Rachel Neumeier

Just finished Winter of Ice and Iron and four books in the Tuyo series – Tuyo, Tarashana, Keraunani, and Tasmakat and can now say that I know enough about this author to not read her books again. Her world-building is really good, and she answers all the more obvious questions that occur to one when reading, but her plots have a few too many author ex machina episodes and her character building relies on submission, punishment acceptance, rape threats, and quivering helplessness a bit more than I like in adventure stories.

Take, for instance Winter of Ice and Iron. Within a very interestingly conceived system of magic, in the high, cold, dark mountains lives the Wolf Duke.

The Wolf Duke is tall and dark. He wears black. He rides a black horse. He had a tragic childhood and did not know a mother’s love. He commands wolves. He is indifferent to personal danger. He is feared and admired by his vassals. He protects his land and his people from an Evil Mad King. He exercises great restraint to never torture or rape women or loyal retainers.

His repeated interaction with loyal retainers is to make them kneel, allow his eyes to linger all over their desirable rough-hewn masculinity, caress their manly throats, cup their soldierly faces full of strong character, smile coldly and give them permission to leave. Unless, of course, they prefer to stay and be commanded, which for some reason they never do.

I feel this would be a better book if they stayed, and possibly an even better movie, but instead the Wolf Duke makes do with criminals and enemy soldiers until he’s saved by the Love of a Good Woman. At her demand he quickly kills the prisoner he’s been raping and torturing, gets dressed, writes a poem, and submits to her brother, the Good Intellectual King.

This allows them to quickly defeat the Evil Mad King and his horror magic that’s been threatening to destroy the world. To make the ending completely happy the Intellectual King generously decides not to kill the Duke after the battle because his sister (the Good Woman) confesses her abiding love for her husband.

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