Danger lurks in the western realms. The Destroyer’s imminent return has sent the realms into turmoil as desperate citizens seek refuge—but there’s no safety to be found when demons and wraiths crawl out from the shadows. Even Koth, a northern island kingdom left untouched by the Destroyer a generation past, is besieged by terrors spawned from corrupt magics.
When Lizzan leads the Kothan army against these terrors, only to see her soldiers massacred and to emerge as the only survivor, she is called a coward and a deserter. Shunned from her home, Lizzan now wanders in solitude as a mercenary for hire, until she encounters a group of warriors seeking new alliances with the northern kingdoms—a group that includes Aerax, the bastard prince of Koth, and the man who sent her into exile.
Though they were childhood friends, Aerax cannot allow himself to be close to the only woman who might thwart his treacherous plan to save their island realm. But when a goddess’s demand binds them together, Lizzan and Aerax must find a way to overcome their painful pasts. Or there will be no future for the western realms…
I pre-ordered books 2 and 3 as soon as they were up after finishing A Heart of Blood and Ashes (book 1). A Heart of Blood and Ashes was the book that started me off in 2020 right. It was a fantastically luscious and brutal addition to fantasy-romance. Then I finally went back and read The Beast of Blackmoor, which was another 5-star read for me.
So to say I came into A Touch of Stone and Snow with high expectations, well, it’d be a bit of an understatement. I was excited to visit the world again, hopefully see some favorite characters, and find out what progress Yvenne and Maddek are making in their task for Vela. The task to unite all the western realms against the Destroyer. No small feat.
I did a re-read this last weekend of everything released so far, and immediately dove into AToSaS. From the very first page, the very first moment we meet Lizzan, I was in love with her. Lizzan wakes up nearly sober, asleep in a jungle, having hacked her way through it the previous night with her sword. Lizzan is scarred – both physically and emotionally. As she puts it, her curse is that she “didn’t die when [she] was supposed to.” She carries the weight of her (unjust) shame, knowing that her family still suffers under it. She also carries the pain of being betrayed by the one person she never expected it from.
She’s prickly and brash, a bit of a drunk and prone to rash decisions. Despite all this, Lizzan is a generous and kind person. Her goal has always been to protect, to help those who need it. As a child her parent tried to push her into becoming a healer, because of her soft heart. Lizzan chose to become a soldier, to “prevent harm from from ever coming to anybody.” Such a large, caring, tender heart should never have been damaged. Because now Lizzan has nothing left.
Shunned almost everywhere she goes, struggling to forget her past in the next drink, and taking what jobs she can just to survive. Trying her best to forget the man that exiled her, the man she once thought would go with her anywhere.
I was prepared to hold a grudge against Aerax. After all, he exiled Lizzan. He hurt her as no one else could have, when she needed love and support the most. Then I met him, and he snuck into my heart with his absolute sweetness. Bree (of Kit Rocha) described him as a “cinnamon roll” hero and, honestly, that’s so accurate. From Aerax’s first moments we can see how much he still loves, and misses, Lizzan.
Second-chance romances are not typically stories I love. Let’s be honest, most of the time it didn’t work out for a reason. Lizzan and Aerax though? I fucking LOVE. All that history, love, friendship – it comes right back. Even when they’re attempting to be “as strangers,” it’s impossible. There’s too much binding them together. They were always meant to be – and then life kicked them down.
I could talk for days about their romance, it hit me on such a fantastic level. I found myself highlighting entire sections, just because the feels it brought out in me. Not to mention that Aerax is an expert dirty-talker. I mean EXPERT. Whew.
One of my favorite things binding them together? Caeb, Aerax’s (extra large) saber-toothed snow cat. He. Is. Awesome. And I’ll fight anyone that disagrees. The way that he absolutely adores his people, and no one else. How he can act totally like a kitten one moment and rip into a threat the next. I’m very glad we got to spend so much time with him.
Luckily, we also meet up with a few favorites from previous books on this journey. As well as some characters that I’m dying to know more about.
While the alliance is the driving force behind the book, Koth is the real focus of this book – as it should be. There are shady things happening and if the realm is to have any chance at all against the Destroyer when he returns, rooting out this next of problems is absolutely necessary.
I loved traveling this world through Lizzan and Aerax’s eyes, seeing all the new and interesting places and knowing that their main goal is still doing the right thing, so they can be together. I love when they realize that them being together is doing the right thing. Their romance is so incredibly sweet, sexy, and satisfying.
A Touch of Stone and Snow is a fantastic addition to this series, one that ups the ante. Milla Vane shows us more of the world, brings in awesome new characters and creatures, and even more magic and danger.
A Gathering of Dragons series is a must read! This is fantasy romance at its best. It brings love, light, overcoming (intense) adversity, and conquering evil in a time when I desperately need to see it. If I could, I’d beg Vela for a quest to gain the reward of more. Luckily, the third book, A Dance of Smoke and Steel, comes out early next year – until then I’m going to be reading and re-reading.
P.S. Reading this with Sarah, and she posited the most AWESOME theory – and now I just cannot wait to see if it’s true. Also, in case it isn’t obvious, I still love Vela. I don’t know what exactly that says about me, but *shrugs*. Go read this series!