I can’t remember the last time I did an individual book review. I might be a little rusty.
The Winter King by C.L. Wilson is an adult paranormal/high fantasy romance novel set in a fantastical world of witches with magic based in nature or seasons and other different types of mages with abilities like being able to communicate with animals. The story follows two main characters. The first is Wynter Atrialan, the king of the Craig, who started a war with the kingdom of Summerlea after the murder of his younger brother and he consumed the powerful Ice Heart, an ancient, deadly magic slowly taking him over. The second is Khamsin Coruscate, the hated daughter of the king of Summerlea who is forced to marry Wynter to establish peace between their kingdoms. Though distrust and suspicion lingers between them, their passion steadily grows, slowly becoming something more midst tensions between Wintercraig and Summerlea.
The Winter King took me a full month to read—though it is not entirely the book’s fault. March was crazy. I kept picking The Winter King up, then putting it back down. It was not that I didn’t like it. When I did get around to reading it, I enjoyed the book. Stress impacted my reading.
On the flip side to that, The Winter King is still a somewhat cheesy adult fantasy romance with ten-page long sex scenes. The writing could be overly descriptive when simple sentences would have been fine. There were graphic sex scenes, so be wary of that if that is not your thing. The writing wasn’t particularly advanced, but it wasn’t simplistic or juvenile, either. This made the world building weak in certain aspects. However, the magic system and folklore of this world was not complicated like some other high fantasy novels. You learned things as you went along; there wasn’t any info-dumping.
As for the plot, it took too long to get to the point. Parts dragged for way too long. Once we got to the climax, it seemed to drag even more. The book could have been 100 pages, even 200 pages, shorter. It also became more focused on the romance, pushing Kham and Wynter closer together.
I might have found this annoying if I had gone into The Winter King expecting a high fantasy with romance as the subplot. In this case, I wasn’t bothered by it at all. The characters carried the story. Kham is strong-willed, stubborn, and flawed, but she grows up. Wynter is a big scary teddy bear—prime book boyfriend material.
Yes, the two have sex almost immediately. It is because Kham goes into the marriage believing her life depends on producing an heir for Wynter, and not producing one means death, as her father intended. However, the actual romance between them is a slow burn as they gradually open up to each other. The best part, Wynter always asked for consent whenever he and Kham got hot and heavy.
Surprisingly, the side characters were fleshed out. Particularly Lady Frey, a high priestess in Wintercraig who I really hope gets her own book; Wynter’s best friend Valik, who is like the Azriel to his Rhysand (though I like Wynter more than Rhysand, just saying); and Krysti, the young orphan boy Kham befriends. One of the antagonists, Kham’s older brother Falcon, who started the war with the Wintercraig, is also written with a complexity I enjoyed. Unfortunately, there was a lot of girl-on-girl hate that made me a little uncomfortable.
The best aspect of The Winter King is that the author turns problematic paranormal romance tropes on their heads. As I mentioned earlier, Wynter always asks for consent and he’s not the typical pushy, domineering, borderline abusive “Alpha male.” Abuse against women is not tolerated in this world; in some of the cultures mentioned, women are revered. Men even call each other out if one gets too handsy with women.
Overall, I give The Winter King by C.L. Wilson 3.75 stars. I plan to continue with the Weathermages of Mystral series, which are fantasy romance companion novels. The next one, The Sea King, follows one of Kham’s sisters, Summer, who falls in love with a minor character in The Winter King. If you are looking for a fun, steamy adult paranormal, fantasy romance, I highly recommend The Winter King by C.L. Wilson.