Sunday, 5 August 2012

Book Review: A Hint of Frost by Hailey Edwards

Title: A Hint of Frost
Author: Hailey Edwards
Release Date: 17 April 2012
Publisher: Samhain
Series: Book #1 in the Araneae Nation series
Source: review copy provided by the author
Purchasing Info: Goodreads, Author's Website, Amazon, Kindle store, Book Depository

Grade: 4 stars

Novellus superbus!

Goodreads appetizer: Hope dangles by a silken thread.

When the head of the Araneidae clan is found poisoned in her nest, her eldest daughter, Lourdes, becomes their clan’s new maven. If her clan is to survive, she has but one choice: she must marry before her nest is seized. All she needs is a warrior fierce enough to protect her city and safeguard her clansmen. Such a male is Rhys the Cold.

Born the youngest son of an impoverished maven, the only things Rhys has to his name are his sword and his mercenary reputation. His clan is starving, but their fondness for the flesh of fellow Araneaeans makes them unwelcome dinner guests. Torn between loyalty to his clan and fascination with his future bride, Rhys’s first taste of Lourdes threatens to melt the cold encasing his heart.

Amid the chaos of battle, Lourdes’s sister disappears and is feared captured. Lourdes and Rhys pursue their enemies into the southlands, where they discover an odd plague ravaging southern clans as it travels north, to Erania. Determined to survive, Lourdes will discover whether she’s worth her silk or if she’s spun the thread by which her clan will hang.

Warning: This book contains one mercenary hero with a biting fetish, one determined heroine who gets nibbled, and an answer to the age-old question, “What does dragon taste like?” Matricide and sibling rivalry are available upon request. The house special is revenge, best served cold.

Dual review posted at Book Lovers Inc.

My thoughts: I am not used to the fantasy genre: this was the very first fantasy novel I’ve read! And I don’t know why I waited so long and dreaded discovering this genre because it was fantastic! Hailey Edwards’ storytelling enchanted me completely and now I see how fantasy stories are part fairy tale/part dystopian/part historical fiction.

Although the world-building was complex and very layered, even I being a fantasy newbie (maybe because of my concern/prejudice of being lost) made extra attention and didn’t feel confused with how the societal structure of the Araneae Nation was set up. (Though a glossary would have been neat, I always like to read extra information about the world-building and characters).

The story can be divided into two major parts: the first where the characters are in the stronghold and then when they go on a journey up north. I personally preferred the beginning, the first third or maybe half before Lourdes and Rhyan left on their journey and my enthusiasm went down a notch once they left the nest. But I have to say that the universe Hailey Edwards has created was incredibly creative and unique! Because dear readers the Araneae Nation is made of different nations of spider “shifters”, no they do not shift but they have some of their namesakes’ characteristics, Lourdes is able to weave a thread so fine and yet much more resistant and strong than metal, some of the other tribes are venomous, have fangs and all are named after a spider species!

Although Hailey Edwards uses some quite archaic language it didn't confuse me or make me feel lost, to the contrary, maybe it's because I'm used to reading historical romances, but I think it was mostly the language than grounded me. It gave me that sense of security that it was something I understood and felt familiar with. Though as a very rookie fantasy fan I can’t give an opinion on how it’s un/usual to other fantasy novels or the genre itself.

Lourdes was a delightful heroine. She was strong willed and independent all the while retaining her feminine youthful side. Her vulnerability underneath her strength and steel (she had lost both her parents recently and had to be her siblings’ strength and support and her grief) made me like her and respect her even more.ú

How could I share my body with this male until some facts were straightened to our satisfaction? We may be bound, we might soon wed, but I would have his fidelity if I could not have his heart. It may be unfair to him, but the alternative was no option at all. Selfish to crave some piece of him, but I did. If I could not be his one, I would be his only.

However I wasn’t very fond of her sister... I found her childish, immature and so selfish :-/ There were so many great and entertaining secondary characters, I really liked Lourdes and Rhys’ siblings and how their relationships got such an important part in the story, reading about the family connections and their bantering was wonderful.

