Evie was almost seduced by the life of comfort that Death offered her—until Jack was threatened by two of the most horrific Arcana, The Lovers. She will do anything to save him, even escape Death’s uncanny prison, full of beautiful objects, material comforts…and stolen glances from a former love.
Despite leaving a part of her heart behind with Death, Evie sets out into a frozen and perilous post-apocalyptic wasteland to meet up with her allies and launch an attack on The Lovers and the vast army they command. Such formidable enemies require a battle plan, and the only way to kill them once and for all may mean Evie, Jack, and Death allying. Evie doesn’t know what will prove more impossible: surviving slavers, plague, Bagmen and other Arcana—or convincing Jack and Death to work together.
Two heroes returned
There’s a thin line between love and hate, and Evie just doesn’t know where she stands with either Jack or Death. Will this unlikely trio be able to defeat The Lovers without killing one another first?
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Dead of Winter
DAY 372 A.F.? (MAYBE 373?)
SOMEWHERE IN SLAVER TERRITORY
Inhale exhale inhale exhale
As I raced over the countryside on horseback, I kept hearing deep, ragged breaths.
Rain fell from the black sky, drops pelting my face. Winds whipped my horse’s mane and made my poncho hood flap.
But I still heard breaths.
The tiny hairs on my nape rose. My mare snorted, her ears pricked forward. I didn’t have Lark’s animal keenness or the senses of a huntress like Selena, but I could feel someone—or something—watching me.
I rode harder, pushing myself, pushing my staggering horse, forcing her to navigate the rocky terrain faster than was safe.
I hadn’t slept since fleeing Death’s lair days ago—if you could call them “days” in this never-ending darkness. Sheer will kept me in the saddle. Delirium was taking hold.
Maybe nothing stalked me, and my own breaths sounded foreign to my ears. If I could just rest for a few minutes . . .
Focus, Evie! So much was on the line. Jack’s life was.
I was determined to save him from the Lovers, Vincent and Violet Milovníci.
Sadistic Vincent had captured him; Violet journeyed to meet up with her brother. Once they reunited, those twin serial killers would torture Jack with their contraptions.
I raced to beat Violet, taking untold risks. Even now, I couldn’t believe what I’d done to escape Aric.
Every other minute, a raindrop would hit one of my eyes directly, the sting blurring my vision. I would blink to clear my eyes, and details of my last encounter with Death would blossom in my mind. . . .
The feel of his sword-roughened palms as he’d seized my waist and laid me in his bed. His rasped words: “If you surrender to me, you will be mine alone. My wife in truth. I will do anything to have that.” Even coercing me, promising to save Jack—for a price.
His scent—sandalwood, pine, masculine—had weakened my will like a drug, quelling the heat of battle inside me. Still I’d managed to say: “This won’t work out as you plan.”
His head had inched closer, his amber eyes intent, just before his lips had covered mine. His kiss had a way of muddling my thoughts, making me forget all the things I needed to remember.
“There. That’s better,” he’d murmured as he’d removed my clothes. “Just let me see you . . . touch you.” With his supernatural strength, he must have taken pains not to rip the lace of my panties.
When I lay naked before him, his amber eyes had glittered like stars. Pinpoints of light had mesmerized me. “So lovely, sievā. My gods, you humble me.” He’d given me one of his rare unguarded smiles. “This is joy I feel, is it not?” I’d wanted to sob.
Blink. Blink. Blink.
I shook my head hard. I needed to pay attention. I couldn’t afford to get lost in memories. To get lost at all.
When I’d readied a bug-out bag and my gear in a panic, Matthew had telepathically directed me: —Follow the rushing water upstream into slaver territory. Find the soot valley, then travel its length. If you reach the mass gravesite, you’ve gone too far. Ascend the next mountain to the stone forest.—
Yet since then, he hadn’t answered any of my calls.
I reached the end of a soot-filled valley and started the climb. Rain began to pour.
Minutes? hours? days? passed. Despite the threat I’d sensed, I could barely stay awake. My head kept dipping. Maybe I could close my eyes—just for a second. I dropped forward, resting my cheek against the horse’s mane, an arm on either side of her neck.
My lids slid shut.
When I opened them, I was at Haven.
The mare was gone. No rain, no winds. The sky was star-strewn black. All around me, that eerie A.F. silence.
Matthew, am I in one of your visions? Every detail felt so real. Bitter ash tinged my tongue. The scent of scorched oaks and sugarcane stung my nose. In the distance, Haven House was a blackened ruin. My mother’s funeral pyre.
