Publication Date: June 28th, 2022
Hardcover. 352 pages.
About Daughter of Redwinter:
"Those who see the dead soon join them.
Raine can see--and more importantly, speak--to the dead. It's a wretched gift with a death sentence that has her doing many dubious things to save her skin. Seeking refuge with a deluded cult is her latest bad, survival-related decision. But her rare act of kindness--rescuing an injured woman in the snow--is even worse.
Because the woman has escaped from Redwinter, the fortress-monastery of the Draoihn, warrior magicians who answer to no king and who will stop at nothing to retrieve what she's stolen. A battle, a betrayal, and a horrific revelation forces Raine to enter Redwinter. It becomes clear that her ability might save an entire nation.
Pity she might have to die for that to happen..."
Daughter of Redwinter was a very interesting reading experience for me largely because I am still very unsure of how much I liked this book. I didn’t love it and I didn’t hate it, but I find myself really intrigued by it while also holding remembering the fact that I struggled to get through this book at various points, which I'll discuss a bit more later on in this review.
In Daughter of Redwinter we follow Raine, a young woman who can speak to the dead, an ability that carries a death sentence in this particular world. When we meet Raine, she is traveling around with a sort of cult, having joined them after desperately wanting to escape the clutches of her mother and childhood home and deciding that journeying around with them was the escape that she desperately wanted. One day, Raine rescues an injured woman whom she later finds out was an apprentice at a monastery where some warrior magicians live and practice. After a lot of dramatic events, Raine ends up going back to the monastery with some members who had come searching for the injured woman (I promise this isn’t really a spoiler, it’s all in the synopsis and happens early on!), and this is where much of the plot really begins. (That was a particularly terrible summary, I know, but hopefully you can catch a gist.)
Raine really comes across as a young woman’s who really just a bit lost and trying to figure out what she wants and who she is. She’s really an interesting character who seems to undergo a lot of personal changes throughout the story as she discovers many new and unexpected things about herself, as well as about the world and people around her. She’s one of those characters who's really easy to root for even though she’s not necessarily the most charismatic person. I appreciated how McDonald conveyed her lack of emotion or ability to produce emotion around certain things, which was done for a reason, and I think he captured that specific quality really well. It reminded me of a greyed out world and I think fit the atmosphere and current life presence of Raine as well.
The rest of the characters in Daughter of Redwinter were a bit hit or miss for me. Some of them felt somewhat cardboard in their personalities and seemed very familiar and lacking a bit of uniqueness to set them apart. However, this also meant that they were characters who were easy to connect with and had a certain level of charisma that made me feel naturally compelled to want to know more about them. I didn’t feel all that personally strongly towards them, but they weren’t poorly written, either. It felt a bit at odds from McDonald’s Raven’s Mark trilogy where I found the characters much more developed, so that did surprise me a bit in that it didn’t feel quite up to par with that series.
The world building and magic system are the main areas where I find myself the most conflicted. The magic system sounds really cool and I love the concept of having different “gates” that magic users try to access in order to achieve different abilities and depths of knowledge, but outside of that general concept I definitely found myself a bit lost as to how some things worked. I think if I had had a bit clearer view of the magic system or seen some different types of applications I may have gotten into it more, but unfortunately it didn’t work for me as much as I’d hope it would. That being said, I have high hopes that a sequel would get into a lot of this more.
In regards to the world building, my main thoughts are that I want to know so much more about it. I feel like we get this pretty intense glimpse at some aspects of it, but not enough of a large worldview for me to really feel centered in it and understanding things in it. Again, this is something that I can see getting expanded more in later installments as well, so I think there’s a lot of potential.
The reason Daughter of Redwinter was such an odd reading experience for me was due to the pacing and plotting, both of which felt a bit all over the place at times and therefore my interest was also all over the place. I was hooked at the start of the book, but by the time I got to about 50-60% into the story I realized that I really was losing interest and not enjoying myself as much. I decided to put the book down, pick something else up in the meantime, and see how I felt about the book after. I was surprised and excited to find that after a couple days I actually really wanted to keep reading Daughter of Redwinter, and fortunately when I picked it up again I found my interest renewed and I had a pretty good time reading the latter portion of the book.
I think Daughter of Redwinter really shows that Ed McDonald has a strong potential to do more than just grimdark fantasy, though this one did have its ups and downs. I really hope that this series finds its footing more in the sequel, which I am curious to read. Overall, I’ve given Daughter of Redwinter three stars!
*I received a copy of Daughter of Redwinter courtesy of the publisher in exchange for an honest review.*