I should probably make a confession: I have made a terrible mistake; I read A Winter’s Cobalt Kiss: A Vampire Christmas in the World of Stray Witch (which I’ll refer to under the shortened (and beautiful) title, A Winter’s Cobalt Kiss from here on out) without having read the book that spawned it, Stray Witch, nor have I read any of the subsequent entries in author Eva Alton’s The Vampires of Emberbury series. While A Winter’s Cobalt Kiss (again, I love that title!) is a prequel to Stray Witch and the larger Vampires of Emberbury series, this novella assumes a limited amount of prior knowledge about these tales and the characters therein. I even disregarded the note at the beginning of the novel, suggesting the reader reads Stray Witch first. While this impacts my thoughts about this book (as outlined below), even in the absence of this prior knowledge, A Winter’s Cobalt Kiss is a thoroughly enjoyable read.
With a length of just 91 pages, or an estimated 60 swipes on your eReader of choice, there is no way around it: A Winter’s Cobalt Kiss is a short read. This is not a bad thing; its length feels entirely appropriate for what is essentially a Christmas story with an extra splash of romance, and it’s also the perfect length if you’re in the mood to pick up a book and spend a little while unwinding to some Christmas magic with a winter wonderland atmosphere.
A Winter’s Cobalt Kiss tells two discrete stories, with the novella swapping between these and their point of view protagonists. First, Alton introduces the reader to Clarence, a vampire tasked with preventing the end of the world by the end of the millennium. Second, the reader meets Alba, a witch who returns home for Christmas. These stories stand alone and do not meet or interact with one another in this novella, but it is my understanding that these characters do finally meet in Stray Witch.
To circle back to my earlier statement, I do wish I had read The Vampires of Emberbury, or at least Stray Witch, first. I found the characters weren’t particularly strongly defined here, with the book not taking the time to get us Emberbury novices up to speed. While, admittedly, it did impact my ability to gel with the characters, this was fundamentally a smart move by Alton. The story doesn’t get bogged down by introductions to the characters, explanations of their lives and associated facets (which I assume is included in Stray Witch), instead placing its focus on short, sharp tales. The result helps the flow, and the story is strong enough to stand on its own without it being a big issue. And despite this niggling away at me, the story does largely stand alone.
With this being a ‘Christmas’ book (though, technically, this story continues right through to New Year’s Eve), it offers sentimentality to the reader, including the ever-romantic, ever-fairy tale magic of true love’s kiss. Christmas is indeed a magical time of year, and Alton brings the magic to this story through these supernatural characters. It is not a tale of bloodsuckers draining the life from all those they encounter; instead, it is a celebration of what makes Christmas so special. A heartwarming tale, not a tale of warm blood being pumped into a vampire’s mouth by the heart.
Throughout this tale, Alton has imbued it with a sense of humour, with some truly witty moments that would bring a smile to most faces. This humour comes perfectly naturally (or should that be perfectly supernaturally?), flowing from the characters, rather than the author breaking the narrative in a chase for cheap laughs. I found myself chuckling away on a fair few occasions; none of these were cheap.
Alton’s prose is wonderful, bringing the same sense of magic and wonder to it as the story. The book will play with your emotions, giving you a definite case of the feels, but when it isn’t, when the prose is moving the plot forward, it is entirely pleasant, with a warm, inviting tone.
And at the end of the day, warm and inviting is what Christmas is all about. I recommend anybody that enjoys a little romance and a little holiday magic take a look at this, though I do think those who have read Stray Witch will get a little more from it.
We stopped by the bar and grabbed something to drink. I had no idea what they poured into my glass, but it was green, foamy, and delicious, and it made me tipsy in a matter of minutes. Perfect, I thought. A bit of liquid courage was exactly what I needed to stand the impending torture of talking to strangers for hours.A Winter’s Cobalt Kiss, Chapter 4
A Winter’s Cobalt Kiss: A Vampire Christmas in the World of Stray Witch was purchased for Kindle from Amazon.
A Winter’s Cobalt Kiss is available in both paperback and eBook formats from book retailers (including—but not limited to—Amazon).
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