The Winter Duke by Claire Eliza Bartlett

by Justine Bergman
The Winter Duke by Claire Eliza Bartlett

SERIES: Standalone
PUBLISHED: March 3, 2020 by Little, Brown Books for Young Readers
PAGES: 432
GENRE: Young Adult, Fantasy, LGBT, Queer, Magic, Retellings, Romance


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An enchanted tale of intrigue where a duke’s daughter is the only survivor of a magical curse.

When Ekata’s brother is finally named heir, there will be nothing to keep her at home in Kylma Above with her murderous family. Not her books or science experiments, not her family’s icy castle atop a frozen lake, not even the tantalizingly close Kylma Below, a mesmerizing underwater kingdom that provides her family with magic. But just as escape is within reach, her parents and twelve siblings fall under a strange sleeping sickness.

In the space of a single night, Ekata inherits the title of duke, her brother’s warrior bride, and ever-encroaching challengers from without—and within—her own ministry. Nothing has prepared Ekata for diplomacy, for war, for love…or for a crown she has never wanted. If Kylma Above is to survive, Ekata must seize her family’s power. And if Ekata is to survive, she must quickly decide how she will wield it.

Part Sleeping Beauty, part Anastasia, with a thrilling political mystery, The Winter Duke is a spellbinding story about choosing what’s right in the face of danger.


ALSO REVIEWED AT: Goodreads, NetGalley

Grand dukes make grand statements.

The Winter Duke by Claire Eliza Bartlett is a YA Fantasy story beautifully weaved with mysteries, puzzles, and courtly intrigue. At its heart, it’s a cautionary tale of the consequences of attempting to be something or someone you’re not by abandoning your true identity, and therefore losing yourself in the process. Within its pages we witness a horrific suffering caused by the sins of those that came before, but a triumphant realization that there is ALWAYS another way, one that eliminates the need to choose the lesser of two evils. It’s a story of growth and strength, and one that demonstrates being different is not only acceptable, but should be celebrated.

Bartlett does a wonderful job of creating a cast of characters that elicit strong emotions in her readers by making them relatable and incredibly easy to sympathize with. Ekata takes center stage as the only remaining member of the Avenko family not inhibited by a magical curse. Forced into an unwanted dukedom, she’s unsure, naive, and fearful, but her scientific mind and stubbornness allow her to forge ahead. By her side is Inkar, expendable daughter of a powerful enemy to the realm, and newly appointed grand consort. Her enigmatic, proud, and confident demeanor opposes, yet perfectly balances Ekata’s in a stunning way. Witnessing how their tentative relationship allows them both to grow is just perfection.

The two are hemmed in by enemies on all sides, and most notably Sigis, a cruel and abhorrent king with his sight set on the throne. A ministry of officials consistently blocks Ekata’s path every step of the way, chipping away at her constitution and solidifying her uncertainty. Born into a family who would easily murder their kin to get their way, she has always been aware that friends are difficult to come by, and these scheming ministers only prove this. With promises of aid, she’s led astray by most, learning that she can only depend on herself and her own beliefs to see her through the storm.

The setting of the book is breathtakingly atmospheric; Kylma Above, a city built upon the ice of the cold North, and Kylma Below, a city nestled within the frozen waters below. There is a profound beauty that accompanies the the dangers that lurk within the darkness and shadows of both, giving these cold landscapes a bit of warmth. Allowing readers to explore these contrasting places was an excellent decision, and learning of the tenuous ties between the two was a rewarding experience. I also found the emphasis on winter and blooming roses superb metaphors for change and the new beginnings that undoubtedly lie ahead.

The story itself is dominated by a carefully crafted plot that takes so many twists and turns, the solution to the grand puzzle is difficult to discern, which kept me guessing until the very end. Bartlett’s incorporation of the inner workings of political ambition and intrigue alongside a whodunit mystery is done so seamlessly, weaving an engrossing and interesting tale. Simple prose with focus on the importance of the emotional factor made following this winding road an easy and enjoyable journey.

The Winter Duke instantly became a book I needed to read as soon as I read its blurb, and it easily met all my expectations. I thoroughly enjoyed wading through the political catastrophes Ekata found herself thrown into, and the end is completely satisfying and fitting for a standalone adventure (although I wouldn’t mind visiting again in the future!). If you’re looking for a tale of chance, trust, and seeking one’s true path, I highly recommend you give this one a try.

My Rating: 4

Note: A huge thank you to Claire Eliza Bartlett and Little, Brown Books for Young Readers for providing me with an early complementary copy of this book in exchange for an honest review, and to the Fantastic Flying Book Club for inviting me to take part in this tour.

Be sure to check out all the other stops along the tour by visiting the official schedule here.

The Author

Claire Eliza Bartlett

I am a writer and tour guide in Copenhagen, Denmark. Though I originally come from Colorado, I left the US when I was eighteen and I haven’t lived there since.

More permanent stops on my travels have included Switzerland, Wales and Denmark. The arrival of a Danish husband has somewhat cemented my living situation, but I get my travel in smaller doses these days.

I like to write fantasy, mostly, though I dabble in soft sci-fi. My short stories are more adult, my novels more YA.

I’ve studied history, archaeology, and writing. I like to take my inspiration from historical events, and the more unknown and inspiring the event, the better.

I am represented by Kurestin Armada of P.S. Literary.

To keep up with what strange things I’m researching and writing, you can sign up for my newsletter here. I send out a short newsletter once a month.


The Giveaway

Win 1 of 2 finished copies of The Winter Duke by Claire Eliza Bartlett
March 3, 2020
March 18, 2020

The Winter Duke Giveaway

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