“If you believe anything I tell you, believe this. You are my queen, therefore, you are my world. You are the most important piece on the chessboard. Everything I do from here on out will be about you. I will eat, sleep, and drink you. I will breathe you. And I will stop breathing without you… If you go, the game is lost.”
Far beyond the easy reaches of the mortal world lies a kingdom of ice and snow. Its glacier mountains reach the horizons of eons, and its cold, hard oceans paint the vastness of its world. It is terribly harsh, and terribly beautiful, and there is only one man capable of ruling from its frozen throne. He has ruled there alone for more than a thousand years.
But the Thirteen Kings are finding their fated queens, and though he’d all but lost hope he would count himself amongst their lucky numbers, the moment she walks into view, his frozen heart and soul are rekindled with by a fire that will melt through anything, even him.
Persephone Glacia Nix – “Poppy” – is a human warlock who has forced herself to fit in with the mortals around her, despite her inherent differences, despite her secret longings, and regardless of the very different way in which she sees the world. Her empathetic nature makes life better for others, but difficult for her. She’s come to accept this as the curse that accompanies the gift of understanding. However, when Kristopher Scaul approaches her on a dark street in a dark city on a cold night and introduces her to a world she at last feels “at home” in, Poppy must finally decide whether to continue faking it in the mortal world – or take her place on a second frozen throne, in the lonely but beautiful Kingdom of Winter.
The Winter King is the eighth anticipated novel in the Big Bad Wolf spinoff series, The Kings, by NY Times and USA Today bestselling author Heather Killough-Walden.
I absolutely loved this installment in The Kings series. I won’t say it’s my favorite, because I suspect The Vampire King will always hold that spot, but The Winter King certainly gives it a run for its money. As I read it immediately after finishing The Shadow King, there was a major juxtaposition from a world of darkness and shadows, to a world of brightness and white – snow and ice as far as the eye can see. Just like the kings before him, Kristopher could not fathom finding his queen because he could not imagine ever finding a woman willing to live in the land of Winter. And again, just like the kings before him, he recognized his queen the moment he laid eyes on her…
What made The Winter King so enjoyable for me was that Killough-Walden combined several elements of mythology, magic, and legend to craft Kristopher’s character and find the perfect queen for him. Having met Kris in The Shadow King, he had already been described as being the modern-day equivalent of Thor, so his physical characteristics were not hard for me to conjure up – think Chris Hemsworth, but bigger. But the author takes it one step farther and gives us chapters that take us back to the Shadow King’s past, back to 739 AD in Norway, when he was a human known as Erikk. This is just one of the things that makes Kris different from the other kings we’ve met so far – he was born human, with no supernatural ties. As the book moves from the present where Kris has found his queen and is trying to lay claim on her, to the past where we learn what transpired to turn the human, Erikk, into the immortal Winter King, the reader is treated to two stories which pull heavily from Norse mythology. But learning about Kris’s past is vital to understanding why Poppy is to be his queen – and the parallel between Poppy’s namesake and the land her king oversees is not overlooked either, adding a touch of Greek mythology. However, unlike her namesake, Poppy is human, but she is special in that she studied warlock magic alongside Violet and Dahlia, something very few humans are capable of doing. I enjoyed how the author imparted the knowledge of who Kris and Poppy were, each learning about the other and taking the reader along for the ride as they battled against the forces attacking Yggdrasil and trying to bring an end to the Kingdom of Winter.
In addition to witnessing the Winter King finding and claiming his queen, and them fighting to save Winter, more about the series plots are revealed. Dannai finally reveals to Lalura, Lily, and Diana what she learned from her father when she entered the Land of the Dead to collect her husband’s second body. The knowledge about her mother and who placed her in a magical coma and why provides more insight into what the Entity is hoping to accomplish. We learn once again that despite her frail appearance, Lalura is not a witch to be underestimated – which is exactly what occurs when one of the traitors attacks her. Interestingly, I believe that we may have met the possible queen for book nine, simply because we didn’t meet the king (and I only know this because of the title listed on Goodreads for book nine) and because of Lalura’s letter to her at the end of the book. Unfortunately, we still do not know who the traitorous king is. Now back to the elements of magic and legend that I mentioned made The Winter King so fascinating to me, there is a scene in the book in which Kris talks about a homophone – pay close attention to this scene if you want in on another of the Winter King’s secrets, because if you’re anything like me, you’ll find yourself smiling once you figure out what Kris is trying to tell Poppy. The Winter King is hands down, one of my favorites in The Kings series and I’m not only looking forward to The Demon King, I’m also looking forward to one day being able to read all of the books back to back so I can pick up on all the nuances I’m missing.