Wren Southerland is the most talented healer in the Queen’s Guard, but her reckless actions have repeatedly put her on thin ice with her superiors. So when a letter arrives from a reclusive lord, asking Wren to come to his estate to cure his servant from a mysterious disease, she seizes the chance to prove herself. When she arrives at Colwick Hall, Wren realizes that nothing is what it seems. Particularly when she discovers her patient is actually Hal Cavendish, the sworn enemy of her kingdom. As the snowy mountains make it impossible to leave the estate, Wren and Hal grow closer as they uncover a sinister plot that could destroy everything they hold dear. But choosing love could doom both their kingdoms.
When all I knew about this book was that it was about enemies trapped inside a crumbling mansion with monsters around every corner, I was still so, so eager to read it. All the early reviews I heard for it were nothing but praise and it sounded dark and snowy and gothic. I honestly couldn’t quite believe it when I was lucky enough to get an e-ARC. A bi main character, a mysterious disease, and snowy mountains. Really, the pull I felt towards this book was strong. Trigger warnings: death, blood, gore
This book is one that kind of left me in awe. The best way I can describe it is gorgeous. I know that seems like such a common word, but the beauty seeping through this book is truly gorgeous.
Alright, I’m starting out with the immense FEELING packed into this book. This is a book about emotion. It’s built on emotion, it revolves around emotion, it’s focused on emotion. It’s about compassion, it’s about the ache to be loved, it’s about feeling too much. It feels weird to even call it emotional development because it feels like so much more than that. It’s about learning what your emotions mean to you, how you allow them to affect your life, and learning how feel, the way you want to feel. It touched me, in a way that isn’t common. It was a ripple across me.
The characters, dang they made me fall in love with them. This book is incredibly character driven. They felt so REAL. They felt like flesh and bone and sweat and blood and tears and everything made real. I felt like I could touch them. Wren, a healer determined to prove herself, caught in the whirlwind of her compassion. Hal, a boy trying to find the good. In himself and what he can do for his country. He was so sad, but he has this dry humor and kindness to him. It was so easy to fall head over heals for him.
I also really loved the side characters! Una, a military captain who will always follow orders. She was so well written that I honestly thought she could have been a POV character. I think it would have been fascinating to see this story though her eyes. Hannah, a kind servant who helps Wren with her shenanigans.
And the WORLD. Yet another thing that I loved. It was another thing that was gorgeous. It was snowy and war torn. Two countries stuck a pattern of vengeance, with a third neutral party. Everything about it was so well written. The scenery left me breathless and the politics were fascinating. Also, I thought this was going to be hardcore fantasy, but there were modern inventions that popped up and surprised me. I thought it was kind of cool to see lightbulbs along with healing magic.
The writing, wow the writing. It made the book come alive. It’s what made this world so well done, it’s what made these characters so lovable, and it’s what made this book so full of feeling. It felt like a snowflake, a ripple across an always still pond. It was gorgeous.
The plot was something that surprised me. It wasn’t what I expected at all. It feels weird to say, but it felt like the main plot wasn’t the whole point of the book. It was what held the overall message and that’s what made it special. It felt a bit straightforward, and I think it would have liked for it to be a bit more twisty. But, I still ended up really liking it. It allowed the characters to grow, it allowed so much emotion to be showcased, and it still managed to be interesting and amazing in its own right. It might not have been what I expected, but I still ended up liking it!
Yes, this book truly is amazing. It has casual queerness, a say boy, a determined girl, snowy mountains, healing and destroying magic, a creepy manor, war torn countries, some amazing hugs, and a snowball fight. This book is full of feeling and all kinds of amazing.