Winter Queen (Fairy Queens #1)

Rated 4.88/5 based on 9 reviews
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. More

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About Amber Argyle

Amber Argyle grew up with three brothers on a cattle ranch in the Rocky Mountains. She spent hours riding horses, roaming the mountains, and playing in her family’s creepy barn. This environment fueled her imagination for writing high fantasy.

She has worked as a short order cook, janitor, and staff member in a mental institution. All of which has given her great insight into the human condition and has made for some unique characters.

She received her bachelor’s degree in English and Physical Education from Utah State Uiversity.

She currently resides in Utah with her husband and three small children.

Also by This Author

Reviews

Review by: Lynn Worton on Oct. 16, 2014 :
I received a complimentary copy of this book from the author in return for an honest review.

This is the first book in a YA Dark Fantasy series. I loved it!

First off, I would like to say that I love the cover! I am not usually attracted to a book on just it's cover alone, but I think it totally suits the book completely.

Ilyenna is a wonderful character. She is the daughter of the Chief of the Shyle clan, and also their new clan mistress. I really liked her. She is only seventeen and is unsure about taking on such a responsible role, but I think she handles herself well. She also happens to be a stubborn and proud woman.

I love reading fantasy, so when the opportunity to read this book came up, I took it. I am glad I did, because I really enjoyed it!

This story is a wonderful mix of fairy tale and dark fantasy; I was quickly hooked from the first page. The descriptions of the people and scenes were quite vivid, and I loved the fairies (both the winter and the summer ones) and I loved meeting the Summer Queen, Leto too. I also loved Ilyenna’s brother, Bratton. He is both a pain in the neck to, and extremely protective of, Ilyenna; in fact a typical sibling. I also have a tiny crush on Rone, Bratton’s best friend from childhood. He is one of the nicest characters I have met between the pages of a book; he is an honourable and gentle man. Darrien, from the Tyran clan, on the other hand, is one of the meanest, foulest, sickest pieces of filth to grace a page (to put it mildly). However, his father is a close second behind him. Both of these characters managed to make me so mad, I was shouting at the Kindle!

The story is full of twists, turns and surprises, which kept me interested. Some of the story was a bit confusing at times, but I kept going and my confusion about some events cleared when they were resolved. However, I was in awe of how the Shyle clan reacted and behaved in the face of such barbarism at the hands of a megalomaniac. They are truly a warrior clan. They are definitely as strong as stone, and as supple as a sapling. It has been an honour to meet them.

Amber Argyle has written a wonderful dark fantasy. I love her fast paced writing style, and the flow of the story was wonderful. Although, there was what seemed to be a continuity inconsistency where the story seemed to jump from one scene into a completely different one near the end without explanation, which I found to be a bit jarring. However, this did not make me like the story less. I am now looking forward to reading this author’s other books as soon as possible.

Due to scenes of violence and abuse, I do not recommend this book to younger readers (under 15) or to people of a sensitive nature. However, I highly recommend this book if you love reading YA books with strong female characters or dark fantasy ones with a compelling tale. – Lynn Worton
(reviewed within a month of purchase)

Review by: Kim Deister on Aug. 12, 2013 :
My review: I truly loved Winter Queen, the first in the Fairy Queens trilogy. I am a big fan of all of Amber Argyle's work (author of the Witch Song series) and this just might be my favorite thus far. I love the author's writing style and the rich worlds and characters that she creates. She is phenomenal at drawing readers into her world and making it feel real. Despite the otherworldly elements to the book, it felt possible. Seeing things through Ilyenna's eyes was like seeing them for myself. I love a book that I can lose myself in and this was one of those books!

Ilyenna is a fascinating character, truly more layered than the average woman of her time and social status. I love the fact that, as a person, Ilyenna seems real. She isn't portrayed as a strong, perfect heroine from the beginning, but one with uncertainty and fear and a lack of self-confidence. What was beautiful about her was watching her find her strength. Darrien, while clearly NOT a character a reader is going to feel for, is one that still draws the reader in. He is that character that we all just have to hate but one that is still more than just the bad guy. Rone was also a wonderful character, and one we the readers could root for, although I wish there had been more of him.

The author's worlds are amazing. They are layered with the kind of details that are not overpowering but that give the world a sense of realism. There are some Viking elements recognizable in the descriptions of the environment, as well. The creation of the culture was seamlessly done, making it feel is if we were just being reminded of things we already know instead of feeling like a lecture to learn a new culture for the new world. That made reading much more engaging. I also loved the use of the theme of Balance in the book, that the Universe must have balance in all aspects of life.

This is not an average "fairy tale," not as light as I expected based on the cover alone. There was darkness and brutality and angst along with all of the adventure, mystery, and intrigue. It was not overdone, but it is definitely a part of the story. Even though the story was much darker at times than I expected, there was no shortage of romance and hope and love, which I truly enjoyed.

Things to love about Winter Queen...

--Ilyenna. She was created to be real, despite all of the fantasy elements. She was flawed and often unsure and that made her character very three-dimensional.

--The world. The author creates amazing worlds, combining elements that we can recognize from reality with new world elements. Everything about this world is vivid and graphically imaginable.

