I’m really excited to talk about The Winter Duke today! As part of the blog tour, I’ll be doing my normal review, plus discussing my favorite quotes, and creating a dream cast!! There’s quite a bit to talk about, so let’s get started!
// Content Warning: Violence, Death, Assault, War Themes, Murder, Illness //
Title: The Winter Duke
Author: Claire Eliza Bartlett
Publisher: Little, Brown Books for Young Readers
Release Date: March 3rd 2020
Page Count: 432
Genre: Young Adult, Fantasy, LGBT, Queer, Magic, Retellings, Romance
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.
Overall: 4.5/5 Stars
Plot and Themes: 4/5
Awesomeness Factor: 4/5
Review in a Nutshell: The Winter Duke surprised me in so many ways. This book is heavy with court intrigue and betrayal, and will leave you feeling chilled yet thrilled.
Writing & Setting
Claire Eliza Bartlett’s writing style is the perfect mix of clear, creative, and clever. Her descriptions are immersive and enthralling, but never falling into the trap of being too poetic, giving a good sense of whats going on while adding to the atmosphere. This book was also way funnier than I expected. Don’t get me wrong- this isn’t a comedy- but I didn’t think the main character would be so entertaining while dealing with, basically, the worst week of her life. And the humor never feels out of place despite the darker atmosphere and tone of the book.
Speaking of atmosphere- I loved this setting. Bartlett crafted a very unique world and magic system that I haven’t seen anything like before. Kylma Above is such an interesting country, freezing and unwelcoming, with a ruthless line of succession and absolutely disgusting food. Kylma Below is even more interesting; a mysterious underwater world that allows no visitors besides the Duke Above, and trades in unstable magic pearls.
This book is definitely slower paced, focusing on politics, mystery, and characters. That said, there really is no dull moment. The cabinet meetings are tense, each conversation is high stakes, and when there is action, is it intense. Ekata is thoroughly challenged in this book, in all ways, and the entire time you are on the edge of your seat, dying to find out how she’s going to get out of this whole situation alive (and preferably with the country in one piece as well).
There’s also a side romance plot, but it’s definitely very much a side plot, and very slow-burn. But did I mention it’s f/f?!?! This book has a lot of casual LGBTQ+ representation, where it’s treated as completely normal (ie: the main f/f romance plot, Ekata’s brother seeming to be queer, unisex titles for royalty, and a non-binary character), and there are never any questions or comments about it. It just is, which is absolutely amazing.
Like I mentioned before, this book is very character-focused. Ekata has a lot to deal with in this book and watching her develop as she is forced to handle seemingly insurmountable problems was probably my favorite part. She deals with quite a few moral dilemmas as she is forced to decide who she wants to be as a leader, and what she is willing to do to survive. But everything isn’t miserable all the time for Ekata (just most of the time): she brings a lot of the humor in the book with her comments and quips, and her relationship with her wife is absolutely adorable.
Her wife, Inkar, is just adorable to begin with. She’s a warrior from a southern kingdom, a natural-born leader (unlike Ekata who is the definition of “awkward, but trying”), and not the biggest fan of the frigid Kylma Above. Outside of Ekata and Inkar, there is a very full cast of characters, all of whom whose loyalties are always in question, no matter how much you like (or dislike) them.
Pros- Amazing setting, great characters, casual queer rep
Cons- A little slow (it may take a minute to get fully invested, but I swear it’s worth it!)
Overall- 4.5/5 stars.
The Winter Duke is a breathtaking novel, full of intrigue and mystery, that will keep you up at night, desperate to see how it all turns out (trust me, I know).
If You Like The Winter Duke, I’d Recommend:
- The Cruel Prince (The Folk of the Air #1) by Holly Black – [ Review ]
- A Curse So Dark and Lonely (Cursebreaker #1) by Brigid Kemmerer – [ Review ]
- Crier’s War (Crier’s War #1) by Nina Varela – [ Review ]
*All quotes mentioned here are taken from the ARC and are subject to change.*
“His eyes shone with something worse than hate: the fury of a powerful man hearing no.”
“I was the throne, and the throne was mine.”
“Let them talk. Let them think me a despot. Grand dukes made grand tyrants.”
“My siblings tried to murder one another. But not this night. Tonight we had a strict no-murder policy.”
that’s nice ^
“Sometimes you must be brutal and unforgiving, even to people you once considered friends.”
“I was an Avenko, and ruling was in my blood.”
“The night could be worse, considering. The likelihood of a public death was low.”
very good point right there^
“Fear was the enemy of my family. Fear was a demonstration of weakness.”
“I’d never sought to be a politician, a performer, or even nice. And now I needed to be all those things.”
“If she kills me, then I don’t have to get up before sunrise. I’ll take it.”
“Don’t be a fool for her.”
“Mercy can be a great thing. A mark of understanding and hope.”
“I was so tired of drowning.”
Enter to win one (1) of two finished copies of The Winter Duke by Claire Eliza Bartlett!! (US Only)
Starts: March 3rd, 2020
Ends: March 18th, 2020
I am a writer and tour guide in Copenhagen, Denmark. Though I originally come from Colorado, I left the US when I was eighteen and I haven’t lived there since.
More permanent stops on my travels have included Switzerland, Wales and Denmark. The arrival of a Danish husband has somewhat cemented my living situation, but I get my travel in smaller doses these days.
I like to write fantasy, mostly, though I dabble in soft sci-fi. My short stories are more adult, my novels more YA.
I’ve studied history, archaeology, and writing. I like to take my inspiration from historical events, and the more unknown and inspiring the event, the better.
I am represented by Kurestin Armada of P.S. Literary.
To keep up with what strange things I’m researching and writing, you can sign up for my newsletter here. I send out a short newsletter once a month.
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What is your favorite LGBTQ+ fantasy novel??