Aww Rhys *dreamy sighing ensues* He was wonderful. So intense, so tortured and yet gentle hearted and noble. I confess I liked him right from the start: I mean a man who accepts his duty to his clan and family and weds an orphaned young woman to help her stabilize her “kingdom” and rebuild her city’s and family’s protection without any objection showed me he would be an honourable man, and oh he was! Especially when his concern stemmed from affection and love for Lourdes:

His grip tightened. “You are safe in my keeping.” His eyes glinted with all the facets of an emerald. “No harm will come to you.” He kissed me, a brush of lips that left his breath ragged and me wanting. “I won’t allow it.”
“I know.” I doubted the gods themselves could defy his iron will.

So yes Rhys was a delight, the ideal hero, his intense devotion to Lourdes as the woman in his care, the one he swore to protect and defend even with his own life made my heart flutter:

He drew my hand to his side of the door and kissed my ring finger. “I have thanked the two gods for their grace since the moment the Theridiidae chased you into my arms, when your skin held a hint of frost and your courage thawed some frozen thing in my chest for which I had no name. Your love is worth a price above rubies. I want to own your heart as you own mine.”
“What the two gods gifted me in you, no matter how short a time, is beyond me to resist.”

and a scene where Lourdes tries to make him see himself through her own eyes:
Surely he must realize…
“If I’d been given the choice, I would have chosen you.” He snorted.
“You would have chosen the maven’s bastard son as your match?” I scowled at him.
“You are more than the sum of your parents’ mistakes.”
“I’m less than worthy of you.” His half smile was hard. “I’m called Rhys the Cold because I never part from my sword. Its cold steel named me. I’m nothing but a blade for hire.”
“I know who you are.” I turned him toward me. “You’re Rhys the Warm, Rhys the Kind, Rhys the least cold and most noble male I know.”

One of the most memorable secondary characters was Vaughn, Rhys' older brother. Their relationship was strained (to say the least), there was so much anger and resentment in Vaughn, but his dry humour was certainly entertaining:
Vaughn stifled a yawn. “Is there a point to this bedtime story?”
Rhys picked the fork from Vaughn’s plate and drove it into his brother’s thigh. “There. I’ve made four points for him.” He yanked it free. “Show him respect or I’ll make four more.”
Vaughn spoke through clenched teeth. “A warning would have sufficed.”

The above scene was one of my favourites, though I also love this line that took place after the above scene between Vaughn and Lourdes:

“Is he all right?”
“I don’t know.” He ripped his pant leg open and inspected his thigh. His altruistic acts must be limited to one per solar cycle.
“You don’t care?”
“Should I?” He poked the four tine marks.
Sums up Vaugn so well :-D And yes, he was a very unique and interesting character. I loved how complex Hailey Edwards made him: at first he was an almost villain with his constant mean jabs to Rhys, then we got a deeper understanding of his bitter and sarcastic character. And yes, it was surprising to see that under all the meanness he was really loyal and devoted. And his lines surely brightened up the story. :-)

There were still a lot of loose ends (I for one want to know why Rhys eats anise seeds, we never did get an explanation) when A Hint of Frost came to an end, so I’m looking forward to seeing what will happen next in the series!

Verdict: If I had known fantasy novels were this wonderful I would have become a fan of the genre a long time ago! I don’t know why I feared it, thanks to Hailey Edwards lush storytelling I was introduced to an extraordinary world with very different societal customs and hierarchy and yet I never lost my footing. The world-building was memorable and very creative, and although the characterisations were well developed and Lourdes and Rhys’ love was sweet and tender I would have loved to witness a bit more of their romance. (And maybe it’s my preconception but when I saw it was a Samhain release I was expecting a lot of steaminess and A Hint of Frost is rather tame and sweet, just saying so you won’t get disappointed.) A delightful first novel in a highly imaginative new series, Hailey Edwards is an author to watch!

Plot: 8/10
Characters: 9/10
Writing: 8/10
Ending: 8/10
Cover: 9/10

Buy it:

buy the book from The Book Depository, free delivery

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