winter lordRating: 3.5 stars
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Length: Novella

Erik’s land of Midgard has been suffering from an Undending Winter, the days never growing longer or warmer since the solstice.  The constant cold has led to starvation and death as food becomes scarce, killing many, including Erik’s lover Rowan.  Determined to try to help, Erik seeks Alfheim, home of the light-elves, in hopes that they can give aid. Erik searches until he is near death, and just as he thinks his attempts are in vain, Erik is rescued by the fey lord Therial.

Therial’s land also suffers from a never ending cold, which has been caused by a curse from a rival fey leader and is likely linked to the problems in Erik’s own world.  Therial wants Erik to be his champion, to fight his rival in attempt to break the curse.  Erik agrees, especially when Therial threatens his life if he refuses.  In exchange for Erik’s soul, Therial gives him a bit of his magic.

Therial not only wants Erik to be his champion, but his sexual partner as well, something Erik agrees to readily.  As Erik trains in magic and swordfighting to beat the rival lord, he begins to fall for Therial.  But Erik is not sure when the winter is broken whether he will want to stay in Alfheim or return home to his own world.  Before any decisions can be made about the future, however, Erik must defeat the rival lord and bring warmth back to both this world and his own.

I have been trying to read more fantasy and when I saw this gorgeous cover I snapped The Winter Lord right up.  I think Edgerton does a nice job here setting up the story and creating an interesting world of humans, elves, and fey.  The descriptions of Alfheim, the clothes, and the people were all nicely done.  I enjoyed the magical elements and the way the conflict tied together both the human and elven world.  I do think there are times when the background information comes across a little heavy handed. For example, Erik recalls stories he read and then recounts them with some info dump.  But overall I thought the world was interesting with a nice conflict set up.

Where I struggled here was with the relationship between Therial and Erik.  I just felt no connection between them and I think that made the rest of the story feel flat. Erik wakes up in Therial’s home after being rescued and within moments has been basically forced to agree to be Therial’s champion (including having his soul taken without his understanding or agreement).  Then Therial pretty much says he wants Erik and they have sex and suddenly they are a couple. Although we know Erik is attracted to Therial, there is certainly no emotional connection at this point.  And really none for a long time after despite the fact that Erik professes his love about halfway through the book.  We see physical attraction but I never felt any real emotional connection between them.

Part of the reason is that Therial is pretty unlikable for much of the book, mostly behaving like a spoiled child, and is even described this way. Despite the fact he forced Erik to become his champion, Therial doesn’t actually really care about the never ending winter or his people. We are specifically told that having Erik fight Surial is a lark for Therial’s entertainment, not because he really cares about his people and their suffering. So honestly, I didn’t find him particularly likable (in fact, for a good deal of the book I thought he may end up as the “bad guy” and Erik would end up with someone else).  Although he does become warmer and more caring by the end of the story, it was too late for me to feel a real emotional connection to him or the two men as a couple.

It also impacted my sense of urgency for the conflict because Therial was just so uninvested. If he didn’t care, and I didn’t feel anything between them, it was harder to feel the intensity about why this mission was so critical.  We do learn more about the death of Erik’s lover, and the impact on his people from the never ending winter.  So that is what drew me in to the battle.  But otherwise it was hard to get really invested in the plight of a spoiled lord who doesn’t really care about those he leads.

So I am kind of mixed on the review here. There were some elements that I enjoyed and I think Edgerton does a nice job with the set up and the world building.  But I never felt a real connection between Therial and Erik, and found Therial just too unlikable to really root for.  So this story is worth considering for fantasy fans, but it just didn’t work completely for me.

A review copy of this book was provided by Dreamspinner Press.
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