(Cover picture courtesy of Goodreads.)
Bryn Aven has always longed to be a part of the Kanin world.
Though she has no social status because she’s a half-breed, she refuses to give up on her dream of serving the kingdom she loves. It’s a dream that brings her to a whole new realm . . . the glittering palace of the Skojare.
The Skojare people need protection from the same brutal rival who’s been threatening the Kanin, and, being half Skojare herself, it’s a chance for Bryn to learn more about her heritage. Her boss Ridley Dresden is overseeing her mission and wants to help. He’s always been her most trusted friend—but as their undeniable attraction heats up, he becomes a distraction she can’t afford.
Brynn is about to discover that the Skojare world is full of secrets, and as she’s drawn in deeper and deeper, she doesn’t know who to trust. As she gets closer to Ridley, she realizes she may not even be able to trust her own heart.
[Full disclosure: I requested and received a free ebook through NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.]
Bryn is a complex character who has really been through so much, what with her father nearly dying at the hands of a man she looked up to, being an outcast because she’s half-Skojare and being one of the only female trackers. She’s under a lot of pressure and has been for a long time but things really don’t let up in this book. If anything, the pressure gets worse when she learns of a royal disappearance and is sent to live among her mother’s people as a bodyguard for a little while until she gets to the heart of the mystery. Unfortunately, there are some complications when she and Ridley realize and admit their feelings for each other because they are boss and underling. So not only do you have the immense political pressure, you have a forbidden attraction on top of things that could get both of them fired if they’re found out. With a forbidden attraction in YA you’d expect them to keep carrying on regardless of the consequences but shockingly Ridley and Bryn do the mature, reasonable thing: they agree to stop seeing each other when Bryn leaves on her Skojare mission. They agree that being in a relationship is too risky for both of them and that realistically they can’t. It was really a refreshing change.
Not only that, with everything Bryn goes through she matures even more. For a tracker she can be rather naive and that’s part of what gets her into trouble when she’s among the Skojare, particularly with a certain prince. At the same time, she actually learns that naivete can be dangerous in some cases and uses her naturally curious mind to think things through critically instead of accepting things at face value. She becomes rightly suspicious of a lot of people around her, particularly the Skojare king and his younger brother. Maybe the queen isn’t all that innocent as she seems to be but the royal brothers are definitely at the heart of a conspiracy that runs very, very deeply through troll society. In the end, some of the conspiracy is revealed but we’re still left waiting to learn the full explanation for the conspiracy that started with Konstantin Black almost killing Bryn’s father.
The plot isn’t always fast-paced but it is always interesting. So much happens in this book when you compare it to Frostfire, the first book. There’s a lot of travel between the tribes and it was fascinating to learn more about the Skojare and about Bryn’s heritage. You can kind of see why Bryn’s mother wanted to get out of the palace and give up her title for love rather than staying in the rather repressive Skojare society. Part of the plot is about the rigid hierarchies present in both tribes and the tension coming from the lower classes that seem to be gently agitating for reform. The Kanin are better than the Skojare in a lot of ways but the inequalities are always evident and Bryn as a tracker (a half-breed no less!) really feels the brunt of this. It’s also another source of tension during Bryn’s investigation into the queen’s disappearance because at every turn she’s reminded of her low status and her utter lack of power.
All in all, Ice Kissed was an excellent second book. I’m sure some people found the inter-personal tension a little boring in the beginning but if you’re at all invested in the characters or even just interested in them you’ll love it. Then things really heat up in the last third of the novel as some of the conspiracy Bryn’s mixed up in comes to light and Bryn has to make one really tough decision. By the end of the novel, you’ll be like me: almost begging for the next book.
I give this book 5/5 stars.