I’d burned her body and our home.
Jack had secretly helped her die. I understood why. I didn’t accept how. I couldn’t reconcile after.
How many lies he’d told.
Grief ripped through me, for my mother, for our life before the Flash. My new existence was so brutal and visceral, I wondered if my pre-apocalypse memories were actually a soft and hazy dream.
What was real? Unreal?
Though Matthew had looked away when my mom had died, he could still access scenes from the past. Was he giving me the memory of her death?
A breeze feathered over the ash on the ground, the sound beautiful—like sighing. I heard my mother’s faint voice telling Jack, “Use the pillow. . . .”
No, Matthew! I’m not ready to see this! Not ready—
A wolf’s howl pierced the night.
I jolted awake in the saddle. The rain had dwindled to a foggy drizzle. How long had I been out?
I rubbed my gritty eyes. Almost screamed. I was surrounded by shadowy figures.
Wait, not figures. All around me were towering stacks of rocks, placed like logs for a bonfire. There were so many stacks the area resembled a forest. The stone forest.
Who would waste calories to assemble these? And why did I find them so chilling?
Matthew, are you there?
At last, I felt his presence in my mind! —Empress!—
Has Violet joined her brother yet?
—The Violet is not there.—
Oh, thank God.
Shit! You told me Vincent camped within days of Death’s castle. I’ve ridden for DAYS.
—Arcana all around.—
I heard their calls, as if from a sound-out. . . .
—Eyes to the skies, lads!— Joules.
—Trapped in the palm of my hand.— Tess.
—I watch you like a hawk.— Gabriel.
—Behold the Bringer of Doubt!— Selena.
—Don’t look at this hand, look at that one.— Finn.
—Crazy like a fox.— Matthew.
—We will love you. In our own way.— The Lovers.
So many Arcana were close. Which meant I was close.
—Terror from the abyss!— Huh?
Before I could ask about the new call, my sense of being watched returned. I jerked my head around.
—Empress, you’re one stone forest and one clearing away. Some . . . obstacles between us.—
Movement. Out of the corner of my eye, I saw a man skulking from one stack of rocks to the next.
Another man loped to join the first. The armed pair wore fatigues and creepy night-vision goggles. Soldiers of the Lovers’ army?
The stones were for cover, staged as if for a paint-ball course! How long had those men been lying here in wait?
Matthew, I’m in trouble! I slapped the reins against the mare. She whinnied a protest, but increased her speed. Chest heaving, she wound around the stacks.
I craned my head back. Two soldiers had become ten, all with rifles at the ready. Now they walked in plain view. Because I was already surrounded?
As the ground began to flatten, those stacks grew fewer. I raised my hand above my eyes, straining to see. Ahead—the clearing Matthew had spoken of!
My face fell. With no vegetation, it was a quagmire, water and muck pooling in huge craters.
Past that, a wall towered, must be thirty feet high. What lay behind it?
A shot rang out; a bullet whizzed by my head. My mount fled from the sound. “Go, GO!”
In my panic, my nails morphed into thorn claws. The razor-sharp edges sliced through the fingers of my gloves. My glyphs stirred, moving over my skin.
A second gunshot. The near-miss bullet pitted the mud beside the horse’s hooves. She shrieked, trotting faster.
The shooters missed on purpose. They would want me—and the horse—alive.
Women and horses were two valuable A.F. commodities.
Desperate for safety, I squinted at the wall. Men guarded a brightly lit gate.
—Head there, Empress.—
My mare would have to slog through the clearing. It was like a moat fronting that wall. The soldiers would catch me long before then.
A bright color drew my attention. Attached to a post was a handcrafted sign emblazoned with a red skull and crossbones—along with the warning: DANGER! MINES!
And that explained the craters.
Are you kidding, Matthew? Soldiers trailing me; mines ahead. How do I get past a minefield?
An agonized yell sounded behind me.
I dared a glance back. Only nine soldiers followed. They ran toward me at a faster clip. The ones at the edges aimed their guns—off to their sides.
Another horrified yell.
Open gunfire erupted. Muzzle flashes warred with fog; I couldn’t make out anything.
I turned forward. Screamed.
Three soldiers stood before me, rifles trained on my face. The mare reared, punching hooves at them.
The other gunmen had been pushing me toward these!
Yet behind them, a black beast melded with shadow. One brilliant golden eye gleamed like a lantern.
