Review – A Breath of Winter (Araneae Nation #4) by Hailey Edwards

A Breath of Winter cover image
Publisher: Samhain Publishing
Publish Date: Out now
How I got this book: ARC from the author

There’s no easy cure for a love of epidemic proportions.

Zuri and her mercenary brothers had a simple mission. Transport a captured harbinger to Erania and collect the bounty. But this job turns out to be anything but easy.

Their welcome to the northland is nothing short of frigid. A scuffle with border guards and her prisoner’s attempted escape leave Zuri injured—and she and her brothers stuck in quarantine. Worse, the bounty comes with silken strings attached. Strings held by a scientist with a daring, dangerous plan.

Because Zuri and her prisoner barged in before his fail-safes were in place, Henri had no choice but to lock them all down until he’s sure there’s no risk of spreading plague. He’d planned to study the harbinger, but it’s the mercenary holding the leash who intrigues him the most.

When Henri’s experiment goes awry, they learn they’ve all been pawns in a plan with one goal: bring the Araneae Nation to its knees. Zuri is forced to make a choice that could sign her death warrant—or sacrifice everyone she loves.

Product Warning: This book contains a chair-bound heroine who won’t let anyone—least of all a man—push her around. Expect tea-drinking, net-tossing, and knife-wielding. Should you feel compelled to indulge in a bear ride, please keep your hands on the reins and your feet in the stirrups. Author not responsible for possible maulings.
This blurb came from the author’s website.

If you have been following this blog over the past few years you might have noticed the name Hailey Edwards popping up on a fairly regular basis. I have been hooked on this series since I read the first one, A Hint of Frost. The characters, the world-building, and mysterious deadly illness sweeping over the land were all intriguing. Since this is a tightly connected series with each book building on the events of the previous ones, there will be spoilers for earlier installments. I strongly recommend that you start at the beginning of this series instead of jumping in part way. I thought events had pretty much come to a head in the last book, A Time of Dying, with the discovery that this disease was created, spread on purpose, and meant far more than just death to most of its victims. Boy was I wrong. Edwards has continued to raise the stakes even as she circled back around to provide a glimpse of life at the site of her opening story and how it has changed over the passage of time.

I was introduced to Zuri and her companions in the last book but didn’t see them as much more than skilled guards. It was fascinating seeing into what shaped them and their dynamics not just as a mercenary band but as a family unit. Some of the same traits that kept them together led to issues when they were confronted with an intelligent foe who would stop at nothing to win. I loved Zuri’s fierce loyalty to those she cared about even when they made her feel like an outsider. She was willing to give her all for her family and as a result made some interesting decisions.

Henri, was one of the minor supporting characters in A Hint of Frost, but like other skilled authors, Hailey included his scene there for a reason. He was very smart and somewhat overconfident. While he seemed to enjoy talking about his experiments, he tended to withhold crucial pieces of information, which caused some issues to those around him as the story developed. Even though I supported Zuri’s anger and hurt by his actions, I could understand his reasoning based on the threat they faced and how he was treated during his formative years. I loved his patience and care for Zuri and her brothers as he tried to make amends for events that occurred because of his secretiveness. I did get a bit frustrated when Henri remained oblivious of a certain reoccurring event but as the danger to his clan sharply increased, I understood why.

I thought the interaction between Zuri, Henri, and her brothers was a lot of fun. Zuri and Henri had a push-pull relationship with one acting on their mutual physical attraction while the other pulled back and then they switched places. The push-pull meant they moved from just physical attraction to emotional closeness before fully acting on their attraction. In the meantime, Henri developed a bond with her brothers which gave him some insights into their family dynamic but also made it harder to gain Zuri’s trust. I also thought the conversations and teasing between Zuri and her brothers demonstrated a very tight bond. As Zuri shared their history and the responsibility she carried I was drawn into their dynamic even more. The closeness between the main characters made certain events even more gut-wrenching as they unfolded.

In addition to the slow growing romance between Zuri and Henri, I enjoyed the overall story progression. Hailey introduced a couple of very fascinating new characters I hope get their own story. The twist they brought in addition to what happened with Zuri and Henri is really moving this series in a new direction I think. I also found the harbinger’s newly demonstrated abilities very unsettling and perhaps indicative of the growing complex problem facing the Araneae Nation. I am not quite sure how this is going to play out which is another thing I enjoy with this series as a whole.

A Breath of Winter was another strong installment in Hailey’s Araneae Nation. I am glad that she is able to keep me guessing and hooked on her characters and world. While the installments build on each other, I have a hard time predicting where Hailey is going next which helps keep my anticipation high for each succeeding story. I can’t wait to see what happens next.

I give A Breath of Winter a B+

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