1. This is PNR, not UF.
Yes, the Fever books got pretty hot and heavy by the end, but in the Fever books Mac started with a single mission (find her sister's killer) that carried through the entire series. Barrons started with a single mission (obtain the Sinsar Dubh) that carried through the entire series. These missions, the worldbuilding, drove much of the books.
ICED is more a monster-of-the-week type book. People are dying in Dublin in a mysterious way. Our protagonists must identify and destroy the big bad before the book is over. More "epic" stuff happens in ICED than happened in the first two or three Fever books combined, but Mac and Barrons' quests felt so much more epic. Why? Because the plot of ICED is just a thin excuse for relationship drama.
2. Dani is charming. I loved her.
I didn't expect to, but she was great. She's an unrepentant rascal, cheery and hard-bitten, tough and wide-eyed. I loved her POV.
3. Ryoden is awful.
He is the anti-Barrons. Let's examine some differences, shall we?
Barrons waits for Mac to come to him. She's desperate and he takes advantage, but she's free to leave anytime. Ryoden makes demands of Dani that she wants to refuse but cannot, because Ryoden cages, tortures, and threatens her (and NO, none of those words are exaggerations - the first example occurs very early on in the book, when Ryoden keeps Dani manacled in a dungeon for several days without food or water). She is not free to walk away.
This is particularly bad because, as we also learn early on, Dani has a profound fear of cages and restraint. Ryoden knows this and does it anyhow.
Barrons shows his increasing admiration for Mac by making her stronger, fiercer, and more independent. By the end of DARKFEVER, Barrons has given Mac the Spear of Light - an immensely powerful weapon. Ryoden shows his interest in Dani by trying to take things away from her, trying to make her feel helpless and powerless. Prime example? When Dani loses her sword, Ryoden refuses to help her retrieve it. In fact, he makes a hands-off deal with the thief and tells Dani he'd just as soon she never gets it back.
The way Barrons treated other women never made me want to vomit. Not a huge accomplishment, I know. No gold stars for "well, I didn't want to vomit". But I thought he was upfront and fair with Fio. Ryoden, on the other hand, is vile to the women he has sex with - sleeping with his employees, discarding them like - KMM's words here! - "used condoms". The worst part, maybe the grossest thing in a book full of gross stuff, was when Ryoden starts sleeping with Dani's friend Jo. Why? To separate Dani from a friend? To hurt Dani and make her feel betrayed? Because it's the closest he can get to having sex with 14-year-old Dani?This whole scenario just made me want to shut the book and say, "Enough of you people."
4. Forget the slow build
To my mind, the thing that made Mac and Barrons' romance so epic is how long it took to develop. For the first few books, I was actively rooting for Mac and Barrons NOT to get together. It wasn't until late in the Fever series that we started getting major revelations, like the fact that Barrons can't die. These revelations cement the intimacy Mac and Barrons have developed and, because the trust between them is so hard-won, every one felt like a victory.
There's one thing that hasn't changed: I was definitely rooting for Dani and Ryoden NOT to get together in ICED. In fact, I was rooting for them NEVER to get together and for Dani to pick a different guy because, as I mentioned in #3, Ryoden is awful.
And I might have faith. I'll read the next book just because KMM has proved she can accomplish some amazing reversals. But there's no slow build here. From the beginning, Ryodan has decided that Dani is his girl. He'll wait until she's older to have sex with her, but in the meanwhile he plans to groom her into his ideal woman by subjecting her to a constant barrage of abuse and degradation.
We get some major revelations in ICED - many of them familiar from SHADOWFEVER - but there's no victory this time, no sense of a milestone having been reached. For example: Dani sees Ryoden die. At this stage, there's no trust or affection between them. When Ryodan comes back, he makes it clear that only Dani can know about his resurrection - if any other woman finds out, she'll be killed. So this huge, wonderful plot point of SHADOWFEVER is slapped down in ICED much, much too early and becomes just another example of how gross and creepy Ryodan is.
5. Dani is 14.
For some reason, I didn't expect this to bother me. Maybe because I assumed the Dani books would give us another slow build, plenty of time for relationships to grow and evolve naturally, in the least-creepy way possible.
Boy was I wrong.
Here are some gross, inappropriate things that happen in ICED: Ryoden gets in Dani's bed, Dani ends up in Christian's bed, Dani strips at various points for both men, both of whom are attracted by her body, Christian uses his new death-by-sex aura on Dani, Ryoden is so overwhelmed by attraction to Dani that he has to go have sex with another woman immediately.
6. So why 3 stars?
Because there are new books ahead, and KMM has surprised me before. There's still some possibility that all the gross stuff in ICED is meant to be gross. If it turns out we were supposed to be revolted and offended, if we're supposed to hate Ryodan and he's going to evolve away from the person he is now, I could get back on board.
3 stars is my way of saying: I loved the Fever series enough that I still have hope.
Tl;dr summary: disappointing and gross. Now, on to the bulletpoints!