ICYMI Joint Review: Dead of Winter by Kresley Cole (Arcana Chronicles #3)


Note from VBC HQ: It’s Throwback Week at VBC, and we’re highlighting some of your favorite reviews from VBC. I’m particularly pleased that our review of Dead of Winter was one of the most-read reviews this year, because I clearly had THOUGHTS. But also, we generally just love all things Kresley Cole and most of the VBC staff is up-to-date (and obsessed) with the Arcana Chronicles series. Which was more a of sucker punch of a book for you: Dead of Winter or the latest book Arcana Rising?

Dead of Winter by Kresley Cole // VBC ReviewDead of Winter (Arcana Chronicles #3)
Kresley Cole
Published: Jan. 6, 2015 (Simon & Schuster)
Purchase: Book Depository or Amazon
Review Source: Purchased

Review by: Chelsea & Jo

Rating (out of 5): 4 stars

Chelsea: Usually VBC is a spoiler-free zone. We like talking about books in a way that lets you know what’s awesome without spoiling the experience. Today, though, we have to do something different. Jo and I went to do our joint review of Dead of Winter, a book that was at the top of our most anticipated 2015 books, and all we wanted to talk about was the ending.

Non-spoiler review: We loved this book, until the end. Then we were really conflicted. It’s still absolutely worth the read, though.

If you haven’t read Dead of Winter and don’t want to know about what choices Evie makes and about a mega twist, please don’t read past here.


Chelsea: Endless Knight had me falling for Death. Then the end of the book flipped that, and I remembered my loyalty to Jack. Yet somehow within the early pages of Dead of Winter, I found myself pining for Death. I still hold a soft spot for Jack, but in Evie’s shoes I’d be giving it up to Aric.

What about you? Were you Team Jack or Team Death at the beginning of the book? I know you’re Team Jack now.

Jo: Nope, I think through out both books so far I’ve been stubbornly Team Jack, and Dead of Winter did nothing to sway me from the swoony Cajun. I always love the underdog, and even though some may argue that Aric holds that title here with Jack having the popular vote from basically all others characters, I have to disagree. Jack has to hold his human own against not just the apocalypse but also a bunch of badass, nature wielding Arcana and he does it with such style!

So Dead of Winter brought me great joy (lots of Jack time!), but also had me wanting to throw my kindle across the room when I read the last 10 percent. Being Team Death, how did you feel?

Chelsea: You’re totally right about Jack being impressive. He becomes a legend literally in this book. It’s great to see him take the lead, but for me I was all about seeing Death have so much faith in Evie. And loved seeing her come into her own, which is probably why I had so many issues with the final 10 percent.

First, let’s talk about Evie’s choice. There was no big definitive reason for her to pick either one of them, which I think is why I needed her to pick Death. He’s proven he wasn’t going to lie to her, he trusted her, he made her needs a priority, and respected her boundaries (he’s trying to make up for that big screw up at the end of the last book). So, the fact that her reason for picking Jack was “I loved him first” was incredibly lame to me. It was like she said “screw it” and eeny meeny miny moe’d that choice.

Jo: I totally agree that Death grew a lot in this book. He opened up, not just Evie, but also to the other Arcana and really tried his best to play well with others! I could totally see why Evie should pick him at times. Obviously I was pleased she picked Jack but, like you, I thought her reasoning was rushed (or you know, nonexistent!). If she’d said she’d picked him because he represented who she wanted to be after/if they could beat the game or something like that, her choice would have been clearer. I know it added to the suspense but I just wished we had been more privy to Evie’s thought process that last night.

But the fact that she picked Jack has made me sure of one thing: Jack can’t possibly be dead. What would have been the point of her picking him?! The irritating fact about that would be Evie will think he is dead, fall harder for Death and when Jack comes back (in a blaze of crossbow wielding glory) we’ll be right back to square one on the love triangle front! (Also, I totally think Jack is the hidden card—the one that only comes online when they kills another Arcana, which I’m pretty sure Jack hasn’t done yet?! Who’s with me?).

