Snow Like Ashes #1
by Sara Raasch
Published on October 14, 2014 by Balzer + Bray
Genres: Fantasy, Young Adult
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A heartbroken girl. A fierce warrior. A hero in the making.
Sixteen years ago the Kingdom of Winter was conquered and its citizens enslaved, leaving them without magic or a monarch. Now, the Winterians’ only hope for freedom is the eight survivors who managed to escape, and who have been waiting for the opportunity to steal back Winter’s magic and rebuild the kingdom ever since.
Orphaned as an infant during Winter’s defeat, Meira has lived her whole life as a refugee, raised by the Winterians’ general, Sir. Training to be a warrior—and desperately in love with her best friend, and future king, Mather — she would do anything to help her kingdom rise to power again.
So when scouts discover the location of the ancient locket that can restore Winter’s magic, Meira decides to go after it herself. Finally, she’s scaling towers, fighting enemy soldiers, and serving her kingdom just as she’s always dreamed she would. But the mission doesn’t go as planned, and Meira soon finds herself thrust into a world of evil magic and dangerous politics – and ultimately comes to realize that her destiny is not, never has been, her own.
“We are Winter.”
I’ve been waiting to get a hold of a copy of Snow Like Ashes for a while now. It took a little over a year but I finally made that happen. As such, I think it’s the perfect book to review as a kick-off for 2016.
This book is exactly what I crave in a YA fantasy novel. I’ve had it on my to-read list since before it was released. The synopsis alone was enough to catch my attention among the other fabulous young adult novels of the time. And what fantasy lover could resist this cover? You don’t see chakrams very often as a weapon of choice, giving it that stand-out vibe. Sure, the cover shouldn’t matter to the story but if I’m being perfectly honest, an intriguing cover is more likely to catch my attention in the store than a bland one. I think we all judge a book by it’s cover (quite literally) to an extent.
Within the pretty picture, however, is an equally intriguing world: Primoria, the land of the four Season kindgoms, and the four Rhythm kingdoms. With country names like Winter, Spring, Summer, and Autumn (and capital cities oddly similar to months), I expected a level of cheesiness. Instead, Raasch brough her A-game and provided a world steeped in history that we’ve only gotten a taste for in this first novel. There’s magic afoot but not in the traditional sense of witches and wizards. I thought that giving it to only eight people was an interesting way to add the element to the story without making it a character in its own right, as magic can become.
With great worldbuilding, I also have to hand it to Raasch on her writing. The pace moved a bit slow for my tastes but it soon didn’t matter as I was swept away by the story and suddenly the slowness made all the more sense.
Meira, a young orphan and member of the remaining refugees from Winter, had a level of feistiness I’ve come to love from YA heroines. She stood up for what she believed in, but also knew when to back down and do what was best for the situation (and not necessarily for her). That extra character trait endeared her to me throughout the whole novel. Her gang of fellow refugees helped set the stage of this fantasy by being as diverse as people generally are, something not always found in YA books, I’ve noticed. “Sir” acts as the leader, training and protecting what little remains of his former home. He always felt like the rock in their group, the glue holding everyone together and I think that’s how Meira imagined him too. And then there’s Mather, king-to-be and just about ready for his responsibilities as Meira is to be called a lady. His confusion read as, well, human and gave him that extra level of real-ness that I felt Meira had too.
What I wasn’t a fan of, however, was the insta-love. Okay, maybe not truly instant as it’d been brewing for years, but her Mather right from the get-go (only a few pages in and she’s already commenting about him) was a bit too much. I like a good romance in my stories, don’t get me wrong, but I also want time to crave two characters getting together before they do. That build typically entwines me into the story even more, as a reader, but this pushed me away initially.
You’d think that she’d leave it at that, maybe let the two have their thing. But nope. Enter the dreaded love triangle.
I was so disappointed by this. For all the great aspects of this book, this dropped it from 5 to 4 stars for me. I would’ve been okay if she and Theron had become friends because that’s perfectly reasonable considering the situation they’re placed in by the powers-that-be. And Meira’s actions led me to believe that was the direction their relationship was heading, especially compared to how she acted around Mather. Up until the last fourth of the book, one heated encounter, and poof, Theron’s in the game and even a little ahead of his competition. Where I get hung up on the whole matter is that I never got the impression that they were going to be a “thing” based on their interactions with each other. We get the Meira/Mather deal from the beginning but this goes from (almost forced) friendship into something much more.
Despite this element of YA that plagues the genre, I truly enjoyed Snow Like Ashes and look forward to reading the sequel (fingers crossed that the library gets it soon). Raasch provides an enchanting fantasy swirling with magic and war, with a hint of romance. I’m glad I finally got the chance to read it, and that it was the book to pull me from my most recent reading slump as an added bonus!
“Don’t you want more than this?” I breathe, finally looking up at him. […] “Every day of my life.”
“Even the strongest blizzard starts with a single snowflake.”