Rayne’s world, a fantasy pseudo-Scandinavia, is introduced through the eyes of Jael Furyck. Jael, once princess of Brekka, is now living a miserable existence of protecting her vulnerable family from her conniving uncle, Lothar. When Lothar announces that he has agreed to marry Jael off to the drunken prince of Oss, Eadmund Skalleson, she is appalled. She must leave behind her home, her family, and her lover to sail to Oss and marry a man she once defeated in battle. Eadmund is the heir to the throne in Oss, despite the misgivings of his father Eirik. Jael is charged by Eirik, and Eadmund’s sister Eydis, as well as her own grandmother Edela with the restoration of Eadmund to his former glory.
What is Winter’s Fury about?
As the first installment in The Furyck Saga, this book sets up the world and characters of Rayne’s story. Spread across Brekka and Oss, fictional lands heavily influenced by Scandinavian geography and history, the characters are largely members of the ruling families of their respective lands. The largest fantasy element at play for now is that of Dreamers–people with the ability to dream the future in snippets and visions. All Dreamers inherit their gifts from family and the gifts are well known and respected. In Tuuran, the place where all Dreamers originate, there is even a temple dedicated to storing and protecting the prophecies of prominent Dreamers. Much of the action taken by various characters is based on the advice of various Dreamers. Jael primarily listens to her grandmother, Edela, and her sister-in-law Eydis while opponents of the main protagonists rely on their own Dreamers. This novel really seems to serve as a set up for what is to come next, introducing the main characters and providing the basis for important relationships.
CW for the novel itself: This book contains discussion of abuse, violence, murder, and most importantly rape. The rape is not graphically described, but it is partially described by the victims respectively. It is handled better than most fantasy/pseudo-historical settings would and is approached for the most part with sensitivity and care by the main characters. Only one rapist makes a physical appearance in the novel and no rapes are perpetrated on screen per se. Abuse is discussed and described, as well, including emotional neglect and sexual coercion. There is quite a lot of violence as the majority of main characters are warriors by trade, so a blanket CW for gore and blood as well.
This book is a bit borderline, but I definitely thing that it’s gearing up towards a fantasy series. There’s just too much prophecy and future telling to not be. However, I have no idea what the other fantasy elements might be. I originally put this book on my TBR as a polar fantasy read, and I still think it technically fits that genre considering the icy terrain and Scandinavian influences. However, much of the book reads like historical fiction albeit of a fictional location.
Tropes: Subversion of Expectation
In a lot of ways this book subverts expectation. Female characters initially presented as docile end up posing a threat, and male characters presented as threatening turn out to be soft at heart. Prophecies are fulfilled in unexpected ways and allies and enemies switch multiple times. Additionally, for being dark and gritty at the beginning there is a surprising amount of hope, love, humor, and fun in this book.
Plot: Game of Thrones if better and written by a woman
The blurb for this series says if you’re a fan of Game of Thrones and Vikings then you’ll enjoy this series, and I can see where they’re coming from. For what it’s worth, I enjoyed the book series A Song of Ice and Fire (well, what’s been written so far) and I did enjoy the television series up until the point where it diverged from the books, at which point the treatment of all the female characters AND the female cast members really bugged me. This book definitely avoids a lot of that, partly because the author is a woman and so the female characters are actually well rounded and treated well.
I was pleasantly surprised by everything in this book. The setting is richly described and creates a very vivid picture in the mind. The characters are interesting and complex, and I found myself rooting for some I didn’t expect to like. I was surprised by the amount of humor in this book, considering that it was advertised as a gritty viking based fantasy novel and turned out to be genuinely funny and insightful. I also found that I liked the narrative style switching from perspective to perspective so often, which I didn’t expect to enjoy. It was a smart move to include as many perspectives as the author did and to not force entire chapters out of some of them. I think that Rayne did a masterful job of crafting this story, the world, and the characters. This book strikes me as a true demonstration of real skill in fantasy writing.
I have one major thing (for lack of a better word) to discuss in this section and it comes with minor spoiler warnings: Ivaar Skalleson. Ivaar is, for the first half of the book or so, a whispered name and a shadow of bad things to come. Before he is introduced properly and his perspective finally integrated into the writing, Ivaar is discussed by his father, sister, and brother. Ivaar is the eldest son of the King of Oss but not the heir to the throne, instead ruling over an isolated island with his wife and young children. Until he himself is introduced, his reputation is heavy in the hearts of those that knew him. Rather than explain themselves, though, it is just repeatedly stated that Ivaar would be a poor ruler for Oss. To be entirely honest, upon first meeting him and up until the events of the climax for the story all I could see was a potentially effective ruler and I could completely understand why he was attracted to Jael and why others around them might see Jael as potentially attracted to him. It might have been a more interesting direction to take to have a mutual attraction fulfilled between them…
I can’t say I have any firm criticisms of this book. Though I’m not always a fan of some of the topics and tropes that were included in this book, I felt they were handled in a more sensitive and interesting manner than usual for a fantasy novel of similar writing and style.
I was pleasantly surprised by this book and I am absolutely hooked, ready, and willing to read the next installment in the series. Small choices on the author’s part demonstrate a firm grasp on the skill of creative fantasy writing, and there are some interesting ideas presented throughout the novel even down to the admittedly scarce fantasy elements. The characters are multi-faceted, interesting, and well rounded across the board and the writing engaging and easy to read. Despite the length of this book, it was never a drag or a bore to read due to the shifting perspectives and the shorter chapter length, which I think were smart decisions on the part of the author. This is a major step up from content such as Game of Thrones, with better and more interesting writing and ideas as well as surprising elements of humor. Surprising, delightful, and engaging are the three words I would use to describe this book and I sure hope the rest of the series follows suit!