The Queen in Winter is a collection of four novellas of romantic fantasy with winter themes. I read it as a lighter part of my Worldcon homework, because Sarah Monette has a story in it.
To take the stories in order:
“A Whisper of Spring,” by Lynn Kurland, is a generic and uninteresting tale of love at first sight between a mage and an elf princess.
Sharon Shinn’s “When Winter Comes” was, unexpectedly, the story I liked best. I’d read Shinn’s first four or five novels, but had fallen out of the habit. This has a great voice and a nice romance that didn’t strain my disbelief or annoy me.
People always say they’re willing to die for the ones they love, as if nothing else they could do would be so hard. But it is harder to keep living for someone else, doing everything in your power to keep that person safe and breathing. I know. All these past weeks I have been living for my sister and her son, battling everyone else in the world, or so it seems, to keep Annie and Kinnon alive. I have defied my father, broken my mother’s heart, traveled in secret, gone without sleep, gone without food, and hidden from violent strangers trying to kill all of us because of the magic in Kinnon’s veins.
Most days it would be easier to be dead.
This is in the same world as her series starting with Mystic and Rider, the first couple paperbacks of which I have now ordered for vacation reading, along with her YA series which I’ve also heard good things of.
Claire Delacroix’s “The Kiss of the Snow Queen” is either too weird or not weird enough. A seer in the kingdom of Burgundy fears a forced marriage, so she casts a spell seeking aid. A stranger answers it and then promptly gets into serious trouble—at which point a disembodied voice starts talking to the seer in ostentatiously-modern slang.
Things get weirder from there, and for a while it almost looked like it could be interesting, but at the end it all collapses. And equating “purity” with “sexual inexperience” is guaranteed to piss me off.
Finally, “A Gift of Wings,” by Sarah Monette, the story I bought this collection for. This reminded me of Dorothy Sayers’ comment at the beginning of Busman’s Honeymoon that a detective story might seen, by the characters, to be an irritating intrusion on their love story. I don’t know if the characters would put it that way, but that’s not far from how I felt. The love story is really very well done, with the strength (if not, inevitably, the depth) of characterization I expect after Mélusine and The Virtu. The murder mystery is almost incidental, lacking the resonance with the love story that would integrate the two parts of the story together. It didn’t irritate, but it did niggle a little, as a missed opportunity.