Faerie Winter: Book 2 of the Bones of Faerie Trilogy - Janni Lee Simner I feel my ratings for this series are somewhat misleading, as I gave both Faerie Winter and Bones of Faerie a 3-star rating. Faerie Winter, however, is significantly better than its predecessor, and just barely missed out on a 4th star.

First: the writing itself improved in this sequel, a whole level above what Simner demonstrated in the first book. A pleasant surprise.

Second: the story in Faerie Winter is more solid than in Bones of Faerie. Partly due to working from what was already built in the first book, Simner seems to have settled into the world she created, reaching deeper to touch on possibilities she hadn't in the first, all to good effect. Characters are given an arc, not just a purpose for a scene or two, and the plot moves along at a good clip.

Third: I have some problems with the ending, but overall I like it simply for the fact it's not a bright, shiny, "everyone's happy now" ending. In some ways the book wraps up a little too tidy, but in other ways it's bittersweet, there's darkness there even as the characters can finally breathe again. I appreciate the "not-quite-so-happy" happy endings; those are the ones that will stick with you after you've put the book back on the shelf.

So how did this miss a 4-star rating? 1) Plot holes the size of house-eating sinkholes. 2) Liza.

I wrote this is my review of Bones of Faerie: "...if you think too much about it, there are some gaping plot holes, issues with the author's own mythological rules (lack of consistency), and a major imbalance of cause and effect in the first half."

I won't rehash it all again here, just point out that all of those same issues are still present in Faerie Winter despite Simner's improved writing style. Disappointing on that score and, while everything flows while you're reading, the realization later of "Wait, that doesn't make any damn sense!" is pretty jarring. So enjoy it for the fluff that it is and don't think too hard about it.

Even more deadly to the rating: Liza.

Yes, the main character. Simner tries for depth but Liza still falls short; I feel much more for her companions than I do for her. She's kind of a Mary Sue, a little too perfect even in what are supposed to be her imperfections, all her faults seem so very noble and, thus, are not really faults at all. Basically, she annoyed the piss out of me. And while I give points for consistency, since Liza annoyed the piss out of me in the first book as well, I subtract more for it being the wrong kind of consistency. There's a point when another character mocks Liza a bit, saying he's tired of hearing about how she's so brave and awesome, and I laughed out loud. For a brief, shining moment, that guy became my favorite character in the book. Speak truth!

And so there it is. This is a a fun book, definitely deserving of the little time it takes to read (it's short and moves quickly), and a solid contender in the YA fantasy genre. In my review of the first book, I said at the end that I'd be reading the sequel. And I'll say something similar now: yes, I'll be reading the third one.

On a very personal level, I have to give love for the way Simner described the slow death that is unending winter, sucking away life until the gray scale and the cold wears everything down and makes even the most motivated want to give up. At the end, when Liza is dealing directly with that despair as she attempts to push it back, I shuddered with familiarity. I hate the cold; I truly fear the onset of winter every year. Bleak and freezing, very nicely done on that score, Simner.