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“24 Authors, 24 Stories, 1 Unique Advent Calendar.”

Filled with incredible stories by twenty-four of the most gifted indie authors, The Advent of Winter is the perfect way to explore the many expressions of winter’s magic. Get ready to be wrapped in the spirit of the season as you are transported you into all kinds of magical winter realms. 

From dark frozen hellscapes to entrancing winter wonderlands, these stories all nailed the winter theme to perfection. I love how each author brought something completely unique to the table, resulting in an incredibly diverse and exciting collection of short stories. Epic fantasy, cozy fantasy, fairytale-esque fantasy, steampunk fantasy, political fantasy, historical fantasy, and some altogether more unique fantasy blends that refuse to neatly fit into a box; The Advent of Winter simply has it all.

And how each of these authors managed to pack such a punch into so few pages will forever be beyond me. I am still reeling from some of the emotional gut punches that were delivered in some of these stories, but hey… winter is the season of death and decay after all, so what else could we have expected?

Most of these authors I was already familiar with, but I have also found some new-to-me authors through The Advent of Winter whose works immediately shot to the top of my TBR. The skill and talent packed within these pages is truly beyond belief, and choosing favourites is nigh impossible.

However, some stories have simply refused to leave my brain and made me hunger for more in the best way possible. From a collection of pure gems, this would be my top 10, though it honestly might look entirely different depending on the day and the mood I am in.

1. Three Bells to Midnight by K.E. Rosero
Everything a short story should be, executed to perfection. Full of spirits, aura magic, gaslamp aesthetics, jaw-dropping plot twists, and brutal emotional gut punches, this haunting tale is one of my favourite short stories I have ever read.

2. Frosted Embers by L.L. MacRae
You guessed it, our (indie) mother of dragons has brought the dragons! This steampunk epic fantasy story just blew me away, there’s so much imaginative world building jam packed into so few pages. Also, where can I get myself a Fyrnis?! 

3. Soulshard by Thiago Abdalla
Thiago absolutely knocked it out of the park with this gripping tale full of grief, loss, sacrifice, (found) family, demon hunting, shadow wielding magic, and pulse-pounding action. And the fact that this is only a little tease of a new Diablo-inspired fantasy series makes it all the better, I NEED MORE!

4. An Act of Patience by H.L. Tinsley
Prison break but make it dark, gritty fantasy! Absolutely loved this story. The descriptions are so visceral and vivid, which kept me completely glued to the page. Brilliantly executed, and now I want to read anything and everything that Tinsley has ever written!

5. The Blood That Burns the Winter Snow by Ryan Cahill
I mean, is anyone really surprised that this was just an absolute knock-out of a story?! Stepping back into the world of TBATB, no matter for how long, will always feel like coming home. The themes of family, and especially fatherhood, gave this story so much heart and made me feel all the feels, loved it.

6. The Snowmaker’s Child by Zack Argyle
It should not be allowed for an author to pack SO much intrigue into so few pages, and then leave it on a cliffhanger that will have your jaw on the floor. Zack is a masterful storyteller and I am now even more desperate for his upcoming series!! This dark fairytale-esque story is just… perfection!

7. A Fighting Chance by Dom McDermott
Imagine your debut (short) story being THIS good! Everything worked for me here, from the evocative prose, to the emotional character dynamics, to the gripping action… just brilliant! And so beautifully bittersweet, Dom nailed it.

8. Innocence Lost by H.C. Newell
Quite possibly one of my favourite things I’ve read by Newell, all her best skills as an author are on full display here! A dark and heartbreaking tale exploring the lengths a grieving father is willing to go to protect and save his young daughter. Such an emotional rollercoaster, and delivered in such a beautifully lyrical way. Masterful storytelling.

9. A Winter Marvel by Tatiana Obey
The way that Obey works in heavy and gut wrenching themes while also making me cackle out loud is just brilliant. This is why she is one of my favourite indie authors, her writing just has so much heart and soul. Absolutely loved this diverse and unique take on the winter theme, a true banger if you ask me.

10. Cold Silver For Souls by Tori Tecken
A propulsive, compelling, and bone-chilling necro bounty hunter story. THIS is how you establish atmosphere, I really felt the (very unglamorous) cold here, for better or worse. And so many little snippets of world building and character backstory are just tantalisingly dangled before our eyes, I now simply demand to see more of Rip!

Needless to say, The Advent of Winter was truly the gift that kept on giving this holiday season. Discovering a new marvellous story in my bookfunnel library each morning made me giddy like a little kid unpacking Christmas presents. I am incredibly sad that the advent calendar fun has come to an end, but I will be coming back to these stories time and time again in the future.

A big and heartfelt thank you to Dom for pouring his heart and soul into the creation of this entire advent calendar/anthology, and to the 23 other authors for creating such top-tier quality fantasy stories to escape into.
The Advent of Winter proves that gifted writers and storytellers don’t require many pages to deliver an impactful and unforgettable story. And even more so, it proves why indie authors deserve all the love, hype, and recognition in the world. Indie is winning, it’s just facts!

This review is based on the Kickstarter edition. This anthology is expected to be available in physical and digital format in early 2024. Follow https://twitter.com/dominish_books for updates on the general sale. 

The Advent of Winter

The Advent of Winter

The Advent of Winter

The Advent of Winter

The Advent of Winter

The Advent of Winter

The Advent of Winter

The Advent of Winter

Esmay Rosalyne

Esmay is a self-proclaimed professional book devourer from The Netherlands. While (dark) fantasy will always have her heart, she is also a big indie/self-pub enthusiast and will probably read anything if the premise sounds intriguing enough. Or, you know, if it promises complete emotional destruction. When not reading books, she is probably reviewing books, talking about books, or watching videos of fellow bookworms talking about books.

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