Chelsea: I’m with you on Jack being the hidden card and whatever happened at the end of Dead of Winter may activate him. Honestly, that ending left me feeling a lot like I did at the end of Suzanne Collins’ Mockingjay. Like none of it mattered. Evie didn’t have much agency in those last chapters. She made this forced decision, but was going to go with it, and then the carpet was yanked out from under her. Jack dies (maybe?) and Death is there for her even though he knows he isn’t the one she wants. She didn’t drive the action at all—even in making a choice—and that blows. She’s such a strong character and has really driven the plot for the majority of the book. She pushed things forward with the Lovers and saved lives. She made important decisions. Then we get to the romance finale for the book and it’s like she loses her strength.

Plus, as a Team Death person, it’s a cop-out for me to get them together without her making the decision to be with him. He can’t be with anyone else, and how much is that going to rock his psyche? I just can’t.

Jo: I’m not sure either Team will be totally satisfied with how Dead of Winter played out. I will be very interested to see what the romantic direction will be like in the next book, especially for the end of this one to make sense.

Saying that up until that last 10 percent… Holy awesome, batman how good was this book?! I couldn’t, wouldn’t put it down. I’ve fallen more and more in love with this world and the fabulous mythology. Everyone kicked arse, I actually liked Selena and we met even more cards!! I can’t wait to find out more, especially about The Emperor and the Priestess. It’s huge but I only ever want to know more! That being said, like previous installments, Dead of Winter was pretty dark and downright horror-filled in parts. The Lovers? *shudder*

Chelsea: The torture parts with the Lovers were gruesome. There was one device that I remembered from the movie The Cell. It horrified me then, and it horrified me in this book. (You can’t see it, but I totally shuddered just thinking about it.) That said, I think this book was the most action-packed we’ve had yet, and I really enjoyed that there was a constant threat moving all the cards forward.

Jo: so with all that being said, will you be picking up the next book in the series when it’s released?

Chelsea: That’s a resounding HELL YES. You?

Jo: Without a shadow of a doubt! I needs to know!! Rating?

Chelsea: For the first 90 percent of the book it was 5 stars, but the ending really flopped for me. So, I’m docking a little. Dead of Winter brought the action and some delightful sexual tension, but the lack of agency at the end puts it at 4 stars from me.  

Jo: I’m going to agree and say 4 stars, although that may change when this book has more context within the series. I’ll certainly be interested to revisit this one after reading future books and see if I feel the same about the ending.

Sexual content: Kissing, references to sex, torture

Originally posted 1/13/15

14 Responses to “ICYMI Joint Review: Dead of Winter by Kresley Cole (Arcana Chronicles #3)”

  1. I listened to book one late last year. I still need to listen to book two.

  2. Sarah says:

    I love love loved the book – until the end. 🙂 I really go back and forth on who Evie should be with – I have total Cajun love for Jack but at the same time it seems so hard on poor Aric that he only gets one shot at a girl and she’s already taken. I didn’t like the feel of the whole choice situation – it felt really forced, like Evie didn’t have a chance to really think it through because both men were pressing the issue, so she just went with her first love. And it seems to me that if I were Aric, even with Jack supposedly dead, it would be really hard for me to forget that Evie didn’t choose me and go on to make a life with her, even if she is the only one he could be with. I feel like that would rankle… That said, I don’t believe Jack is dead either and he’ll pop up like the unsinkable hottie he is. Can’t wait to see what Death’s been doing with Evie’s grandma, though!

  3. I wholeheartedly agree – 90% of the book was amazing. It was creepy, suspenseful and heartwarming to see the growth in the relationships – romantic and platonic. But the rush and push for 17-year-old Evie to commit to one man was too much. With all their much larger and more significant problems, IMO the love triangle was the least of her concerns. Just because a decision would make life easier for Jack and Aric did not mean it was her responsibility to make them happy by making such a hasty choice. I would rather see her draw on her personal strength and tell them to slow their roll. If she’s not worth fighting for and waiting for, then maybe they don’t want her as much as they think they do.

