The Winter Duke by Claire Eliza Bartlett

Firstly, huge thank you to Titan Books and NetGalley for a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review. 

Publisher: Titan Books
Publication Date:
13/10/2020
Length: 400 pages
Genre:
Fantasy | Young Adult

CW: n/a

Blackwells.co.uk

SHE SURVIVED THE CURSE. NOW SHE MUST SURVIVE THE THRONE.

All Ekata wants is to stay alive—and the chance to prove herself as a scholar. Once Ekata’s brother is finally named heir to the dukedom of Kylma Above, there will be nothing to keep her at home with her murderous family. Not her books or her experiments, not her family’s icy castle atop a frozen lake, not even the tantalizingly close Kylma Below, a mesmerizing underwater kingdom that provides her family with magic. But just as escape is within reach, her parents and twelve siblings fall under a strange sleeping sickness, and no one can find a cure.

In the space of a single night, Ekata inherits the title of duke, her brother’s captivating warrior bride, and ever-encroaching challengers from without—and within—her ministry. Nothing has prepared Ekata for diplomacy, for war, for love. . .or for a crown she has never wanted. If Kylma Above is to survive, Ekata must seize her family’s magic and power. And if Ekata is to survive, she must quickly decide how she will wield them both.

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Review

I’m on a fantasy kick at the minute as there seems to be a lot of great ones coming out this season! In a review I read of the novel I saw that this was more on the political side of fantasy which I love and haven’t read a lot of recently. 

Ekata was a brilliant protagonist, although she was reluctant in becoming the Duke (even provisionally) she didn’t come across as whiny. It was also nice to see that gaining this title didn’t change the fact that she didn’t know how to rule, as she never prioritised it before, and we got to see her struggle with the political landscape that she has found herself in and begin to learn to navigate it. I also loved seeing her try to navigate a relationship with Inkar, her warrior wife. Whilst her Prime Minster wants Ekata to do everything she can to push her away, Ekata has different ideas. There were many moments where Inkar had me laughing out loud with her great one-liners and the way she would insult Sigis (Ekata’s rival for the title of Duke). It was the characters of the novel which made me enjoy it so much. I loved their interactions (even the arrogant and frustrating Sigis) and wanted to see them develop. 

As I mentioned before, I do really enjoy court politics in fantasy novels and thought this was done really well. I particularly liked the addition of the mysterious underwater kingdom, the Below, and its importance. Whilst the kingdom was interesting, I would have liked to have seen more worldbuilding for both kingdoms. We do learn a few bits and pieces through the politics, the demands of the different ministers and the coronation trials but I would have liked to see what we learn developed further and to spend more time with the Below to see the differences between kingdoms. I enjoyed how the novel was split into parts as the days passed as this gave a clear indication of how much was happening to Ekata in such a short space of time and how everything can change so quickly. 

Overall, I really enjoyed this novel and feel that it would have benefitted from being a bit longer so the characters and the world could be developed a little more. It is a great YA fantasy and even if court politics isn’t your thing, I definitely recommend you check it out for the sapphic romance!

Rating: 4 out of 5.

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