SPFBO4 Review: The God’s of Winter by Dale Harker

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The cover and title lead me to believe that this was going to to be a high fantasy epic, but instead, this was a dark urban fantasy with old-school myths/folklore and ancient entities juxtaposed with the modern world – it created a neat contrast that’s somewhat similar to Paternus.

The Hunter is an old entity who belongs to a race known as the First Ones, they are long forgotten by Men of today’s world who consider his kind to be a thing of legend. The Hunter has a charm that’s almost sentient, it gives him warnings when danger is near and leads him to places it thinks he should go, he’s been using it for centuries and it’s never steered him wrong. Following the cues from his charm, he ends up finding Werekind stalking some horses out in a pasture. He’s absolutely stunned, The First Ones like himself were under the impression that the Werekind had been hunted to extinction long ago. The Hunter has a deep-seated hatred of Werekind to the point of obsession. He kills this werewolf and goes on a longish diatribe about how his kind pissed on the skulls of the last of the Werekind, celebrating the demise of their kind by roasting their bodies and getting drunk. He likes making the werewolf squirm in pain and would have toyed with him longer had it not been for the rest of the wolf pack catching up to him. He manages to escape and needs to let the other First Ones know that the Werekind have returned.

He had been summed to a meeting of The First Ones before encountering the Weres and he was expecting to see many of his old kin, but when he arrived he was told that most of the First Ones had been killed in ambushes on their way to the summit. It was likely a trap and there is only a handful of them left. This is extremely dire news since the Werekind are on the rise, not only that but the audience knows through another POV that the Werekind are trying to bring back the Cold Ones, ancient and terrible gods who will bring about another ice age, the goal being to exterminate life on earth. The Cold Ones want to see the world buried in ice, and they’re using the Were, Stanek, as a vessel in the ‘real’ world to open the rift to their plane.

The remaining First Ones go out in search of any of their brethren who may have survived the purge, they know they only have six months to do it and find a way to stop Stanek. In this world the potency of magic is influenced by the solstices, the longest and shortest days of the year yield the highest results, and if the Weres are going to make a second strike the First Ones believe it will be at the summer solstice.

One of the POV’s, Stanek, is a werewolf and he’s as villainous as they come, there are no redeeming factors about this character and he’s meant to be feared and hated. He’s able to look like a human when he wants to but still gives off a predator-type vibe. He’s sacrificed a woman he was sleeping with to bring about fumblewinter, a supernatural winter that can spawn frost-giants. He’s working for the Cold Ones and if he isn’t stopped he could end all life on the planet.

The third POV is an ex-cop who has been traumatized and left suffering from nightmares. His first introduction which came early in the book was only a few pages and I wish we had gotten a little bit more than that so I could really sink my teeth into these characters before they switched. He didn’t get another chapter until about a third of the way through the story. This guy is depressed, really depressed, suicide is constant thought, and he’s almost totally given up on life. He went to jail for four years and somehow made it out alive, (ex cops don’t do well in jail and he wasn’t separated out from the general population.) His cousin was just found dead and neither he or his uncle believe it was a suicide, and her death is what ties his character into the rest of the book.

The magic in this is mysterious, there’s no real rules or guidelines the magic follows. The Hunter can cast a spell of sorts that can lock and unlock doors, cover his scent, and the charm he wears helps him out frequently. Norse mythology played a part in this, there were mentions of Odin and Thor, yule and the solstices, frost giants and other things that were laced throughout the book.

The tone in this was pretty grim, The Hunter has fewer and fewer allies to help fight against what is essentially the end of the world. The Cold Ones are trying to encapsulate the world in ice, the POVs are either suicidal, villains, or nonhuman Hunters – there isn’t any levity in this one so the tone is consistently grim. There’s a lot of violence from the get-go and it doesn’t let up from there so this won’t be for people who don’t like darker stories.

The writing style stood out to me right away, there were long stretches with no dialogue as the character made his way through a very silent and creepy atmosphere. Lots of snow, lots of silence. The Hunters chapters, in general, didn’t have much dialogue throughout the book as he tends to be a loner. It’s also very descriptive and uses a lot of imagery to paint a very vivid picture of what was going on. The dialogue varies wildly depending on who’s talking if one of the First Born is speaking it’s a very old-fashioned dialect, but if someone from the modern day is talking it sounds just like we do. It created an interesting contrast, but I can see how some people may not enjoy the First One’s speech patterns.

There are a lot of formatting problems, things ranging from quotation marks facing the wrong direction to going from single space to double-spaced lines, to gaps in between paragraphs. This won’t be a book for people who don’t like cursing, 159 fucks given, I’m getting a lot of curse-laden books (which is fine by me lol). There were a few things that felt repetitious where we were told the same thing in several different chapters, but it wasn’t so much that it threw me out of the story.

There were several characters that had only one POV, and sometimes they would show up and you weren’t sure how it was relevant until later, or you weren’t familiar with them so it took a while to get into their story. Because of this, the pacing was slow-ish for the first half of the book as all of the moving parts come into place.

This is a tale of a world with its magic and it’s immortal being having one last showdown. The world of Men used to revere the First Ones, but the modern world has turned it’s back on the older ways, and the immortal races are left to reflect on the world that’s no longer theirs. It’s a very bleak tale, there’s basically no humor in it, so read this one when you’re in the mood for a dark tale that just gets darker. I don’t usually take off points for formatting and I don’t have a category for it, but I did feel the need to take some points off for that in this one because it could be distracting at times – so I put it under the writing category. The prose itself was more like a 12/15.

Goodreads

Amazon

   Audience:

  • darker stories
  • urban fantasy mixed with old religions/gods
  • multi pov
  • villain pov
  • non human pov
  • werewolves/shapeshifters
  • mysterious magic
  • high stakes (end of the world)

Ratings:

  • Plot: 11.5/15
  • Characters: 12.75/15
  • World Building: 12/15
  • Writing: 10.75/15
  • Pacing: 10.5/15
  • Originality: 11.5/15
  • Personal Enjoyment: 7/10

Final Score: 76/100 or 3.8/5 stars on Goodreads

 

 

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