The Queen in Winter (Collection) – review

THE QUEEN IN WINTER
Berkley, 2006, 978-0425207727, 312 pages, Trade Paperback, $14.00

“A Whisper of Spring” by Lynn Kurland
“When Winter Comes” by Sharon Shinn
“The Kiss of the Snow Queen” by Claire Delacroix
“A Gift of Wings” by Sarah Monette

Genre: Romantic Fantasy

Exam weeks often prompt me to search out shorter fiction for the simple fact that I can’t dedicate myself to a novel until the chaos is over. Something that constitutes about a quarter of a novel is something I can squeeze in on the bus, during lunch, or right before bed and still finish in a reasonable amount of time.

It’s problematic, though, since I get impatient with shorter fiction, whether it be a short story or a novella—sounds ironic, I know, but it’s true. In this case, however, I didn’t much worry about that, as the story I initially set out to read, “A Gift of Wings” by Sarah Monette, was set in a world (if not a location) with which I was already familiar. Additionally, I’ve had Sharon Shinn’s Archangel sitting unread on my shelf for years. I figured that a bit of short fiction might give me a taste of what I was in for when I finally got around to it.

Overall, I found this collection enjoyable if, in some cases, a little predictable. And by “predictable” I suppose I mean “traditional.”

Sarah Monette’s “A Gift of Wings” was easily the least traditional story of the four in this collection. Gender roles were tweaked so that not only was the female character Agido larger and stronger than her male counterpart, but she was also the savior. Maur has suffered torture and trauma in the recent past, and Agido must guide him both physically and emotionally. She also becomes a murder suspect in a snowed-in tavern, as the man killed was at least partially responsible for Maur’s current predicament, and the question becomes whether or not she killed him at Maur’s behest.

My second favorite story was Sharon Shinn’s “When Winter Comes.” This story was less directly focused on the male-female relationship and more on the journey of Sosie and Annie, which quickly becomes perilous. By the end of this story, I was convinced that the world had to be a part of something larger (remember, I’ve never read any of Shinn’s work), and this prompted me to do a quick search at the bookstore where I discovered her Twelve Houses series. Sadly, none of the books focus on Sosie and Darryn Rappengrass that I can tell, but I’ll be just as happy to experience new tales in that world and to learn more about the mystic Senneth.

The other two stories were entertaining and about what you might expect. In Lynn Kurland’s “A Whisper of Spring,” a human and an elf overcome cultural barriers to remain together. I liked the characters, Symon in particular, and I found Ehrne hilarious if only because he was so consternating.

In “The Kiss of the Snow Queen,” Claire Delacroix presents a young seer who, with the help of a lusty and mischievous entity, travels a long distance to save the life of the man who’s destined for her. I enjoyed this story, in general, particularly the interaction between Gerta and Loki (or maybe I just have a weakness for characters named Loki), but some readers may be disappointed that, by the end, Gerta’s relationship with Loki is obviously stronger than her connection to the man she traveled to save. I don’t particularly mind it myself, since this story was more about the journey than the destination, but for some it might be an issue.

The Queen in Winter is a good collection for light reading, and not particularly complicated in terms of plotlines. Definitely something easy to get you through busy periods if you want to read something but don’t have a lot of time on your hands.

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