Winner of the Rone Award for Best Fantasy/Science Fiction of 2014
Becoming a winter queen will make Ilyenna as cold and cruel and deadly as winter itself, but it might be the only way to save her people from a war they have no hope of winning.
Mortally wounded during a raid, 17-year-old Ilyenna is healed by winter fairies who present her with a seductive offer: become one of them and share their power over winter. But that power comes with a price. If she accepts, she will become a force of nature, lose her humanity, and abandon her family.
Unwilling to pay such a high price, Ilyenna is enslaved by one of the invaders, Darrien. While in captivity, she learns the attack wasn't just a simple raid but part of a larger plot to overthrow her entire nation.
With the enemy stealing over the mountains and Darrien coming to take her to his bed, Ilyenna must decide whether to resurrect the power the fairies left behind. Doing so will allow her to defeat Darrien and the other invaders, but if she embraces winter, she will lose herself to that destroying power - forever.
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- Natalie @ BookLoversLife
Perfect for a nurse who loves high fantasy
Ilyena. I identify with her very much. She was the perfect iteration of a nurse, but set in a high fantasy world, which is my favorite setting. As a nurse myself, I know that not many authors can get this right.
When Ilyena healed the woman and her baby. That woman had been her enemy. She was brutal to Ilyena and even made the decision to starve her for several days, working her to the bone in the meantime. She asked Ilyena why she would heal her after all that, and Ilyena's honest response was that she did it because she was a healer. This is the essence of what a nurse is. We care for all people. We don't care if they are nice or mean or even downright cruel to us. We will help them anyway. Ilyena gave up her only chance at healing herself in the future, putting the woman's health before her own. This is a trait of nurses. We skip meals, breaks, trips to the bathroom, and even the chance for a drink of water in order to help those who need us. Their health is placed above our own. Not many people who aren't nurses understand it so well. Amber Argyle nailed this.
The very first thing I have to say about this book is that Ilyena (the main character) is a healer, and since I am a nurse, I immediately identified with her. Argyle did an exquisite job relaying the motivations, emotions, heart, and mind of a nurse. I can't believe someone who is not in the medical field could get it so right. It is very rare to find a believable nurse in fiction.
Now, to the story: Ilyena and her clan are almost immediately drawn into war and none of it makes any sense. They should not be fighting with those they are fighting with, yet their neighboring clan was attacked brutally, and they must offer their support. When things don't go well, and important people die or are close to death, political intrigue begins. To protect those she loves, Ilyena offers herself as a servant in her father's stead. The exchange calls for a fair use of her work by the opposing clan, meant to teach her a lesson. But Darrien, the future clan leader, instead uses her (and many others he has captured) as a slave. He beats them brutally, and she often fears her virtue will be stolen, too. He continually tries to force her into marriage.
What nobody knows is that Ilyena killed Darrien's brother in the original scuffle, and when she was near death, she was saved by winter fairies. There was a bargain struck, and now she is their queen, but she could not go away with them even though winter was ending. This comes up a few times throughout the book, and is woven beautifully into the story. Ilyena is both human and other.
Once back in Darrien's village, she finds friends from the clan they tried to help. Among them is her brother's childhood best friend, Rone, who she has always loved. Their relationship blooms throughout the book, as he protects her fiercely and cares for her tenderly. What a perfect love interest for her!
Throughout most of the book, they are waiting for the clan council to make a ruling on the incidents that lead to Ilyena and the others' enslavement, along with the devastation wreaked on the villages. Circumstances finally lead Ilyena to run away, but she has such integrity that she shows up to the council meeting anyway, and she is prepared for whatever their decision might be. Even if it means she has to marry the evil Darrien to protect those she loves.
The council seems to be leaning her way until Darrien tells a terrible lie. It is a lie that ruins everything she has fought for and now Ilyena, Rone, and all the others she was trying so fiercely to protect are hopeless and helpless. But there is one final line of defense. In desperation, Ilyena finally takes a path she has been fighting to comprehend the whole time.
Fairy Queen is part of a seven book series, but stands perfectly well on its own. I found it to be completely satisfying in the end.
I was gifted this audio book in exchange for my honest review, which I have given.