Cyclops! Had Lark sent her one-eyed wolf to protect me?
Baring dagger-size fangs, the massive beast gave a spine-chilling snarl. The men twisted around—
Cyclops launched himself at the panic-stricken soldiers, knocking them to the ground. His mighty jaws clamped down on limbs and rifles, snapping through bone and metal.
Body parts sailed into the air. Blood spurted like a mall fountain. I winced, though I should be used to seeing stuff like this.
The wolf lifted his head from the carnage and growled at the stupefied soldiers positioned behind me. Those bastards had driven me into a trap; Cyclops ate the trap.
Faced with the beast’s dripping maw, they fled headlong.
For me, Cyclops wagged his scarred tail. “Good damn wolf. Good boy.”
Matthew said: —Ride for the fort! You have to make it to the wall.—
What’s behind the wall? For all I knew, Matthew was sending me into the Milovnícis’ camp.
Into mines? We’re going to get blown away! Forget my self-healing powers; I couldn’t regenerate from decapitation.
Directing me around the danger?
I turned to Cyclops. “I don’t know if you can understand me, or if Lark is steering her familiar. But follow my mount carefully unless you want to regrow limbs.” He was still limping from our battle with the Devil Card.
He chuffed, and bubbles of blood formed over his snout. With a swish of his tail, he defiantly snapped up a dismembered arm, carrying it like a chew toy. But he did move behind me.
I’m trusting you, Matthew. I swallowed and guided my horse left.
Quick correction. Cyclops followed.
—Faster, Empress. Or the Azey will figure out our mine moat maze.—
Your what? Who are the Azey?
—A.S.E. Army of the Southeast. Go right for three seconds. Then left.—
Holding my breath, I slapped the reins yet again. One thousand one, one thousand two, one thousand three. I tugged the reins to my right.
Soon I was galloping through a minefield, a telepathic Arcana in my mind and a giant wolf at my heels.
I could hear those same wet breaths. The wolf had been following me! If I lived through this night, I was so going to owe Lark.
The gate creaked open ahead. I spurred the mare, racing to reach the fort.
With no idea what awaited me . . .
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
I am a huge Kresley Cole fan and I love this series. But I was disappointed the book was only 200+ pages. I've been waiting FOREVER for this book and that's all I get? Sorry but I needed more. If I have to wait a year for the next book it'll be a huge let down. This series has the opportunity to be huge! Give us more. ;)
I just came across this series last week and I devoured the first two books and preordered this one. I read it in a day. There are still 4 cards that have not been mentioned and one that gets introduced in a major way towards the end of this book. Just when you think the love triangle between death, evie, and jack is resolved you get thrown for a loop. I enjoyed the character growth throughout this book; particularly Jack's. Definitly a good and easy read and it will leave you wanting more.
I adore Ms. Cole's writing and this book did not disappoint. I was shocked by the twists and turns, I cried, I laughed, I related with the main character and the bombshell ending made me stare at the last page for quite I while wondering what just happened. I CAN NOT wait to find out what happens to Evie, Aric and Jack. This book was beyond my wildest dreams wondering what Ms. Cole would do with these characters. I highly recommend you read this book, but you must read the first two before you read this one.
I love this books series! Though, sort of sad of the different cover change of the book that's different than the past two. Now I'm going to have an OCD of wanting to buy the first two books again because of the different style change of the cover. It feels strange having two similarly styled books with another being totally different...it feels like its not one with each other only if you get the same set style for the whole series. Sorry, am I the only one thinking this way?
I think this is my favorite young adult series right now. I love the characters and I love the depth of story. This book was really fun with Jack and Aric together but also rather bittersweet. I'm team Jack all the way but I like Aric too and hope for the best for everyone. I can't wait for book 4! Talk about a cliff hanger...
I am spell bound by the writing of Kresley Cole. Not only does she build three dimensional characters, she makes us care for them with such intensity that when the main character is forced to choose between two very different men it was hard for me to decide which I would choose in her place. Set that against a backdrop of such a desolate and dangerous environments with dangers at every turn made this book hard to put down. Great job Kresley! I can't wait for the next book!!!
Page after page we are left wondering who she will chose life, or death. I couldn't wait to pick up my book with each new day to see who would win, and what the issue with the lovers was . Wasn't expecting that ending!!!! Now all I know is I can't wait for the next book! Should anyone ask I always tell them this is a great series, I just want it to tell me more.
I loved this book. It was very well written and had me on the edge of my seat till I finished it. I hope she writes the next one quickly, so I can find out what happens to the characters. Loved the book. Love the series.