    Also, I was not a fan of the chasing after Jack only to have him come to a potential deadly end. Having read a lot of KC’s books, it just seemed heavy handed, but she has pulled it off before and I’ll hope the next book makes it worth it.

    All in all, I read through the night – so it was a pretty great book and worth the loss of sleep and the subsequent book hangover the next day! 🙂

    • You know, I really wanted Evie to tell them that she wouldn’t pick either. It would have been nice to see her say “you don’t get to force me” and not given a decision.

      However, I’ll agree that Kresley has the talent to pull it off.

      • Exactly. It especially bothers me in the context that this is a YA series. Not that authors have a responsibility for creating heroines that young ladies can model themselves after, but this to me, was a missed opportunity for Evie to stand tall and tell them both if they don’t like her process they can take a hike. In this ugly dystopian world, Evie is a powerhouse: smart, powerful, brave – and still has all her teeth. She’s quite the catch and, if anything, they should be willing to share her given the shortage of viable women. Perhaps she can start a male harem in this new world?!?!

  4. Natalie says:

    I’m team Jack and always will be so I went from a super, jump-on-the-bed* high to a crashing low when she was so close to him and tragedy struck. If I were Evie I’d be straight back to finding Temperance and getting her to turn back time to save Jack again 😛

    *actual reaction.

  5. Natalie says:

    My bad. Not Temperance. The World. Distracted while commenting 😛

  6. “I loved him first” …. anyone else have Elena, Stefan and Damon flashback?! Every since I meet Death I’ve been Team Death and I remain on his side. No to say that Jack doesn’t have his good points too. But there’s something about Aric and pulls me in more.

    • Oops I hint reply too soon. I also gave it 4 stars where the other two books rated 5 with me. I gave it 4 stars because the love triangle took up too much of the book for my taste so I had to drop it a star. I can’t wait for the next book!!

  7. sayan says:

    I also believe that Jack is the hidden arcana and the death of Selana has transformed him as Arcana (otherwise, there is no point that she dies….. and KC gives us the indirect kill theory)

    I also believe that Mathew is for the end of the games and manipulates everybody for this final aim. For this, Evie needs to become the Red Witch and he is at the orgin of end thanks to Emperor / Mato set up (‘do not hate me’)

  8. angel lawson says:

    Thanks for the review. I agree 100%. I’ve been Team Jack but I definitely warmed to Death during this book so at the end I really didn’t know which way she should go. Like you all, I honestly felt like she should choose Team Evie and stick to the game and forget about love for a minute. K. Cole has set up an amazing world and it’s too bad she’s relying on the love triangle more than the fantastic world she’s created.

    There was a bit too much love triangle for me during the whole book but ultimately it was the final 10 pages that I was totally lost. Jack leaving Evie made zero sense (other than to separate them for the final scene) and was totally out of character. Killing off Selena was a bit like killing off Finnick. I had to go back and read it twice to make sure it had even happened. Blah. Weird, unsatisfying ending, but yes, I’ll read the next one. I do love this world she’s created.

  9. kasey says:

    I think Jack is the emperor…him laughing at the end and evie saying no don’t you understand Jacks not dead! She realized he has betrayed her…

  10. Lily says:

    Team Aric by far!!! Well, I mean they are perfect toguether. They can read, talk about silly things and they understand each other.
    Even in a part Evie Said something like “maybe he is my soulmate” and the…she goes with jack. What the hell? And she was like “I Love Jack first” that was bullshit. If she is going to end with jack I want a good argument. I like Jack, he is amazing and perfect in his own way but from my point of view he isn’t the correct choice. I think that now that jack is out of the scene (even if it is a moment because he can’t be dead) Evie is goin to fall for Aric…again. So, I dont have any idea of how this will end! But my heart will be broken if she doesn’t ends with Aric!
    This book was great but I still prefering the first and the second book, ant the part of the lovers? Was so creepy and amazing! Mathew, where are you? I have lost of questions. It will be a torture to wait

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