Review: Heart of Winter (Drake Chronicles #1) by Lauren Gilley
“It so happened that Oliver’s father was a profligate, a playboy, and an exceptional warrior. He was also not at all married to Oliver’s mother, a washerwoman, who died when Oliver was only six.”
Oliver Meacham, bastard nephew of the Duke of Drakewell, and a massive disappointment to his father, has just lost all his male relatives to the war with the invading Sels from the West. Without an heir, the duchy of Drakewell stands to fall into enemy hands, unless one of Oliver’s cousins can marry a lord with an army strong enough to defend it – which is how he finds himself escorting his cousin Tessa to the Great Northern Wastes; to the kingdom of Aeretoll, with a hope that Tessa might wed the fearsome warrior king who rules there, Erik Frodeson, in order to protect her people.
But the stern, forbidding Erik refuses to marry. He offers his nephew’s hand to Tessa instead. And to Oliver he offers insult, challenge – and the sorts of loaded glances that leave Oliver as flustered as he is furious.
Tessa doesn’t relish the prospect of marrying for a political alliance, but she’s ready to fulfill her duty to her family and people – even more so when she realizes that she won’t have to wed the churlish Erik, but his charming nephew, instead. Only…the king has two nephews. And Tessa has a choice to make.
The Drake Chronicles is a slow-burn fantasy series, full of court intrigue, adventure, drama, dragons, and passionate romance. Heavily influenced by Viking history and mythology, the series follows the intertwining stories of multiple couples as they fall in love, and fight to save their families, and their kingdoms.
A book buddy recommended this series. I never heard of the author before. I can see that she has a huge body of works available, but this is the first book of hers I tried. First a word of warning. I know the blurb states that this is fantasy. And it is and from what I understand in the next books it becomes even more fantastical but there is no magic in the first book and no fantastical creatures. Presumably it will change based on various hints the author drops. However, my warning is related to the books being influenced by Viking history and mythology. I mean, maybe in a very general sense yes – in looks the characters of the North do resemble Vikings and also they live in the cold :)
The book does not claim to be historical, I know! But I would caution you not to expect anything even remotely resembling a historical in the characters’ mentalities, or in the language of the book. Please do not get me wrong I am *not* complaining. I have read this book in less than three days and only because I could not afford to spend the whole day reading. I found this author’s style to be very engaging and hard to put down, but this uses very, very contemporary English without any attempt whatsoever to even make the characters talk like people living in another era.
Their mentality also reminded me of ours. King Erik choosing a man to be his consort may not be universally supported, but it is certainly supported by enough people so he does not feel any need to hide his courtship of Oliver even if he is initially a bit nervous by announcing it to the whole world.
King Erik not only allowing a sixteen year old teenage bride, sent to him in the name of the alliance between their parts of the countries (not sure if this is the best way to describe north and south in this world), to marry his nephew instead of him, but *make a choice* between his two nephews because nobody should be forced in a marriage they hate (close paraphrase) is very lovely, but also would have sounded silly in the book which truly would have been a historical or even had a historical era as inspiration.
Again those are not complaints, but warnings.
As I said, I had a hard time putting the book down. I found the vast majority of the characters to be extremely appealing, likable, and noble people. I wanted to spend more time with them. I liked Oliver and Tessa right away, but when they met northerners the author sold me on most of them, too. King Erik may be stern, but he has a burden to carry on his shoulders as a ruler who cares about his people and who tries to do right by them. I also don’t think the romance building between them started as a true ‘enemies to lovers’ story. Oliver may dislike him in the very beginning, but I would argue that he saw pretty fast who Erik truly was as a person.
I also really liked Tessa and her trying to figure out which one of Erik’s nephews she liked better. I thought their story was very sweet and I am keen on seeing how it will develop, even though I think her future choice was already made pretty clear in this book.
I think the romance is the main storyline in the book, but political intrigues are also present and the political maneuvering storyline was not resolved at all which makes sense considering that at the moment the series already has four books and I am not sure how many more will come eventually.