Thorn, a rough-and-tumble warrior, finds herself unwantedly pregnant. Frostflower, one of the despised magic-using sorceri despised by the farmer-priests who rule this world, wants the baby and offers the warrior an alternative to abortion: Frostflower can use her power to bring the pregnancy to term in a winter's afternoon, and then Frostflower will take the resulting baby off Thorn's hands to raise as her own. Since any sorceron with a baby will be under suspicion of stealing it, though, getting back safely to Frostflower's retreat will be a job in itself...
The book was followed by a sequel, Frostflower and Windbourne
, in which Thorn rescues Windbourne, a young sorcerer falsely accused of murdering a priest. She takes him to Frostflower, who decides to return and investigate what really happened.
These books contain examples of:
- Action Girl: Thorn gets into multiple scrapes and wins individual skirmishes every time.
- Action Girlfriend: Thorn is this to Spendwell for much of the story.
- Back-Alley Doctor: Invoked multiple times while Thorn ponders her options for abortion.
- Better to Die than Be Killed: Invoked multiple times as a means to avoid fates worse than death.
- Break the Cutie: Arguably Frostflower's entire story until past the middle of the book.
- Cold-Blooded Torture: Two out of three forms of the death penalty are this, namely the version where the condemned is forced to swallow sharpened stones and hangs until s/he dies, and the one where s/he hangs without any bodily injury at all until death.
- The farmers made entire religious rituals out of torture, as Frostflower personally learned.
- Come to Gawk: Hangings tend to draw crowds. Including Frostflower's, of course. This is something Thorn figures into her rescue plan when she points out no one hangs around the gibbet after dark.
- Driven to Suicide: Invoked multiple times. Wouldn't you prefer a quick death rather than take days dying with a belly full of stones?
- Damsel in Distress: Frostflower ends hung up for execution and in need of rescue.
- Damsel out of Distress: Frostflower saves herself and her friends in the book's climactic scene.
- Droit du Seigneur: The farmer-priests themselves don't seem to have this, but warriors invoke "warrior's privilege" to have other women's husbands.
- Fate Worse than Death: Several. "Hanging," for instance, is not the comparatively quick death of being strung up by the neck but agonizing torture that will eventually lead to a merciful end, often with sharpened stones shredding one's bowels. Frostflower also would rather die than become Maldron's Sex Slave.
- Friends with Benefits: Spendwell and Thorn.
- Good Girls Avoid Abortion: This would be Type 3, where Thorn is absolutely hankering for an abortion until Frostflower shows up. Actually the book refreshingly averts the trope by presenting abortion as a practical choice rather than a deeply morally ambiguous issue, and arguably what Frostflower gave Thorn was a safer form of abortion that also preserved the baby's life.
- Happily Adopted: Starwind ends up with a mama who wants and loves him. Not that it was an easy path for her, like, at all.
- Heroic BSOD: Frostflower after her rape, torture, public humiliation, attempted execution, and losing her child.
- Honor Before Reason: Windbourne, Windbourne, Windbourne. Even the other sorceri think he's seriously overdoing it.
- Humiliation Conga: Shall we count the ways for poor Frostflower? First publicly raped, then stripped, ritually bathed, and tortured while Maldron's household look on—singing hymns—until finally stripped naked before a crowd to have a hot blade laid against her skin for a ritual scarring, then hung up to die.
- Mama Bear: Averted. Thorn makes a daring rescue to get Starwind back, but she could care less for her biological son except that he might get Frostflower out of her Heroic BSOD. Frostflower on the other hand would do anything for her son, suffer torture, humiliation, death—but not kill.
- Mercy Killing: Frostflower speeds up a hung warrior's time to help her die quicker.
- Thorn invokes this to Frostflower, threatening Murder-Suicide unless the sorceri uses her powers. This backfires when Frostflower agrees it's probably for the best.
- Pregnant Badass: Invoked, but averted. When Frostflower tells Maldron that Thorn is Starwind's mother, Maldron points out this is impossible because Thorn was in such fine fighting form a short while ago.
- Rape Portrayed as Redemption: This is what the mainstream of this world thinks rape is for sorceri, since losing their virginity will deprive them of their unholy powers.
- Rape By Proxy: Maldron orders the terrified merchant Spendwell to rape Frostflower in order to remove her powers.
- Really Gets Around: It seems to be part of warrior culture.
- Sex Slave: Maldron initially wanted Frostflower as a third wife. When her escape and defiance made her ineligible, he offers her this instead.
- Sword and Sorcerer: Thorn is Sword. Frostflower is Sorcerer.
- Virgin Power: Sorceri lose their powers with their virginity, resulting in truly horrific scenarios for captured sorceri. At least that's what everyone thinks. It turns out not to be true for Frostflower, and the entire premise is cast into doubt.
- World of Action Girls: Warriors are all women in this world. As the author herself points out, though, this is far from women's lib; most women aren't warriors, and the ruling class of society is the male-dominated priestly caste.