Monday, April 27, 2015

Review: Snow Like Ashes - Sara Raasch

Snow Like Ashes by Sara Raasch
Series: Snow Like Ashes #1
Genre: YA, fantasy
Published on October 14, 2014
Published by Balzer + Bray
Pages: 416
Read From: 4.6.15 - 4.10.15

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.


Dear Snow Like Ashes,

Another high fantasy among so, so many. It seems to be the new "in thing" for YA. I didn't have any high or low expectations for you. I was prepared for a typical, but entertaining, adventure.

In Meira's world, there are eight kingdoms, for of which experience one specific season all year 'round, with no deviation. Meira's kingdom of Winter has fallen to the ruthless ruler of Spring - Angra - who seeks to control all of the Season Kingdoms and eventually all four Rhythm Kingdoms as well. Meira is one of eight free Winterians - one of whom is the sole surviving heir to the throne. Now, they travel as exiled nomads, trying to reclaim the stolen conduit to their magic and restore their kingdom. But it won't be easy. Angra is powerful, but even they don't know just how powerful his magic truly is.

Your world building, Snow Like Ashes, is extremely well thought out and clear. I at first thought the Seasons Kingdoms were a little silly and basic. But as we explored them more, a complex history and culture was revealed. I hope the Rhythm Kingdoms are explored with as much depth in the future. They experience all four seasons like we do; why? Why are they called the Rhythm Kingdoms?

Perhaps even more pleasing than your world building was how easy it was to get behind your characters. Meira was just a baby when Winter fell. She's never actually seen the homeland; only heard stories. She wants nothing more than to matter to her country; to do something to help it. But their general - Sir William - won't let her. Meira chafes at the restriction; at the lack of action. It sometimes led to rash action. However, Meira truly is capable, so it's hard to fault her for stupidity when she in fact succeeds. I normally don't like protagonists who sit around whining about not being allowed to help. But Meira proves her abilities over and over, and she keeps a surprisingly mostly good humor about it, so she doesn't whine. When she finally does get to help the refugees in a very significant way, and Sir does nothing but criticize, my sympathy doubled.

Mather, the Winterian future king, is a young man uncertain of his duties. The magical conduits work based on gender, and unfortunately for Mather, the Winterian conduit only works for the female line. So even if they regain their conduit, Mather will be fighting against impossible odds. His is a heavy burden and I felt for him.

I had more of a love-hate relationship with Sir (William). As the man who rescued Mather and Meira and kept the survivors going, his role is not an easy one. He has to make hard decisions based on the good of the kingdom. It can make him callous. And nothing Sir does is without reason. In the beginning I hated him for being so hard on Meira. Towards the end, it started to make sense.

Your villains, Snow Like Ashes, were very good. Herod was despicable and creepy; Angra downright intimidating; and Noam (yes, I consider him a villain) so very easy to hate.

In truth, <i>Snow Like Ashes</i>, I only have two complaints. No. #1: the love triangle. I liked both Mather and Theron - especially Theron. Bookish and king, he listened to Meira. But as soon as he and Mather started fighting over Meira, they both looked like idiots. To Meira's credit, she doesn't toy with their feelings. She comes to a decision very quickly. Almost too quickly.

Which brings me to Complaint No. #2: the pace. For a while, you keep up a breakneck speed that goes way too quickly. In one respect, it was a nice change. How many stories have the girl training to become a princess and that's where the book decides to spend all its time? Snore! But no sooner does Meira accept her role as a future princess to a prince she hardly knows (AKA Theron), when bam! She's on the run again! Halfway through, though, your pace evens out with the events and I could no longer complain.

Overall, you were a really fun read. I saw several of the important twists coming, though I couldn't exactly figure out the details of the how. As annoying as your love triangle was, at least it was short-lived. You had an interesting world and good characters and were downright brutal at times. I liked you.

Feeling content,
Mara A.

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