.

Annette Marie? Check. Japanese mythology? Check. Dangerous love interest? Check. Intriguing world? Check. Enjoyable read? Check.

I was thrilled when I heard Annette Marie was coming out with a new series! I absolutely adored her Steel and Stone series and her vivid imagination of the contemporary world. So when I heard she was writing one on Japanese mythology, I jumped to it. The only ever YA series I've read on Japanese mythology was Amanda Sun's Paper Gods series, which sadly ended last year. So this was definitely a much-anticipated read!

This story centres around Emi, who at a young age, was marked by the goddess Amaterasu as her kamigakari, the goddess' chosen human host. Since then, Emi has lived a life preparing for the day Amaterasu descends and joins Emi in her body. But after a shocking reveal, Emi finds herself turning towards a yokai named Shiro to help her. But the two soon stumble upon something much bigger than either expected...

Firstly: the illustrations were absolutely gorgeous! I loved them. They really added depth to the story, with the characters' emotions and everything. I really hope the illustrator, Brittany Jackson, stays onboard for the next books!

As the kamigakari, Emi lived a very sheltered life, hiding from people who would kill her for what she was by moving to secluded shrines one after another. She began the novel rather docile and obedient, and regulated her actions and thoughts according to what she knew was expected of her. Defiance wasn't really a word she ever associated with, at least not outright, or until she was desperate. She wasn't the same brash and impulsive character I normally gravitate to, but I still liked her for her dedication to her lifestyle. She was a bit passive and sometimes needed a bit of saving, but I was able to overlook it mainly because it humanized her in a way. If you'd been spending the past ten years learning to be docile, you'd probably be completely at a loss when threatened with danger, after all. But now that the first book is out of the way, I'm really hoping she'll become a lot more confident in the next books!

Shiro's personality was exactly what I expected it to be: devious and enigmatic but with a hidden soft side. After discovering he was a kitsune (a fox) yokai, the word "sly" was instantly added into his descriptions. I have a few theories about Shiro's past, and given the direction the plot is going, I'm certain one of my theories will turn out to be accurate. 

Yumei was definitely the most intriguing character. He never tried to hide his yokai nature, but he also showed signs of loyalty and friendship with Shiro, even though he made it very clear he didn't like Shiro. They're kind of like frenemies, where Yumei can't really stand Shiro, but when push comes to shove, he's there for him. Yumei was more detached from humanity than Shiro was, but that made him no less dangerous. I really want to see more of Yumei in the next book, and would love to see Emi try to draw out more human emotions from him!

I was quite surprised by the setting. I assumed it would be set in the past, in the time where kamis and yokai were both worshipped and feared, but it was actually set in a very contemporary setting. The notions of kamis and yokai roaming still existed, so it's pretty much a modern-day story where the Japanese mythology is still very much alive and a predominant part of society.

I was definitely more intrigued with the yokai than really with Emi. I know it's unfair to make comparisons with Annette Marie's Steel and Stone series, but I liked Piper more, just because Piper was badass and had a snarky attitude to match. Emi is more of a gentle being who will fight when provoked or given a good reason. But at the same time, there was a bit of ambiguity over what Emi was capable of, and whether she was capable of handling herself in dangerous situations. Hopefully that will be resolved in the next book.

All in all, a great read! I enjoyed the world, the characters, and the plot. The next book is slated to come out in January, which surprisingly really soon, and I'm looking forward to it!


  1. Such a gorgeous cover <3 I am going to add this to my TBR because I am intrigued to know more about Japanese Mythology :) Great Review and I am glad you liked this book :) Have a great day! Tanya

    1. Thanks, Tanya! Hope you'll like this one as much as I did!

  2. You're making me really want to check out Marie's other series! This sounds really good. I'm going to see if my library has it after posting this comment. :D I think it's really cool that the book is set in modern day! I haven't read an urban fantasy in a while. I can't believe the sequel is releasing so soon! Great review Erika! You convinced me. :D

    Genni @ Ready, Set, Read!

    1. Haha, the pleasure is mine, Genni! I would definitely suggest you check out her other series first--every book in that one are all 5 star reads for me!

  3. That cover though!! :O And it's so great it includes illustrated pages! You're right, Brittany is amazing indeed, I need to see more of her art :3
    I'm glad you enjoyed this book so much, it sounds like something I would enjoy as well! I love things that have a Japanese touch to them :D

    Lipstick and Mocha

    1. I know! The illustrated pages were completely unexpected, but they definitely added to the novel! I hope you'll give this one a read one day :)

  4. Ooh, I have this on my kindle and for some reason I keep putting off picking it up. I think you've convinced me to finally give it a look, it sounds great and I love Japanese stories. I loved the Papers Gods trilogy too :)

    1. Yay! I hope you'll enjoy it as much as I did :)

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