Red Winter by Annette Marie - A Book Review
I actually read this book a few months back. I had loved the book then, so I thought it would be a great one to review on this blog while I’m twiddling my thumbs, unable to finish reading my non-fiction books.
I wanted to review this properly, so I picked it up again to refresh my memory. I was re-reading the book, so it wouldn’t be as gripping as it was the first time I read it. Right?
Before I knew it, I had finished reading the book and picked up the next book in the series (it’s a trilogy). And now, I’m already halfway through the second book. Again. So, fair warning: if you start reading the first book and have my (pathetic) self-control, make sure you have nothing on your schedule until you finish reading all three.
The book I’m talking about is Red Winter by Annette Marie. It’s a fantasy book based on Japanese mythology. Isn’t that interesting?
But the story is not why I picked up the book for the first time. What really made me pick it up was its cover. Yes, I judged a book by its cover. But oh, what a beautiful cover it is!
To be honest, I don’t regret it one bit. The book is as beautiful as the cover.
So what is it about?
As I mentioned before, this is the first book of the Red Winter trilogy, a fantasy series based on Japanese mythology, written by the wonderful Annette Marie.
The book revolves around Emi, a kamigakari – a young girl who’s being groomed to be the vessel of her beloved Goddess, the Amatsukami Amaterasu. All her life, she has been sheltered and protected from the dangerous earthly spirits, the yokai, who are determined to kill her.
Until one day, she stumbles upon something that changes her entire view of her life. Her fate isn’t what she thought it was and she wants answers before time runs out.
Meanwhile, things happen and she has a yokai in her debt. Shiro, the yokai, is dangerous and might just kill her. But she needs him. He’s the only one who can lead her to the answers she seeks.
Are you confused? Well, I was, too. The summary was definitely not what made me continue reading the book. The cover made me open it and the sheer excitement of reading my first Japanese mythology book was what kept me going.
Anyway, let’s get to the good stuff…
My take on the book
As you may have guessed from what I’ve written above, I totally loved the book.
“It was absolutely riveting, with its vivid descriptions, the amazing portrayal of the protagonist’s emotional turmoil throughout the book, and the mystery weaved through the story.
And I’m serious. The entire story is shrouded in mystery. Bits and pieces are revealed in different parts of the book. Filled with betrayals on all sides and unexpected twists, it kept me on the edge of my seat throughout. I literally did not sleep the night I started reading this book.
And worse still, by the end, there are still several puzzles left to be solved because, of course, this is a trilogy! It is physically not possible to not pick up the second book when the first is over. But maybe that’s just me. I have the self-control of an untrained puppy.
During the course of the book, we see Emi, the protagonist, growing in front of our eyes, from a somewhat selfish, naïve girl who goes around trusting dangerous beings to a strong young woman determined to save her world by any means necessary.
Above all, though, I love that the book is so gripping. Every page begs you to read the next page, and that intrigue doesn’t stop till the end of the third book. In other words, the book is unputdownable!
The overflow of Japanese terms was a little unnerving, though. I looked at the glossary at the end of the book multiple times before I got a hang of all the terms used. Usually, that would annoy me, but, well, this book was just that good.
Oh. There’s a bunch of really awesome illustrations by the hugely talented Brittany Jackson at strategic locations in the book. So just when we feel like it’s getting too much, boom! An image showing us exactly what’s going on.
What I loved about the book
The vivid descriptions. They say that in writing, you must “show, not tell”. In reality, it’s more nuanced than that. Authors should know when to paint an image in our minds and when to just tell us what’s going on. Well, this author is brilliant at it. She paints such a vivid picture of both the scenes and the emotional turmoil that I felt like I was right in the story with Emi.
The world. It’s hard to merge the modern world with an ancient mythological one. Some stories, like Percy Jackson, do it with humour. Some stories fail utterly at it. In this one, the author somehow seamlessly blended the two worlds. I’m still not sure how she did it.
The twists. There’s betrayal at every turn in this book. Not much is exactly as it seems to be. You start believing one thing and in the next chapter, your beliefs are somehow turned on their head. It’s awesome.
The character development. As I said before, the protagonist grows up from a naïve girl to a strong young woman in this book. But we see the other characters growing, too. Shiro changes from a dangerous but mischievous fox yokai to a much more nuanced character with complicated emotions. The other side characters change in their behaviour towards our protagonist. Each character has just enough depth to make them interesting, and that’s awesome.
The illustrations. There are just ten of them, but they are breathtaking! I wouldn’t read a book for its few illustrations, of course, but they deserve a mention.
It’s Japanese mythology. If there’s anything I’m a sucker for, it’s traditional mythology we have no clue about. And Japanese mythology is hella interesting!
What I didn’t like:
Well, I really need to wrack my brains to find something I didn’t like about this book. But if I’m forced to say something,
The unfamiliar Japanese words unnerved me a little. I literally had to refer to the glossary (thank god the author provided one!) multiple times for every term I came across. It was a bit annoying, but at least I have a piece of Japan in my head right now!
You should read the book if:
You’re a mythology buff (I’ve read a lot of Greek mythology fiction)
You like fantasy
You either have the self-control to not binge-read an intriguing series, or you have plenty of time
You don’t mind flipping to a glossary multiple times as you read the book
You may not like it if:
You prefer realistic fiction
You like light books. This is a bit on the heavier side with lots of emotional turmoil. It’s not dark enough to give you nightmares, but it’s not the light and flowery type of book either.
That’s literally it. You’ll love the book if you like reading fantasy, or even if you’re open to the idea of a mythology-based book.
Strongly recommended to everyone who likes fantasy or mythology, or even someone who's willing to read something different. It’s a wonderful book (ahem, series).