Snow Like Ashes by Sara Raasch
Publisher: Balzer + Bray
Goodreads link: (click here)
What's it about?
It was sixteen years ago when the Kingdom of Winter was conquered by an evil magician and his army. It's people were enlslaved, it's queen was murdered and it's magic was stolen. A small group of refugees managed to escape, but over the years, their number has dwindled to only eight. Among these eight remaining Winterians is Meira, who was only an infant when Winter fell. She's never even seen her homeland, but she's heard the stories and still feels connected to it. All this time, Meira and the others have been trying to retrieve the pieces of a locket that contains the magic of Winter. With the power within this locket they hope to win the freedom of their people. They have never stopped fighting, but it becomes more difficult as time passes. All Meira wants to do is help her people, she wants to matter. Her guardian, a man she calls "Sir", will not let her go out on missions until she proves herself in training, but when she finally is sent out, she achieves the impossible. Meira retrieves half of the locket, restoring hope to the ravaged Kingdom of Winter. But instead of praise, a simple mistake she makes sends them all on the run again.
With little time to spare, they must flee and search for help in neighboring lands. Their first priority is protecting the future King of Winter, Mather, who was also an infant when they escaped sixteen years ago. Meira has another reason for wanting to keep Mather safe. She grew up with him as best friends, but she's also desperately in love with him. She knows that there can never be anything between them because he's royalty and she's just an orphan, but for the moment, they are working towards the same goal of saving their Kingdom, so Meira cherishes whatever time they have together. But soon, Meira becomes a polical pawn and her future is bartered away. Just when she thinks her life is no longer her own, she is thrust into the middle of everything once again, and this time it's up to her to be the brave hero she's always wanted to be. When the truth about Winter's fall and it's missing magic are revealed, Meira's life and destiny will be forever changed.
This really was a fantastic fantasy, but it actually took a few days for all of it to sink in. I couldn't review it right away because I was absorbing all of the information about the very complex world Sara Raasch created. This may sound weird, but I liked it even more a few days after I read it. There were moments that were brilliant, but also a few lulls because the pacing was a bit slow. I think that's because there was SO MUCH INFORMATION being thrown at me about the different Kingdoms, the history of the conflicts in the world and the way that magic works. This was a pretty complicated world that required several information dumps and I admit that I'm still a little bit confused about a few things. For instance, there are eight Kingdoms, four of them are called Season Kingdoms, obviously because the Kingdoms each represent a season. The other four are called Rhythm Kingdoms, because...um, just because. I think. I'm pretty sure there was no explanation, but perhps i just missed it because it was in with other information...but I don't think so. When I got confused I moved on. Some things eventually made sense later.
I really liked the characters in Snow Like Ashes, especially Theron. He's pretty cool. Theron is a dashing, handsome prince, but he's also an artist and a warrior. Some of the best lines in the book were spoken by him. Meira began this story as a girl who just wanted to be important and she ended up not dissappointing me. Plus, she did, in fact, kick a whole bunch of ass. I liked that. This book also layed the foundation for a love triangle and I'm looking forward to seeing how it plays out. SO much potential there! I love Theron and Mather, so either one works for me. The "bad guys" in this book were also wonderfully wicked. I could have used a little bit more action overall, but when it was there, it was great and fun and exciting. I did figure out the big reveal pretty quickly and I wish it was a little better hidden, but having it known by the end of the book makes me look forward to where the story will go next. I struggled a bit with my Goodreads rating because, despite it being a bit confusing at times and a little too packed with information, I still really enjoyed the idea, the story and the characters. I did settle on 4 stars, because it has a lot of potential for future books.
So, I guess I'll just enjoy my own Winter Kingdom while I wait for the next book...
(Sorry, Meira, but it's snowing right now in my world.)