Let’s see… It’s been, I don’t know, about exactly a month right down to the day since I last did one of these. So I’d say that it’s been more than overdue for me to post another one.
Since it’s been such a looonng time since the last one – or if you’re new – Reading Retrospectives are posts where I go over a book I read in the past, of which there are many (ei: before I started posting stuff on this blog), and determine whether it still deserves the star rating that I originally gave it. So I basically just give it a proper review.
This time, I’m reinspecting a book I read around three years ago. It’s Red Winter by Annette Marie.
Red Winter by Annette Marie
Series: Red Winter Trilogy (Book #1)
Length: 348 pages
Genres: Fantasy, Romance, YA, Fiction
Release Date: October 21, 2016
Emi has spent her entire life hiding from the creatures that hunt her. The savage earth spirits are determined to kill her before she can become the living host of a goddess, so she stays hidden–until the day she saves the life of one of her hunters.
Shiro isn’t the harmless fox spirit she thought he was. He’s mysterious, cunning, unpredictable … and now hers to command. He’s sworn to pay his debt to her, but he doesn’t know who she is. If he finds out, he’ll kill her.
But she can’t send him away–not yet. Her future isn’t what she thought. The lies surrounding her fate have begun to unravel, and she needs answers before time runs out–answers that lie in the spirit realm. Shiro can take her there… if she dares to trust him.
And only then will she find out how deep the gods’ treachery runs.
Then: ★★★★☆ • 4 / 5 stars
Now: ★★★★☆ • 4 / 5 stars
Actions change our course, influence our futures, but intentions define us, empower us. Without intent, we are nothing.
So, like… This book still holds up for me. I still really like it. I’ve seen it compared to shoujo manga and anime, and, speaking as someone who has watched some of the latter, I absolutely agree. So I’m just gonna say straight up, that if you enjoy shoujo, you’ll like this book.
My favorite part about the book is how much the author cared about her book. It’s very clear just by reading this, that Marie put in a considerable amount of research and effort into making this as authentic, and true to the cultural source, as possible. And it really shows. It really does feel like I’m watching a shoujo anime (anime geared towards teenage girls), only no I’m not, I’m just reading a really well written novel. With a few really pretty illustrations.
But yeah, the setting is solid. It really feels like I’m reading a book set in Japan. I also adore the Japanese folklore here. I feel like I really don’t see enough books about it, outside of anime and such.
Not that that was the only thing that I really liked about Red Winter. The characters were pretty alright too.
“Actions change our course, influence our futures, but intentions define us, empower us. Without intent, we are nothing.”
I really liked Emi. She’s “not like other girls” in the best way – by which I mean she doesn’t have the stereotypical, overly sassy, good at most everything characterization problem that most YA female protagonists do. And I loved that about her. Emi has a traumatic backstory, like many leading characters, and most of her development over this novel is her learning to deal with, and begin to move past, said trauma. And she doesn’t put up a badass, sassy front to hide this part of herself from the world. She’s timid and vulnerable, and because of this, you can really start to see her evolve and shine that much more brightly. She’s definitely one of my more liked female protagonists in recent years.
Shiro was also decently interesting, despite being the more stereotypical of the two. Marie might have given Emi a variation on the “chosen one” cliche, but Shiro was the one to really inherit a lot of the more common tropes. Not that that’s a bad thing – I really like Shiro! I just wanted to acknowledge that he’s tied to a few literary (and anime) stereotypes. But yeah, Shiro is a kitsune (a Japanese fox spirit), so it’s really no surprise how likeable he is. Most people just love foxes.
She stopped, a half-dozen paces still separating them. The frantic thudding of her heart filled her ears as she met his vacant crimson stare. “Don’t forget me, Shiro,” she said hoarsely. “You’re not allowed to forget me.”
He blinked slowly and something shifted in his gaze. His lips curved in his familiar crooked smile. “You’ll forget me someday, little miko.” His voice was even hoarser than hers, rough and coated in a hint of an animal growl.
“I’ll never forget you,” she told him. “I’ll remember you to my last day.”
“Do you promise?”
Her heart gave an odd little flutter. “Yes, I promise.
The romance is also done just right between the two of them. It’s slow-burn, the (for the most part) best way to write a romance, which is your biggest giveaway that it’s well-written. (Hey, when the other option is insta-love, I will always choose a slow-burn any day!)
And, to top it off, Red Winter isn’t just a standalone novel. It’s the first part of a trilogy! So there’s even more to enjoy if you just couldn’t get enough of this one. (And yeah, haven’t read the rest of it yet, on account of life happening. In a good way, but it still happened.)
So yes, in short, I really like this book. The only downside is that, due to some pretty extensive world building at the start, it takes a bit for the plot to get going. Despite that, I still highly recommend it. If you like any of the novel’s genres, or folklore, or Japanese shoujo media, definitely give this book a shot!