I’m a huge, huge fan of Christina Ochs‘s Desolate Empire series, and couldn’t have been more excited for book four, Winter of the Wolf. Now that I’ve survived its emotional turmoil and nail-biting tension, I can distinctly say that while it caused me the most heartache (so far), it’s undeniably one of the best in the series. I could scarcely be pulled away for anything and was constantly anxious to know where the story would go next because if this book taught me anything, it’s that no one is safe. I received this book in exchange for an honest review, and I seriously can’t recommend these books enough. There’s so much going on in terms of planning, plotting, acting, surprising, and enduring, that you’ll be losing out if you don’t start reading them now.
When all hope is lost, who will raise the banner of light?
War grinds on, spreading its shadow over all the land. In the wake of his overwhelming victory, King Lennart marches on the Empress Teodora, helpless and undefended in her capital. Though battered, Teodora is far from defeated, setting in motion a new plot which threatens to annihilate all of Lennart’s allies.
Unaware of the peril about to overtake him, Kendryk is torn between duty to his family and to his cause. While he struggles to recover from his loss, Anton joins Kendryk in his quest, but will be sent down another, more dangerous path.
Gwynneth survived an attack by Teodora’s most unrelenting assassin, but she will soon face a test that threatens to destroy her.
Maryna, the heir to Terragand, travels to faraway lands hoping to provoke a confrontation with Teodora, but her journey takes an unexpectedly deadly turn.
Her ambitions magnified at the prospect of her mother’s downfall, Elektra must decide if she’s willing to pay the price needed to fulfill her destiny.
And even as Braeden triumphs over an enemy who has long threatened him, his next steps take him down a path that will lead to tragedy.
Faith and friendship are tested, alliances shattered, and a new generation rises in Winter of the Wolf, book four in the Desolate Empire series.
There is a single major, major, plot point I want to talk about, but at the risk of giving away a crushing spoiler, I’ll refrain. Suffice to say that I didn’t see it coming and while I can’t say I’m happy about it (I’m not, I’m so not), if it hadn’t happened, there was no way the story could have progressed to the thrilling, unpredictable adventure that it was. It’s true that most of the book is conversations and planning through many, many character perspectives, but when the action happens, oh boy, does it happen. Every character had a great story to follow along with, but my favourites by far were Braeden, Gwynneth, and Lennart’s. Their actions were the most impactful to the main story, and I definitely felt the strongest connection to them.
While there are too many characters for me to go through in detail to describe how great their development was, I can say that among all of them (and they all had arcs), Anton, Maryna, and Elektra had the strongest. Anton has definitely grown up and his adventures here prove just how tough and powerful he’s become. I can only imagine what he’ll face in the next book. Maryna was also a strong force. Still very much a princess, but I felt she grew a lot and will turn into a strong character in the next novel. It’s in her blood! Elektra had one of the best character development arcs in the book. She was very conflicted and it was impossible to tell where her true allegiances lay. I really look forward to learning what will happen to her next. If the slightly-cliffhanger ending is any indication, it will be something wild.
Winter of the Wolf is a long, long book and it took me a good deal of time to read. That said, I was never bored and I never felt that I was missing anything. I always remembered exactly what had happened with each group of characters, which I find is important in epic books like this. Though I always appreciate more action in my fantasy novels, I was comfortable with the amount that there was in this book. Mostly because the plot is so unpredictable that I legitimately don’t know if someone’s going to make it out alive or not, which makes for a tense and exciting reading experience.
I’ve gone on about the Desolate Empire series to readers and my personal friends, and I’ll go on about it again: Despite utterly wrecking me early on, I can absolutely say that Winter of the Wolf is one of my favourites in the series so far, and that if you enjoy historical parallels to your fantasy fiction, and if you don’t like too high fantasy, this is totally the series you need to start yesterday. Many thanks to the author for sharing her book with me and allowing me to read a compelling story with amazing characters in truly exciting situations. I can’t wait to read more!
For more on Ochs and her work, be sure to check out her weekly posts for Weekend Writing Warriors!