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Title: Of Ice and Snow (Fairy Queens #0.5)
Author: Amber Argyle
Publication Date: August 18, 2015
My Reviews: Winter Queen (#1) | Of Fire and Ash (#1.5) | Summer Queen (#2)
Synopsis: Otec thought destiny forgot him…
The middle child of the clanchief, Otec is the overlooked son in an overflowing house. He dreams of escape and adventure, so when a mysterious stranger offers both, he doesn’t need persuading. But when his faraway village comes under attack, Otec will do anything to save the people he loves. Cut off from his nation, he must trust a foreign woman with a dubious past as they race to save his clan. But nothing is what it seems, and Otec may have to trust his enemy if he is to become the leader he was never meant to be.
Destiny is not always kind.
Review: I'm a huge fan of Amber's Fairy Queen series - it's dark and gritty, but also full of beautiful world-building, memorable (and sometimes terrifying) characters, and even a few glimpses of hope and light through the horrors of war. I also really love novellas that reveal the background of more minor characters, so I knew I had to read this story as soon as I heard the Amber was writing it.
In this novella, we're given a little bit more insight into Ilyenna's parents before the start of Winter Queen. We get to see how they meet, and how they deal with all kinds of awful circumstances that are out of their control. Otec is a middle child - he's not old enough to go with his brothers and father to meet the coming army, and he definitely will never be clanchief. Except destiny has a different plan for him, and his entire world is flipped upside down when the Shyle is attacked. But even in the midst of trying to save his family and his people, Otec manages to find love.
The romance is definitely a big part of the story, but Amber still somehow manages to weave an exciting story that has so many different facets that the romance doesn't overwhelm the rest of the plot. Matka is dangerous and cunning all on her own, and guards her heart just as much, if not more, as Otec guards his. I loved watching their friendship develop and transform into something more, through perceived betrayals, interfering fairies, and the loss of loved ones.
If you haven't read the rest of the Fairy Queen series, this story will still stand on its own. You don't need to know much else before diving right into this book, and it might be a good place to start. If you have read the Fairy Queen books though, you definitely want to read this novella! There are so many references and connections to things in both Winter Queen and Summer Queen, and it was a lot of fun to be able to recognize those. It makes the entire series stronger and gives the world and the characters so much more depth. If you love fantasy, especially books like the Graceling series, you definitely want to read these books! 5/5.