Things I wanted more of...

--Darrien. Even though his character was not at all likeable, I think it would have explained a lot about him if we had known more about his relationship with his brother.

--Rone. I loved him and I wanted to know more of his story, apart from Ilyenna.

--The fairies. I thought they would play a more prominent role in the story. They were important, but they were able to play their roles from a more detached distance from the main story.

My recommendation: Even if fairy tales aren't your thing, I would recommend this book. There is brutality and violence, as well as some sexual content. The violence is mild in that it is not overly described and the sexual content is even less detailed but alluded to. An excellent read!
(reviewed long after purchase)

Review by: Melissa B on June 19, 2013 :
This reads more like a fantasy in the way the world is built. Not the kind of fantasy where too much information is thrown at you, but in the way the world is lushly built. You follow Ilyenna who has just become the female aspect leader of her clan. Her job is to rule over the home and hearth and lead her people if the men have to go off to war. There is a political and war-like move within the clans and Ilyenna finds herself dying. She is saved by the fae, but there is a price to pay. The question becomes is if she will pay it by the time winter rules the earth again?

This fantasy was very gripping in terms of the adventure of Ilyeanna doing her best protecting her clan. She is kind and loving and is willing to sacrifice herself for others. I did like her character and found that many of the other women characters were quite strong as she was, but I didn't care for the lamentations that they were "only" women. It was understandable because of their society, but I would have loved it more if they just concentrated and celebrated their strengths as women a bit more. Their actions proved that they were strong.

My only other complaint for this fantasy was the ending... and yet I enjoyed it at the same time. The ending was a bit contrived and a bit too easy. Still, I enjoyed it because it gave me an HEA and a solid ending. No cliffies here! I think this is a good introduction to this world and I'm curious where the story goes next. I give this book 4 stars and recommend it to those that love an older YA (there is mention of rape and sex, but nothing graphic) fantasy.
(reviewed within a month of purchase)

Review by: Crystal Henry on May 29, 2013 :
This is a great read! If you liked Witch Born and Witch Song, then you will love her latest, Winter Queen. It is a bit darker than her previous books, but she is still wonderful at forming characters. While I would not always make some of the same choices her characters would make, she makes it easy for you to relate. As always, I finished this Amber Argyle book in under 24 hours because I got "involved" and I look forward to reading the next! Thanks again, Amber.
(reviewed long after purchase)

Review by: Crystal Henry on May 29, 2013 : (no rating)
This is a great read! If you liked Witch Born and Witch Song, then you will love her latest, Winter Queen. It is a bit darker than her previous books, but she is still wonderful at forming characters. While I would not always make some of the same choices her characters would make, she makes it easy for you to relate. As always, I finished this Amber Argyle book in under 24 hours because I got "involved" and I look forward to reading the next! Thanks again, Amber.
(reviewed long after purchase)

Review by: Ashley Ferguson on May 28, 2013 :
This book was everything I hoped for, and more. There was adventure, mystery, heartache, romance, twists and turns, magic, and just everything a good story should have (in my opinion). I absolutely love Argyle's writing style, and her world building is phenomenal in this book. As I was reading, I felt like I was actually in Ilyenna's world, and that I could see the fairies the way she sees them. Which I also thought was excellently done, I'm so glad they were disguised and could only be found if you knew where to look. I think it adds to the magic of them, and to the magic associated with Winter and Summer.

I also really loved the characters in this book. Although Darrien is a total jerk and deserves every bad thing that happens to him, he's actually a really interesting character. I wish we had seen more of his brother, because I pictured them to be dynamic opposites and I'm really interested to see how that would have played out. I enjoyed reading about Ilyenna's transformation from being so unsure of herself to becoming a strong, powerful, independent woman, and I'm so glad she never lost sight of her honesty and trustworthiness. And then, of course, there's Rone. I liked his character, but I wish we had seen him more in depth. I feel like I don't really know him as much as I would have liked.

Although it took me a few chapters to get into this book, the story really gets going after that and I didn't want to put the book down until the very end. There's just so much happening, and so many layers (like a parfait!)that I had to pull a late night in order to appease my curiosity. And that really didn't help too much, since now I want to know what's next for Ilyenna and Rone. And the Shyle.

I could seriously gush about this book all day, but I really think you should go read it for yourself. Especially if you're interested in fantasy novels with strong heroines. Or females that end up being strong heroines. Or if you just really like Amber Argyle's other books, because this is definitely the best one yet. 5/5, and I can't wait for the sequel!
(reviewed long after purchase)

Review by: Cherie Reich on May 13, 2013 :
Ilyenna must embrace winter’s chill to not only save the people she loves but herself in Amber Argyle’s Winter Queen.

Argyle has mad skills when it comes to worldbuilding. From the clothing to the healing practices to the politics, every aspect adds to this vast and complex world the story takes place in. Then, Argyle takes it a step further with adding a vibrant fairy world. I also loved the idea of Balance within this world and how important a concept it is. To accompany this worldbuilding, Argyle has crafted these heart-achingly beautiful descriptions. Her prose is a pleasure to read and leaves the reader breathless and craving more.

