March is not only the month of many fabulous releases, it is also the month of blog tours at Libri Draconis! As of now, I’ll be taking part in FOUR blog tours organised by the wonderful people over at the Fantastic Flying Book Club this month – it’ll be another busy one here on the blog. And because I’ve always wanted to be cool enough to have secret publishing (well, reviewing) news: there is something I’m very very excited about that I’ll hopefully be able to tell you all about this or next week!
But back to business: Today’s book is The Winter Duke by Claire Eliza Bartlett, which I’m reviewing as part of the FFBC’s blog tour – check out the full schedule here for the other bloggers and their no doubt great contributions as well! I absolutely loved The Winter Duke, part fairy tale, part political fantasy and part wlw romance and am very happy to give you the chance to win your very own copy by following this link here to the Rafflecopter (two copies available, open until the 18th, sadly this is US only and out of my hands).
Thank you to the Fantastic Flying Book Club for having me, and Claire Eliza Bartlett and Little Brown / the NOVL for providing me with an advance copy of The Winter Duke!
RELEASE DATE: 03/03/2020
STAR RATING: 5/5 ✶
SYNOPSIS: An enchanted tale of intrigue where a duke’s daughter is the only survivor of a magical curse.
When Ekata’s brother is finally named heir, there will be nothing to keep her at home in Kylma Above with her murderous family. Not her books or science experiments, not her family’s icy castle atop a frozen lake, not even the tantalizingly close Kylma Below, a mesmerizing underwater kingdom that provides her family with magic. But just as escape is within reach, her parents and twelve siblings fall under a strange sleeping sickness.
In the space of a single night, Ekata inherits the title of duke, her brother’s warrior bride, and ever-encroaching challengers from without—and within—her own ministry. Nothing has prepared Ekata for diplomacy, for war, for love…or for a crown she has never wanted. If Kylma Above is to survive, Ekata must seize her family’s power. And if Ekata is to survive, she must quickly decide how she will wield it.
Part Sleeping Beauty, part Anastasia, with a thrilling political mystery, The Winter Duke is a spellbinding story about choosing what’s right in the face of danger.
OPINIONS: Last year, Claire Eliza Bartlett broke out with a unique feminist fantasy about a ragtag group of women pilots fighting for their role in the war, We Rule the Night. Now she is back with an utterly different, but no less charming and special book: The Winter Duke. Weaving together strands of political intrigue, personal growth, family drama, magic and love, Claire creates an immensely readable tale that sucks the reader into its lands of Kylma Above and Kylma Below, and spits them back out wanting more.
The story is excellently written and crafted – if you would like to see for yourself, check out this sample chapter on the NOVL’s site to get a taste of the book. But its true strength lies in its characters. Ekata, a princess who wants nothing more than escaping her family and the constraints of her role, is suddenly forced to confront the challenges of rulership. Inkar, daughter of an enemy ruler, suddenly finds herself married, in a land utterly different from her own. Sigis, the obvious villain, ex-foster brother to Ekata, now desperate for power, tries to marry her despite her best efforts. The rulers and citizens of Kylma Below, whose behaviour is truly a mystery… They, and the remaining cast of The Winter Duke, are portrayed multi-dimensionally, and all come with their set of aims and motivations behind their actions. Especially Ekata and Inkar undergo immense character growth over the course of the story’s progression, and it is beautiful to see how they grow into their own as independent young women.
One of my favourite parts of the book was that sexuality was a topic that was never discussed – when Ekata chose her bride, that was accepted as fact, and while the process and her motivations were questioned, the gender was never a topic of discussion. Despite queer relationships being more and more accepted these days, it is refreshing to read books where they are a matter of fact rather than discussion, where the narrative has moved so far past the need for discussion that things can just be.
Another thing I loved, and which reminded me of another of my favourite YA fantasies (which is far too underhyped!), State of Sorrow by Melinda Salisbury, is the inclusion of an election in the book. While its not a proper democratic process in this case, the fact that this is something YA novels are addressing is very important to me, and I am glad that it is becoming a thing. Politics and democracy are so crucial to our society and future, and, for someone who learns best through reading about issues, what better way to subtly encourage young people to engage with the matters!
If this sounds like a book that’s right up your alley, click here to add The Winter Duke on Goodreads, and here to order it from Book Depository. Naturally, all good book dealers should be able to provide you with copies as well.
ABOUT CLAIRE ELIZA BARTLETT:
She is writer and tour guide in Copenhagen, Denmark. Though she originally comes from Colorado, she left the US when she was eighteen and hasn’t lived there since. More permanent stops on her travels have included Switzerland, Wales and Denmark. The arrival of a Danish husband has somewhat cemented her living situation, but she gets her travel in smaller doses these days.
She like to write fantasy, mostly, though I dabble in soft sci-fi. Her short stories are more adult, my novels more YA. She has studied history, archaeology, and writing. She likes to take my inspiration from historical events, and the more unknown and inspiring the event, the better.
She is represented by Kurestin Armada of P.S. Literary. To keep up with what strange things she’s researching and writing, you can sign up for her newsletter here. She sends out a short newsletter once a month.
You can also find her at the following places: