REVIEW: Prince of Ice by Emma Holly

Dear Ms. Holly:

Prince of IceThis is probably my favorite book you have written so far. It’s a fairly traditional romance set in the Far East featuring young friends who have a close friendship and then are torn apart by one child’s family. While it is marketed as a paranormal and your worldbuilding is based upon the creation of a different race, it reads like a fantasy historical. Yamas lived in isolation for centuries until they were discovered by human explorers. The setting is Victorian Earth but the yama are more technologically advanced. Their race values emotional control above all else. Those that show signs of unrestrained emotion are considered defective and not fit to rule. However, because emotions are forbidden, the yama are attracted to humans’ emotions. Further, yamas can become addicted to imbibing human energy as it produces a drug like euphoria. While it is a well known secret, like drug addiction, that yamas have affairs with humans and imbibe the human chi, to have the affair known to the public is a great disgrace.

The interesting part of the yama lore is not the technological advances or the genetic enhancements but the societal structure. This story is much more about society, class and culture than it is about ghosts, demons, and otherworldly creatures. To some extent it is reminiscent of Slave to Sensation where the alternate reality world provide a backdrop but the story is carried by understandable and accessible conflicts.

Yama royals are the product of careful interbreeding and genetic matching. Honor and face are important concepts within Yama culture. The story is told of the Huon family, close to royalty, who was banished because the wife of the lord took a human to her bed and it was made public.

Then and there, with all the royal houses watching, the Huons’ proud, long hair was shorn to chin length by the emperor’s guards. Corynna remembered staring at the daughter’s locks—Xoushou, she thought she was called. They had lain in a perfect sheaf across the marble pavers, black with a touch of rubies in the noonday sun.

While I don’t want to give too much of the story away, I do want to comment on how much I liked the backstory of Corum and Xishi. I love the childhood friends to soulmates theme and thought that this one had all the makings of a keeper. Corum and Xishi are brought were brought up together from the age of 6 months and were inseparable until Corum’s mother detects an inappropriate connection between the two. Xishi is sent to a foundling home and becomes a pillow girl, a geisha like creation. She is purchased by Corum without either knowing of their previous connection. Unfortunately, the human chi that Xishi possesses soon causes Corum to begin to act unnaturally, showing emotion and attachment.

The sexuality of the story is expertly woven throughout the story from the opening scene to the training sessions that Xishi undergoes to the passion that flourishes between Corum and Xishi. You are a master at creating believable, exciting and fully integrated sex scenes that advance the plot of the story.

Where this book fails to achieve keeper status is the last 50 pages or so. It’s a shame, really, because parts of the story is told with such elegance and deftness that it makes the manhandling of the ending all the more disappointing. The conflict between Corum and Xishi is resolved with the use of a deux ex machina. It comes out of nowhere and seemed like a shortcut. The ending just didn’t live up to the great backstory you provided Corum and Xishi and the drama that was created from their seemingly inequal pairing. It is still heads and shoulders above much of the paranormal dross out there. B

Best regards,

Jane

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0 comments on “REVIEW: Prince of Ice by Emma Holly

  1. I can’t wait for this book (thank the gods for pre-order and Amazon Prime!); The Demon’s Daughter is second only to Catching Midnight in my Emma Holly favorites list, so I am very much looking forward to this one. At her best, I think Holly blends sexuality and authentic emotion so well (and the way she used the animal familiar in Catching Midnight was absolutely beautiful, IMO). Even at her worst her writing exudes a certain cheerfulness and good-natured approach to sexuality that I find so appealing in her books. I’ve been feeling like her more recent books are being written in some kind of burn out (or write too fast disease), but I don’t know if she’s ever written anything terrible (in my opinon, of course), simply because at the very least she’s a good technician. And she always gives good sex.

  2. I can’t wait for this one, either. The Demon’s Daughter was at the top of my 2004 list — is my favorite of hers, easily. The characters, the sex, all fantastic…but it was really the portrayal of class that sealed it for me. She was playing in an alternate Victorian universe, with aliens running around, and took a better (and more realistic?) look into Victorian class structure than many historicals even attempt. And class had a real effect on the characters (not just in the “I’m not good enough for her” sense) but influenced their decisions…the weight of society was very heavy.

    So I’m interested to see how she sets up the Yama society, without the ultra-Victorian influence. And, okay, her writing is just spectacular.

  3. She was playing in an alternate Victorian universe, with aliens running around, and took a better (and more realistic?) look into Victorian class structure than many historicals even attempt. And class had a real effect on the characters (not just in the â€Å“I’m not good enough for her†? sense) but influenced their decisions†¦the weight of society was very heavy.

    Great point. And she’s not heavy handed with it, either. Adrian has realistic concerns about his middle class status and trying to gain some mobility for himself, and Roxie is most definitely constrained by her own inability and refusal to fit into ‘polite’ society. One of the things I really appreciated about DD, too, was the way Holly articulated the fact that Roxie and Adrian really like each other, in addition to being so attracted. Also, the way Adrian struggles with his desire to fulfill the traditional role of caretaker (to show her his worth — how cute!) to the very capable Roxie was done really nicely, IMO, because I really could sympathize with him and not just find him boorish. Holly is very good at making appealing what I otherwise might find objectionable.

  4. One of the things I really appreciated about DD, too, was the way Holly articulated the fact that Roxie and Adrian really like each other, in addition to being so attracted.

    OMG, yes. Nothing, and I really mean nothing, will make me like a hero/heroine more than seeing that they really are friends. And it makes the separation (or threat of separation) and conflict that much better. In a book where the only connection two characters seem to have is mind-blowing sex, the HEA doesn’t seem as important. But if the person is possibly going to lose their best friend as well as a lover? Heart-wrenching.

    Also why I’m looking forward to this childhood friends aspect of PoI.

  5. Pingback: Read for Pleasure

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