The Winter King
Avon / July 29, 2014 / $7.99 print / $6.99 digital
After three long years of war, starkly handsome Wynter Atrialan will have his vengeance on Summerlea's king by taking one of the man's beautiful, beloved daughters as his bride. But though peace is finally at hand, Wynter's battle with the Ice Heart, the dread power he embraced to avenge his brother's death, rages on.
Khamsin Coruscate, Princess of Summerlea and summoner of Storms, has spent her life exiled to the shadows of her father's palace. Reviled by her father, marriage to Wintercraig's icy king was supposed to be a terrible punishment, but instead offers Kham her first taste of freedom—and her first taste of overwhelming passion.
As fierce, indomitable Wynter weathers even Khamsin's wildest storms, surprising her with a tenderness she never expected, Kham wants more than Wynter's passion—she yearns for his love. But the power of the Ice Heart is growing, dangerous forces are gathering, and a devastating betrayal puts Khamsin and Wynter to the ultimate test.
In C.L. Wilson’s The Winter King, our two main characters, Khamsin and Wynter, are polar opposites. Their contrasting affinities for hot and cold and fire and ice are constant and make any connection between the two seem wholly unfathomable. But connect they must, as a result of the peace treaty agreed upon by Khamsin Coruscate’s father, King Verdan, and his nemesis, Wynter Atralian, The Winter King.
Wynter’s defeat of Verdan’s land after three brutal years of war will only continue to remain in a state of peace if Verdan agrees to the terms put upon him. Wynter’s demand for a wife intensifies the pressure on the twenty year old Khamsin, who is chosen by her father to fulfill the terms. Because of the circumstances of her upbringing, she is still childishly clinging to the fantasy that her brother will be the great hero of their land, just like Roland Soldeus, the one they’ve read about together all her life. But she doesn’t have time for her dreams to find a footing in reality.
Regardless of the animosity that runs deep between the two nations post-war, Khamsin is old enough to understand that even if her brother could return to their land in the future, the time spent waiting may see her dead at the hands of their own father. His irrational hatred of his youngest daughter knows no end, putting her in mortal peril. Her only hope is in making the arrangement work with Wynter, including providing an heir for the Winter King before the year is out.
What Verdan doesn’t anticipate is the fierce chemistry between Khamsin and the Winter King. Whether it’s friction or attraction, it’s initially hard to say. Despite their extremes in temperature, the mixture of the two results, less in the lukewarm feelings that might be expected, instead creating an explosive volatility in their budding relationship.
He had to let the girl go. But another, far more primitive and fierce, part of him refused. He had to touch her. Just this once at least. He couldn’t explain the compulsion, but he wouldn’t deny it either.
He caught her hands and pinned them over her head, against the wall. He lowered his head towards her soft, parted lips. His lips claimed hers, his tongue plunging deep to conquer the sweet cavern of her mouth, while his free hand swiftly released the top few buttons at the front of her bodice. Her skin felt hot to the touch, as if fire burned just below the flesh. He started to slide a hand inside her loosened bodice, but she tore her mouth from his with a cry.
The window at his back exploded in a deafening crash.
Once their marriage is arranged and performed, all that remains is the return trip to Wynter’s home, the Craig, and from there, making a life together, if such a thing is possible for these wildly different people. Stories are never that simple though, with illnesses and threats abounding them at every turn along the road. In the few moments of calm, it looks like Khamsin and Wynter might be on the path to something great, in spite of King Verdan’s cruel machinations to ensure both his daughter’s marriage and life are short lived. With heat and frost running through their respective veins, storms are never far from the horizon and continue to dog their progress.
Two major factors continue to threaten the newlyweds. First, Khamsin’s part in hiding her identity until after the wedding ceremony (and its consummation) sets an undertone of doubt in their relationship, making her new husband question all of her motives. Second is Wynter’s increasing loss of self, which occurs with each use of the power the Ice Heart he’d swallowed gave him to aid him in avenging his brother’s death and winning the war against Verdan’s Summerlea. Separately, these two things could eventually be dealt with as feelings grow between the couple. Together, the doubt feeds the innate power of the Ice King that would be released if Wynter completely loses his hold on the situation, threatening the end of the world as they know it.
As he pulled on clean clothes, his hand absently rubbed his chest, and he thought about the men who’d met their fate on the mountain. Was he to blame for the madness that had gripped them? He couldn’t shake the possibility. His chest felt cold and tight after freezing that map in the council room.
Valik was right to suspect Kham’s Summerlander magic was affecting Wyn, but not in the way he thought. Ever since the night of Khamsin’s terrible storm, Wyn had spent most of his time in her company, and he’d realized he felt more human and more at peace than he had in years. He’d hoped that meant the Ice Heart was melting, but today, within minutes of leaving her on the steps of the palace, he’d felt himself growing colder, more impatient, angrier. That brief flash of icy fury that froze the map wasn’t dissipating as quickly as it had in the past. And that did not bode well. Not for him, and not for any Winterman.
Further compounding it all is the threat of invasion from a foreign nation, lead by Khamsin’s brother, whom they fear has finally gotten hold on the mythical sword forged by the gods for Roland Soldeus, Summerlea’s greatest hero. As the invasion nears and the overwhelming signs that the Ice King is winning power over Wynter, proven by the monster-minions wreaking havoc in the Craig, there seems little hope for a happy ending. It’s a good thing then that time and again, Khamsin, who is also known as ‘Storm’, lets it be known she is not a woman to be trifled with, especially when a true sense of family is nearly within her grasp. All she needs to do now is save her man, beat off the invasions of giant island men along with the remaining men of the Summerlea army, scary monsters with big, sharp teeth, and anyone else who thinks it might be wise to get in her way. They’re about to find out just how wrong they all are.
Learn more or pre-order a copy of The Winter King by C.L. Wilson, available July 29, 2014:
Jackie Lester imagines a day when she can make a living as a writer. Until then, she reviews eclectic books at My Ever Expanding Library and lives in small-town Ontario with her daughter.