Thursday, 31 December 2020
#CBR12 Book 104: "A Touch of Stone and Snow" by Milla Vane
Page count: 398 pages
Official book description (cause I haven't finished the book yet):
Danger lurks in the western realms. The Destroyer’s imminent return has sent the realms into turmoil as desperate citizens seek refuge—but there’s no safety to be found when demons and wraiths crawl out from the shadows. Even Koth, a northern island kingdom left untouched by the Destroyer a generation past, is besieged by terrors spawned from corrupt magics.
When Lizzan leads the Kothan army against these terrors, only to see her soldiers massacred and to emerge as the only survivor, she is called a coward and a deserter. Shunned from her home, Lizzan now wanders in solitude as a mercenary for hire, until she encounters a group of warriors seeking new alliances with the northern kingdoms—a group that includes Aerax, the bastard prince of Koth, and the man who sent her into exile.
Though they were childhood friends, Aerax cannot allow himself to be close to the only woman who might thwart his treacherous plan to save their island realm. But when a goddess's demand binds them together, Lizzan and Aerax must find a way to overcome their painful pasts. Or there will be no future for the western realms...
According to the reviewer over on Smart Bitches, Trashy Books, this works fine as a standalone, because it was the first in the series she read. Be warned before you check any of the books out, however, that this is NOT for everyone. These books have a lot of violence and darkness and the order of the day is pretty much survival of the fittest and strongest. The world is still reeling from the terrible destruction wreaked by Anumith the Destroyer a few decades ago, and now there has been confirmation that Anumith is on the rise, returning to the Continent once more. The various peoples, countries, and tribes that live there need to form an alliance and fast, or they will all be swept away in the wake of the Destroyer's second invasion.
The protagonists of this book are Lizzan and Aerax and their romance keeps seeming impossible. They've known each other since they were children, and come from vastly different positions. As a royal bastard, Aerax wasn't officially acknowledged until a terrible epidemic came and killed most of the royal house. Lizzan's father was a high ranking army commander and her mother is a magistrate, before he got recognised as an actual prince, she would be seriously throwing away her future to be with him. Then came the incident that led to Lizzan's exile, where her father and much of the Kothan army led an attack to pacify nearby bandits but were surprised by a supernatural threat, leaving Lizzan as the only survivor.
Lizzan was deemed a coward and a traitor, and her name was struck from the official records. No one from Koth is allowed to speak her name or even recognise that she is still alive. She had to leave Koth in disgrace and exile and hates Aerax for not speaking up in her defence at the trial. Aerax, having at that point been trained and come to know many of the island's official secrets, couldn't defend her, as it could lead to her death. He's adored Lizzan for as long as he can remember and will do anything to keep her safe, even if it means she despises him.
Lizzan has made her way, lonely and heart-broken, both physically and emotionally, using her warrior skills to protect refugee caravans and other travellers. She hears news of a Kothan delegation, including a white-haired prince (all of the Kothan royal family have tell-tale white hair) and does her best to get away. The book starts with Lizzan trying to flee, and Aerax wanting to catch her.
The Kothans need help from their neighbours to the South, and want to join the big alliance that's forming. But Aerax knows that they're going to need Lizzan's presence and her truth about the supernatural threat to convince others to risk themselves for an island and a people who withdrew when danger previously threatened. He also has motives of his own, that he's keeping from everyone, determined to see his course through, even if he ends up branded a villain by everyone, especially his true love.
Lizzan has by this point gotten sick enough of dishonour and scorn, and drunkenly demands a quest from the goddess Vela. The only way to fully be forgiven is to die gloriously in battle, and she asks Vela to help her accomplish this. Vela tasks her to protect the first person she casts her eyes on when she leaves the temple (one guess who she runs into seconds after leaving) and promises her death in a battle on the day of the first snow. So now both she and Aerax have purposes they must keep secret, and it seems unlikely that they'll ever have a future, as Lizzan is fated to die in a short while.
I'm only about 50% through the book, yet I love what I've read so far. If it wasn't for having to finish a lot of reviews, help co-parent my demanding child and planning and prepping a three-course New Year's meal, I would be on the sofa with noise-cancelling headphones, blocking out the world and reading right now. I know so many reviewers have loved this book, including our own Emmalita, so I'm convinced it's going to be a satisfying final book for me to end 2020 with.
Normally, I'd feel bad about reviewing a book I haven't finished yet, but the clock is ticking and the deadline for CBR12 is just around the corner. Time and the double Cannonball waits for no person. The continued adventures and just how Aerax and Lizzan get past their challenges to find true happiness together at last shall have to wait a few hours, until I've tidied, cooked, we've eaten and are settled down to wait for the fireworks. That's one good thing about this wretched year, we have no guests who will disapprove if I read for a while until the clock strikes midnight.
And with this rambling review, I declare my reading goal for 2020 reached (double Cannonball achieved and a total of 25 out of 26 reading challenges completed), and wish you all a Happy New Year!
Judging a book by its cover: Yeah, I just can't take this cover seriously. Why is he wearing armour on his arms, and a big chainmail/armour hood thing, yet leaving his very ripped abs entirely exposed? It's like the whole discussion about superheroine costumes. This is just dumb. Cool sword, though, dude.
Crossposted on Cannonball Read