Book Review: The Shades of Winter by Morgan Smith

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Synopsis:
An aging band of sea raiders set out on one last voyage of revenge, and get a whole lot more than they bargained for.
Tam Isliefsdottir wasn’t planning to end her life in a futile attempt for vengeance, but when your brothers- and sisters-in-arms need you, what can you do? Leaving her son and her granddaughter behind and sailing to the shadowy island of Alvandir, she expected to die gloriously for the sake of her country, her king, and her own reputation.
Nothing is as it is supposed to be, however, and it hasn’t been for the last twenty years. Tam and her Kyndred are in for the surprise of their lives.

Review: The Shades of Winter by Morgan Smith is an exceptional addition to the Averraine Cycle series, and demonstrates why Ms. Smith is one of my favorite fantasy authors. The characters are compelling, complemented by a unique world and inhabitants that entwine into a multilayered plot, entrenching you into a phenomenal story, where you experience every captivating facet with the characters.

The Shades of Winter begins during a late summer harvest in Dyrsholt. Although a necessary task, it’s also tedious: especially for aging sea raiders. This is explicitly so for Tam Isliefsdottir, who relates this fantastical tale from her point of view.

When a ship appears on the horizon, the harvesting halts, and the denizens arm themselves to defend against possible raiders. However, Tam was startled to learn that her Kyndred (brothers/sisters in arms) were sailing into port. After arranging a quick welcoming feast, they meet in the hall for not merely a celebration, but to deliver some astounding news about a raid on a shrine at Heilaegr.

Author Smith provides a fascinating history of the battles, fallen kings, lost comrades, and the state of the current world…and what, if anything, aging warriors can do to soothe old wounds and avenge fallen heroes.

In a world Tam considers made for the young and strong, at times, those more wizened, battle-seasoned, and yearning for past glories, make the most formidable heroines/heroes. With nothing to lose but their lives, Tam and her Kyndred embark on an expedition of vengeance, which escalates into life altering events, unexpected reunions, arcane magic, murder, manipulations, and buried truths resurrected by desperation…not desire.

Morgan Smith has exceptional insight into ancient cultures and ethos, whilst adding her distinctive elan. The detailed sea voyages, attitudes, characterization, and fighting techniques and armaments are impeccable. I appreciate the strong female characters that stood on their own, without the need to lessen the masculinity of the males. They stand on equal footing: in intellect, banter, and battle.

The Shades of Winter by Morgan Smith is an amazing journey with an engaging plot and extraordinary characters. Once the foundation is laid, you’re propelled into a magnificent tale where events and people aren’t necessarily what they appear to be. I can’t wait for the next novel to find out what new adventures are to be had.

 

Book Review: Casting in Stone by Morgan Smith

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Synopsis: They said ill winds blew at her back. They said she was cursed, a hex, a jinx, a hissing in the dark. And it was true: everywhere she went, no matter what she did, misfortune seemed to follow in her wake. But that, of course, wasn’t the worst of it.

The evil that seemed to track Caoimhe throughout her life had caused so many tragedies. She fled her old life, trying to lose herself in anonymity , but the unholy circumstances of her birth, and the machinations of those who sought to use her existence to further their own schemes followed her still. Can she overcome a long-dead evil and finally be free?

This epic fantasy tale of medieval swords and sorcery will appeal to young adult and adult readers alike.

Review: Casting in Stone by Morgan Smith is an expertly crafted tale set in a wondrous mythical world. The protagonist piqued my interest and I was immediately plunged into a story that I couldn’t put down.

Casting in Stone is told from Caoimhe’s point of view and starts with a devastating tragedy and mystery. Each chapter is more intriguing than the last, weaving a stimulating tale: the mysteries of Caoimhe’s birth, childhood, benefactors, and a host of peoples spinning their webs of deceit and manipulation.

Most of the story takes place in Rhwyn. However, through flashbacks, we are introduced to different places, times and given greater pieces of the tragedies of Caoimhe’s life. Starting with the hatred of her parents and shunning of all those about her, save her grandfather.

The characters are well thought out and described. I found myself empathizing and rooting for Caoimhe. Though, she seemed an unlikely hero, she was also an inevitable one. Her past was devastating and cruel, and yet, she survived by repressing any emotion. In truth, she may have had the greatest emotion and loyalty, especially for her sister, Meryn.

The level of intrigue is mind-blowing with just the right amount of twists and surprises to keep you interested, not frustrated. I read this book in one sitting and started looking for book II as soon as I finished. Morgan Smith has written a fabulously engrossing tale filled with believable and fallible characters. There’s just the right amount of magical/spiritual elements as not to overshadow the story, but to enhance it.