Then, we have a heartbreaking and emotionally charged plot and characters in this wonderful fantasy novel. The complexities of the world create this plot filled with politcal intrigue as clan goes against clan. Ilyenna embodies the Shyle’s saying of “stronger than stone and more supple than a sapling.” Her choices are each soul shattering, and my heart ached for her and her peoples. Rone is headstrong and fierce to protect the people he loves. He’s a perfect complement to Ilyenna. Darrien, as the very cruel villain, craves power and the one woman who doesn’t want him. As a reader, I was terrified for Ilyenna and couldn’t stop thinking about whether or not Darrien would win. I particularly loved the clanswomen. They had such strength against the odds. In fact, each character was three-dimensional and realistic, even down to the fairies and the Summer Queen within the story.

If you’re looking for a complex fantasy novel filled with political intrigue, soul-touching characters, and a heartbreaking plot, then look no further than Winter Queen by Amber Argyle.
(reviewed long after purchase)

Review by: MR Buttars on April 19, 2013 :
This stunning new book by the amazing Amber Argyle left me breathless. I couldn't put it down until I'd devoured every delicious word! I love fairies and thought the magical and real worlds of the story were blended perfectly. I loved seeing Ilyenna's struggle to save her people and still maintain her own dignity. And Rone, I just adore him! Argyle is a genius at making her characters real and three-dimensional. I kept feeling like Ilennya and Rone would just step off the page at any moment.

This books is a bit darker than Witch Song and Witch Born. The tale deals with the gritty reality of women's lack of real rights and the abuses they suffer at the hands of men intent on showing their superiority through force. No punches are pulled and some parts are very hard to read since they wrench at your heart. However, Argyle handles it very tastefully and focuses more on the emotions of the characters than the gore. Also, the realm of this story is very brutal and has been thrown into wide chaos. It is definitely not a fluffy, fun little fairy story. But the imagery drew me in so that I couldn't escape even when thinks looked grim. However, it definitely left me wandering how things could possibly work out with all the disasters happening around the main protagonist, Ilyenna.

Ilyenna, a young clanmistress, is forced into dire situations in order to protect those she loves, many times. We follow her struggle to maintain her humanity even as some around her willingly give up their own for the sake of power. The relationships she experiences with others are real and not all nice. She is hated, loved, scorned, mistreated, and respected. Her pride and kindness carry us through the darkness of the story, even when it seems there is no possible way out of the precarious situations in which she finds herself trapped. She makes decisions and we see the consequences of those decisions, good and bad, play out over the course of the story.

In the end, Ilyenna must face her final choice: sacrifice herself, or her people. The choice and its consequences will surprise you. That is all I will say on that matter.

Quick note regarding the "sex" scene: It is very mild. The characters kiss, then it fades out. It is referred back to a couple times, but with no details. I thought it was well written and I like how the characters have to deal with the aftermath of that moment. It isn't glossed over, nor is it painted in a rosy light, or given unnecessary attention. It happens and changes life for those involve--in very real ways. If you are comfortable letting your kids read Twilight, or Hunger Games, this books has less sex references and violence than those titles.
(reviewed within a month of purchase)

Review by: Deborah Andreasen on April 11, 2013 :
Ilyenna is fatally wounded when a neighboring clan attacks her village. Instead of letting her die, the winter fairies heal her and make her their queen...but it comes at a price. She'll lose everything. Her humanity, her emotions, her memories, her family...her love.

Instead, Ilyenna is taken captive by the brutal future clan chief, Darrien, who makes it his personal mission to break her, body and soul.

I was a bit surprised by the feel of this book. I sort of thought it would have just a "fairies dancing in the wind" type air. Instead, it was a dark and violent novel, with more of a Viking world feel.

What I loved about this book is that amid being beaten, starved, humiliated, and nearly violated, Ilyenna still finds hope to love. She stays true to her role as a healer. She is strong.

There are times when she's strong and stubborn to a fault, but that only makes her more human.

I thought the fairies would be a bigger "presence" in the book, but they are pleasingly important while not being overbearing. They play vital roles, yet they're able to play them mostly from afar.

There is this wonderful sense of Balance in the book. It's almost like their religion. The universe must have Balance in all things. Ilyenna throws that Balance off a few times and suffers the dark consequences.

The details in this book are amazing. So much knowledge is expertly woven into the story so that I feel like I'm not learning new culture, I always knew it and I'm just being reminded. And can we mention the cover please? I'm not usually one to talk about a book cover in a review, but this is a special circumstance. The book definitely lives up to that amazing cover!

There is graphic violence, but it's "mild" in the sense that it's not overly detailed. There is also sexual content, though nothing explicit or even detailed. It's eluded to.

There's plenty of heart-pounding action and stomach fluttering romance. There is also an abundance of strong women who do what they must to protect themselves and their clan.

Winter Queen is not your average "fairy tale," and I recommend it to all readers, even and perhaps especially to those who don't enjoy fairy books. This might just be the one to change your mind.

I'm ready for the next book in the series. Now, please.
(reviewed within a week of purchase)

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