Winterglass by Benjanun Sriduangkaew

Winterglass (Her Pitiless Command, #1) by Benjanun Sriduangkaew
Series: Her Pitiless Command #1
Published by Apex Book Company on December 5, 2017
Genres: Fantasy, LGBTQIA+
Pages: 128
Format: ARC
Source: NetGalley
Purchase on: Amazon// Barnes & Noble
Add to: Goodreads

I voluntarily reviewed a complimentary copy of this book. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.


The city-state Sirapirat once knew only warmth and monsoon. When the Winter Queen conquered it, she remade the land in her image, turning Sirapirat into a country of snow and unending frost. But an empire is not her only goal. In secret, she seeks the fragments of a mirror whose power will grant her deepest desire.
At her right hand is General Lussadh, who bears a mirror shard in her heart, as loyal to winter as she is plagued by her past as a traitor to her country. Tasked with locating other glass-bearers, she finds one in Nuawa, an insurgent who’s forged herself into a weapon that will strike down the queen.
To earn her place in the queen’s army, Nuawa must enter a deadly tournament where the losers’ souls are given in service to winter. To free Sirapirat, she is prepared to make sacrifices: those she loves, herself, and the complicated bond slowly forming between her and Lussadh.
If the splinter of glass in Nuawa’s heart doesn’t destroy her first.


I am torn asunder over how to compose this review as I try not to let my opinions on one thing affect my opinions on the other. So, I think what’s best is to talk about Winterglass by Benjanun Sriduangkaew itself first, solely as the ink on the pages it is printed, and then I’ll talk about what has made me wary.

Winterglass has an AMAZING cover. I don’t remember when I last saw a cover that breathtakingly gorgeous. Then, we have the story itself for which I was so grateful. An actual #OwnVoices book in more ways than one, and it definitely feels true to itself. Winterglass is a twist on Hans Christian Andersen’s The Snow Queen, but uniquely so in that it barely feels the story we all heard as children (or adults).

I think all of the characters are on the LGBTIQA+ spectrum which was SO FANTASTIC FOR ME! I mean, I think this is the first time? I’ve seen someone like me in a fantasy setting (I’m agender, and I think we had a nonbinary so it was close enough!) The author used ey/em/eir for a character which had me over the moon. That said, I could understand how a reader that doesn’t know, that isn’t part of the spectrum and maybe can’t ‘keep up’ with it, they could have a hard time following and understanding. I know for a part I too was confused wondering whether a character was trans. It didn’t matter to me, their gender, but it mattered why other characters would use typical male titles to address her whereas she addresses herself in the feminine. I wanted to know if they were slighting her, if they didn’t understand.

We also have the crux of the story. A cold and bitter winter has forced its way where it does not belong, and with that, forced its culture and point of view. Such an amazing metaphor for western colonization and how it tries to destroy everything it comes into contact with. The Winter Queen taking over warm lands that were reminiscent of Thailand and southeast Asia. Then, just like western colonization, the Winter Queen doesn’t just destroy the environment but is insidious enough to infect the inhabitants. She doesn’t just want to own them, she wants them to love her even as she destroys their people. It’s amazing.

Through all this, the protagonist of Winterglass by Benjanun Sriduangkaew is Nuawa, a survivor of the Winter Queen’s cruelty. She was raised to be a weapon by her one surviving mother and acts with only this in mind. Unlike other female fantasy protagonists, Nuawa is determined and she isn’t looking for love. She isn’t looking for a new family. She is existing only to bring down the Winter Queen and restore her people. Yes, she may find sex, but it doesn’t translate into love and loyalty.

One of the downsides to Winterglass is that it is too short. As such, Sriduangkaew tries to fit as much as possible into the story. While this creates a fully fleshed world, it remains a fully fleshed world we have no knowledge about. There was so much that I had no idea what it was about. Ghost kilns and weird creatures, medicine, etc. Yes, I understand it wouldn’t need explaining since to the protagonist it’s all everyday part of life, but for me, an alien reader, I need to have some sort of solid footage.

Now, with everything that I loved, why was I on the fence about this review? Why did I give it three and a half stars? After finishing this book, I googled the book and the author because I wanted to read more. Maybe a sequel or maybe other things by this author. That is when I learned about the author’s controversial activities, to the say the least. I don’t want to talk about it here, and I do believe everyone is entitled to grow and learn and change for the better. But, at the same time, it extremely disheartening to discover someone that could be a beacon in the community, where us marginalized populations could rally behind and push ahead, especially in a field as white and straight as fantasy, YA fantasy, is actually displaying the worst of us to others and picking on our own people. I understand that one thing should not impact another, but it does and it did for me. Would I read a follow-up to Winterglass by Benjanun Sriduangkaew? Probably. Most likely. Would I go out of my way to recommend her to others? Not without warning them.


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