Wow, this series is intense! Emotionally draining... but in a good way. This is by far the most intense book of the series so far. It should honestly come with caution tape around it. I just finished it a few days ago and I still woke up this morning feeling the effects of the ending(no spoilers, I promise!). I recommend this series even if its not your usual grab. Anything by Kresley Cole is amazing really. She's one of those authors you can count on to give you something great every time.
I love this series!
Amazing Read! They did not have "young adult" books like this when I was one. I am an "adult" reader that is a huge fan of this series. I have read all of Cole's books and I truly love this series. This is the first time in all my readings that I do not have a favorite in a LOVE TRIANGLE. AHHH...it is actually torture. I really feel torn (like Evie). Kresley Cole is simply a gifted storyteller. This series is also fun to read because I love the continuation of this specific storyline and characters over the span of the books. I hope there are many more to come. It is a UNIQUE, UNPREDICTABLE, AND HEART STOPPING story...definitely worth purchasing because this series will be read again and again! THANK YOU FOR ALWAYS DELIVERING QUALITY STORIES! with heart, humor and action!!!
KC does it again!
I am still neither on team Jack or team Death. I am ON team Evie. I am all for the girl power, and honestly, Jack holds her back. Death encourages her to reach her full empress potential, yet with that, she may lose her humanity in the process. Each pushes her for their selfish gains. So I’m all about boo with the boy's and go, team, Evie. If this were an adult book, she would just choose both and not look back. But alas it is a YA, so that isn’t happening. Probably why I like adult books better LOL. Dead of Winter has Evie searching her heart for what she truly wants as the two men in her life work together to help battle the Lovers. She's torn by her love for both men, but she knows she can only choose one. Dead of Winter is loaded with so much teen melodrama you would think I would hate it, but alas I loved it. It sucks you in, but Cole has a way of doing that with her fantastic writing. Do I want Evie to turn evil and kill all her allies and friends, no? But I am secretly rooting for the read witch to prevail and Evie to realize she is excellent without Jack or Death. We will see. The ending is such a cliffhanger, but I know Cole isn’t done by a long shot.
Can't wait for the next one!
So we have fully entered the realm of the love triangle, which I normally hate. But, this one is different. There's a respect that grows between all parties (even Evie) that makes this seem less like childish indecision or the desire to pit two people against each other. Much of that is Evie's history and attitude. The Empress wants Death - Evie wants Jack. But since the Empress is Evie, well, she's got a decision to make. And....just so you know.....she does. But I'm not telling and I never would have guessed at how it all turned out!!! Leading up to this, we get a really good look at some new-ish Arcana. We've briefly met a couple of them, but we get to see what makes them tick, and we get to see them as people instead of just powerful cards. Relationships are formed, trust made and broken. And we finally get to really meet The Lovers. My favorite bad guy(s) so far. The Lovers seem extremely powerful and just as crazy. But it's through the journey to defeat them that Jack and Death come to an agreement and respect for each other. A very exciting addition to the story with one hell of a cliffhanger!!! Oh my goodness, it nearly killed me.
I'm still rooting for Death! That probably sounds really bad if you haven't read this series, but then again if you haven't, you need to stop reading this review and read my review of the first book in this series instead. Then read that book! Okay, I'll stop being bossy now. *wink* I like how this group of characters is really pulling together. They're trying not to let history repeat itself, and it's making them a wonderful unlikely team of sorts. There were some slower parts where my focus wandered, but the overall plot keeps building.
I love every book by Kresley Cole . I really just want to give all her books ,you star rating so all this mess I'm typing doesn't matter lol !
The Dead of Winter, by Kresley Cole, left me hanging and in anxious anticipation of the fourth book in The Arcana Chronicles! The book begins with Evie leaving Death (Aric) to save Jack from the torturous twins. She makes more allies and, eventually, Death visits their camp. Together they are able to rescue Jack after some intense action and cooperation. The twins have taken Selena, the Archer, and Evie, Jack and Death work together to try to save her from the sadistic and twisted twins. Evie finally makes a choice between Death and Jack before an attack occurs and the book ends with no publication date specified for the fourth book-AAAHHH! I absolutely love the variety of languages, the humor, the dynamics of the characters and the amount of complexity of each character - a perfect amount - and the fact that no character in this series is static!
Absolutely love this series!
Kresley Cole is such an amazing writer that the only complaint I have is that I wish the next installment could come sooner.