REVIEW: Prince of Ice by Emma Holly
Dear Ms. Holly:
This is probably my favorite book you have written so far. It’s a fairly traditional romance set in the Far East featuring young friends who have a close friendship and then are torn apart by one child’s family. While it is marketed as a paranormal and your worldbuilding is based upon the creation of a different race, it reads like a fantasy historical. Yamas lived in isolation for centuries until they were discovered by human explorers. The setting is Victorian Earth but the yama are more technologically advanced. Their race values emotional control above all else. Those that show signs of unrestrained emotion are considered defective and not fit to rule. However, because emotions are forbidden, the yama are attracted to humans’ emotions. Further, yamas can become addicted to imbibing human energy as it produces a drug like euphoria. While it is a well known secret, like drug addiction, that yamas have affairs with humans and imbibe the human chi, to have the affair known to the public is a great disgrace.
The interesting part of the yama lore is not the technological advances or the genetic enhancements but the societal structure. This story is much more about society, class and culture than it is about ghosts, demons, and otherworldly creatures. To some extent it is reminiscent of Slave to Sensation where the alternate reality world provide a backdrop but the story is carried by understandable and accessible conflicts.
Yama royals are the product of careful interbreeding and genetic matching. Honor and face are important concepts within Yama culture. The story is told of the Huon family, close to royalty, who was banished because the wife of the lord took a human to her bed and it was made public.
Then and there, with all the royal houses watching, the Huons’ proud, long hair was shorn to chin length by the emperor’s guards. Corynna remembered staring at the daughter’s locksÃƒÆ’Ã‚ ¢Ãƒ ¢Ã¢â‚¬Å¡Ã‚ ¬”Xoushou, she thought she was called. They had lain in a perfect sheaf across the marble pavers, black with a touch of rubies in the noonday sun.
While I don’t want to give too much of the story away, I do want to comment on how much I liked the backstory of Corum and Xishi. I love the childhood friends to soulmates theme and thought that this one had all the makings of a keeper. Corum and Xishi are brought were brought up together from the age of 6 months and were inseparable until Corum’s mother detects an inappropriate connection between the two. Xishi is sent to a foundling home and becomes a pillow girl, a geisha like creation. She is purchased by Corum without either knowing of their previous connection. Unfortunately, the human chi that Xishi possesses soon causes Corum to begin to act unnaturally, showing emotion and attachment.
The sexuality of the story is expertly woven throughout the story from the opening scene to the training sessions that Xishi undergoes to the passion that flourishes between Corum and Xishi. You are a master at creating believable, exciting and fully integrated sex scenes that advance the plot of the story.
Where this book fails to achieve keeper status is the last 50 pages or so. It’s a shame, really, because parts of the story is told with such elegance and deftness that it makes the manhandling of the ending all the more disappointing. The conflict between Corum and Xishi is resolved with the use of a deux ex machina. It comes out of nowhere and seemed like a shortcut. The ending just didn’t live up to the great backstory you provided Corum and Xishi and the drama that was created from their seemingly inequal pairing. It is still heads and shoulders above much of the paranormal dross out there. B