By Cynthia Bujnicki
Lira is a soul reader, a daughter of Aillira, the god-gifted mortal whose doomed love affair sparked a war. With one touch, she can see inside any person, down into their depths, their secrets, their lies, hopes, and dreams. When a warrior washes up on her shoreland, a man she recognizes from long ago, a man from the lands of the Frozen Sun, she sees inside his soul, the darkness and the light, battling for control. When more of his people come with plans to dominate and decimate, Lira and Reyker must join together to stop the dreadful Dragon and his Gods before they destroy the world.
Beast of the Frozen sun opens with a very dark and creepy scene of war and bloodshed. This opening gives the readers a glimpse of what is to come in the story. It also has a richness to it in the detail, luring the reader into the story before taking the reader on a fast-paced journey. It does not give a hint as to this male character but alludes to this internal battle within him. It is unknown what is going to happen to him, especially when the story shifts to Lira.
This shift is where the story begins. Criswell does an excellent job world building, giving the reader just enough detail and history to familiarize the reader with Lira’s world. The atmosphere in the storytelling is very telling as well. Lira has love in her world, but there is also this cold bleakness to it as well. She is a conflicted character who uses her power as her people see fit rather than as she would want to. It brings rise to conflict within her narrative that makes for magnificent tension building. Her power is a core element in the novel, and the place where her gift came from is as well.
There are times when this novel feels very much like the tale of Tristan and Isolde because of how the story brings Reyker and Lira together and how they seek to battle Gods and monsters together against all the odds. It has that medieval feel to it as it tells the story which makes is invigorating.
As for the story after the initial opening, the pace of the novel does slow down. It is hard to say where exactly the story is going to take the reader because there are multiple antagonists. The central antagonist is off screen manipulating the events of the story. It is interesting to read the events unfold, but the pace for part one of the novel is slow as it introduces these many villains and sets up the direction for the characters.
As for the characters, the flip back and forth between POVs allows for a better understanding of the world, the characters and the challenges they face. Lira is a strong character and is very reminiscent of a shield maiden. She has the strength and will to fight this battle and keep her head high through it all. Yes, there are times where she falters, but this only makes her human and more relatable. As for Reykey his internal battle between darkness and light, while cliché, it works here and does not come off as cliché. His past and pain he feels mirrors the conflict very well and allows the reader to connect to him.
Together these two characters make a dynamic team. How they interact, how they evolve through the course of this novel is compelling, and the way the story evolves around them, bring to light twists and turns is exceptionally well done. Overall it is an exciting start to a new series. (★★★★☆ | B)