Winter Be My Shield by Jo Spurrier

Refreshing, interesting, and, at times, quite horrific.
Winter Be My Shield book cover

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For more than a dozen years we’ve been taught to fear winter by the increasingly popular phrase “Winter is coming…” (Thanks, George!), but its dangers seem abstruse, and far from the sheltered life that we are familiar with. In this debut by Jo Spurrier, we get a glimpse of the horror that is winter. The constant exposure to snow and frost means that surviving on your own is simply inconceivable. Even if you’re a mage.

The magicless inhabitants of Ricalan know this all too well, as in years past they used their extreme weather conditions to dispose of the power-hungry mages. When a civilization turns on you, denying sustenance, shelter, and aid, all the magic in the world will not avail you. Because of this, there are no mages left in Ricalan. The problem is that the countries surrounding Ricalan have found ways of retraining their mages, putting Ricalan at a huge disadvantage.

Enter Sierra, the main character. Sierra is an untrained mage, slave to a Blood-Mage - mages that raise power from the pain and suffering of their victims. In a desperate bid for freedom she manages to escape his clutches, but she finds herself alone in a realm covered in frost… Ricalan.

She has to find a way to survive the horrors of winter, and is swept up in major events in the process. Will she manage to stay free from the clutches of her old Master? Will she be able to hide her despised abilities from those who give her shelter?

I thoroughly enjoyed reading this debut. It is well written: the characters are great and realistic, and the descriptions of magical feats will leave you craving for more. The story is refreshing, interesting, and, at times, quite horrific (did I mention that there’s lots and lots of torture?) – One cannot ask for more! I for one am looking forward to the next book in the series, you will be too.

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