Title: Immortal Fire (Red Winter #3)
Author: Annette Marie
Publisher: Dark Owl Fantasy
Release Date: April 11th, 2017
Standalone/Series: Final installment in Red Winter trilogy
Genre: Young Adult – Fantasy – Mythology
My rating in stars: 5 stars
My rating in words: All-Time Favorite!
What it’s about:
Once, Emi believed the heavenly gods were righteous and wise, while the earthly yokai spirits were bloodthirsty and evil. But with a traitorous deity poised to destroy her world, and the yokai standing as humanity’s only defense, the lies of her upbringing have toppled to reveal a far more terrifying reality.
Despite the looming threat, Emi can’t escape her greatest distraction: Shiro, the fox yokai who has so deftly claimed her heart for his own. Soon—too soon—she will have to break the curse that binds his magic and memories. And once the ancient power inside him awakens, the yokai she loves will be changed forever.
As the earthly gods gather to wage war against the heavens, Emi and Shiro must gamble everything to turn the tide against their immortal, all-powerful foes. Together, they will find a way to save her world—even if it means losing each other.
My thoughts (spoiler-free):
Thanks to Dark Owl Fantasy for providing me with an ARC of this book in exchange for an honest review.
“She would not forget him or the exotic world of kami and yokai she had glimpsed, the magic she had witnessed, the beauty and wonder she had experienced.”
This series. Wow. I can already say with a lot of certainty that it will be one of my top series of the year, and quite possibly, even of all-time. That’s right. OF ALL-TIME! I have just grown so incredibly attached to this world, this story and these characters. I had been eagerly awaiting this final installment, Immortal Fire, ever since finishing Dark Tempest and I can now confirm that it lived up to ALL MY EXPECTATIONS. This was the perfect ending to this series and I can’t quite gush about it enough. But I will try!
First of all, this world! I already mentioned in my reviews for both Red Winter and Dark Tempest that the worldbuilding in this series is absolutely amazing, and this is no different for Immortal Fire. We are constantly learning new things and seeing new aspects to this world and though the mythology may be a bit complex and hard to get into at first, you’ll soon be fully immersed and in love. It is a gorgeous, well-developed and vividly described (not to mention beautifully illustrated) world that I’m still not ready to say goodbye to.
The pacing in this series is also one of my favorites. I mean, there is so much going on, so much to do, so much action and so many epic scenes and still it is all balanced so perfectly with a few slower moments, moments of contemplation, character development and romance and I am so here for all of it! For me, this series was the perfect mix of a plot-driven AND a character-driven story.
And talking about these characters, can I just mention (once again) that I am in love? All three main characters feel so real that they just jump off the page and their development, both as individuals and in relation to each other just gave me so many emotions.
We have Emi, who may have become one of my all-time favorite heroines ever. Her development thoughout the entire series has been amazing and I have nothing but respect for her. Her fate has pretty much been sealed from the beginning, and this heavy burden could have turned her into someone else entirely, but she has grown into an incredibly strong, brave and mature young woman. Her fears and worries are very much present and real, but she handles everything with a grace and maturity that can only be admired.
It is no secret I adore Shiro and I pretty much loved him from the moment we met him. But what could have been a one-dimensional character turned into such a deeply layered and complex guy. His journey throughout this series, and even before that, has been long and painful and shrouded in mystery, but with the end near and his powers and memories almost fully unlocked, we are left to wonder just who he will become exactly. Will he still be the lovable, teasing kitsune we have come to know and love, or will he turn into something ancient, powerful and completely different? His journey throughout the series is just as intriguing as Emi’s.
And then there’s Yumei. Another character that could have been a walking, breathing stereotype, but Annette Marie fleshed him out so wonderfully and turned him into a fully fleshed-out and realistic character. In this final installment we learn more about his past and his motives. We get to see his relationship with the other characters develop more and I loved the contrast this stoic Prince of Shadows offered to the human, emotional Emi and the teasing, fun-loving Shiro.
The friendship that has grown between all three of these characters pulled at my heartstrings throughout the entire series and I adored every single scene they had together. But of course, there’s also the romance aspect between Emi and Shiro, which has been the most delicious slow-burn throughout the series and which has finally exploded into a fiery ball of emotions here. I love a good angsty romance and this is one romance that will go down in history as one of my favorites.
The ending is one big action-filled rollercoaster ride. The stakes are high, the war is on and the emotional impact is jarring. I spent the last 40% of the book alternating between fighting back tears (and failing at it) and holding my breath in suspense. But overall, I thought the ending was perfectly satisfying. We got the best possible ending to this amazing story and maybe even some room to return back to this world later for a new story. Or maybe that’s just because I’m still not ready to say goodbye. Thank you so much to Annette Marie for sharing this story with us! I know it will be one I will be re-reading again and again.
“She threw her arms around Yumei. He staggered back a step holding his hands out away from her, as though he had no idea how an embrace worked. She pressed her face against his shoulder, tears streaking her cheeks.
“Thank you, Yumei,” she choked.
“She’s crying,” he growled at Shiro.
“Try returning her embrace,” Shiro said with a snicker. “That might help.”
“To suffer is to live. To struggle, to fight, is to know passion.”
“Were she not human,” Susano said after a pause, “I would suspect Yumei is grooming her as a vassal. All he has yet to do is bind her to his service.”
Uzume made a thoughtful noise. “I do not think he views her in such a light.”
“She freely offered him her ki and her blood. I would say she has already accepted him as her master.”
“She is human, Susano, not yokai. Humans form different kinds of bonds.”
“Then what would you call the bond between them?”
“Friendship,” she answered serenely.”
“I would forget everything else,” he murmured, “as long as I didn’t forget who I am with you. This is who I want to be.”
His eyes turned to hers, sorrow and longing twining in their depths. “I don’t want to lose this. You are my fire, Emo. You are my warmth. Before you, the flames within me were cold as ice.”
“Now that I’ve finally found you, why must I lose you?” His torment cut through her, rending her heart. “Every instinct I possess demands that I protect you, that I save you. But I can’t. I can’t stop this.”
She swallowed hard. “You don’t need to save me, Shiro. I chose this fate. I am walking my own path now. You told me not to give up my life unless it would make a difference, and that time has come.”
He closed his eyes, pain still lining his features. “I am indisputably the selfish half of this pair we make, little miko.”
“I wish I could live forever so I would never have to leave you. I wish we could spend a thousand years on that beach without a single worry about anything.” She touched his face, turning his gaze back to hers. “If I am your fire, then you are my light.”