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“A pampered princess.
A killer king.
The seeds of ruin.”

The Zemkoska Chronicles continues with a brand-new and positively entrancing fairytale-esque standalone romantasy full of wintry landscapes, plant magic, magical creatures, dangerous political intrigue, witty banter, and, of course, some good spice to heat you up. Apple Seeds in the Snow is the cosy and entertaining princess/bodyguard fantasy romance you didn’t know you needed this winter!

The time has come for pampered princess Ouna Domonov to do her duty and marry a Waterborn Descendant of the Naiads to uphold the Balance of the lands. But before the wedding bells sound, she decides she wants to spend her last moments of freedom and fun celebrating Vinterfest in the north with her best friend. Which would indeed be wonderful, if not for her newly assigned and extremely grumpy bodyguard L’adu spoiling all the fun. Though soon, the merrymaking comes to an abrupt halt and his presence and protection prove to be her only safe haven left. Ouna will have to put aside her prejudices and naivety, or else her life and the fate of her entire country might be at stake.

Right from the very first page, Rygh-Pedersen fully entranced me with her exquisite world building and wonderful atmosphere. I had already fallen in love with this magical world by reading The Briar Crown, but I loved how the world just blew open in this newest instalment in the series. In Apple Seeds in the Snow, we get to explore the country of Domonovnia before the invasion of the Oderbergs, when magic was still thriving and all sorts of magical creatures roamed the land.

And we are not just told about all these magical delights, but instead get to experience them in all their glory through the perspectives of our two wonderful protagonists. Though, I’ll have to admit that I personally didn’t find Ouna and L’adu to be the most likeable characters when I first met them. The princess can come off as a bit childish for her 23 years and walks a dangerously fine line between being endearingly free-spirited and frustratingly reckless. And L’adu… well, his human/seal hybrid nature makes him undeniably intriguing, but he’s also just a good ol’ grump.

However, somewhere along the way their charm got to me and I loved seeing the character growth, especially for Ouna, over the course of the story. As they are thrust into ever more perilous situations, they start finding solace in each other’s company and their bond quickly develops. The banter is top-notch, the slow burn is delicious, the forced proximity is titillating, and when things eventually heat up between them, it gets real hot, real quick!

As this is mostly a character-driven story, the plot really hinges on the tumultuous emotional journeys that these characters go on. The themes of friendship, self-discovery, sexual liberation, and overcoming your prejudices drive the narrative and give this story so much heart. And even though there aren’t a lot of unpredictable twists and turns, that didn’t stop me from absolutely devouring this book in under 24 hours.

The writing is just so smooth and the atmosphere so fully mesmerising that it honestly feels like you’ve been put under a spell. And then, just when you’ve been lulled into a false sense of security and thought everything was tied up in a neat little bow, you’ll be smacked in the face with a brutal epilogue that will make you go: “EXCUSE ME, WHAT?!”. I truly loved the way that Rygh-Pedersen wrote the antagonist of this story, making him devilishly devious, utterly loathsome, and also still so fascinatingly complex. Truly, masterful storytelling!

Even though this is technically book 2 in the series, it takes place a couple of decades before the events of book 1 and can totally be read as a complete standalone. Fair warning though, it will leave you hungering for more in the best way possible!
So, if you are looking for a well-balanced romantasy that will fill you with wonder, warm your heart, and keep you on the edge of your seat, then you have to check out Apple Seeds in the Snow.

4/5

Thank you to the author for providing me with an eARC in exchange for an honest review. All opinions are my own. This book is scheduled for release on December 12, 2023

Apple Seeds in the Snow

Apple Seeds in the Snow

Apple Seeds in the Snow

Apple Seeds in the Snow

Apple Seeds in the Snow

Apple Seeds in the Snow

Apple Seeds in the Snow

Apple Seeds in the Snow

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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