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.
Woah. This book was amazing! I don’t really read very much SFF (I’m more of a contemporary reader), but I’ve been trying to read more widely this year and Snow Like Ashes is definitely somewhere at the top of my list of fantasy favourites. Snow Like Ashes is the first book in a trilogy by Sara Raasch, and also her debut novel.
This book is filled with action and adventure. It was so engrossing and exciting to read, and my excitement kept escalating as I progressed through the book. The last 100 pages (and especially the last 50) were so good! By the time I finished the book, I felt so exhilarated that I couldn’t sleep. But in addition to all the excitement I felt, the story also made me want to cry from sadness and hope. It definitely gave me all the feels. There were a couple of twists in the plot that were a little bit predictable to me. But the reveals were done so well that I didn’t mind that it was predictable.
My favourite part of Snow Like Ashes was the world that Sara Raasch created. The book is set in a land called Primoria, which is split up into eight kingdoms. Four of the kingdoms are Season kingdoms and these only experience one season all year round. (Apparently Game of Thrones has a similar season-based world? I haven’t read or watched Game of Thrones so I can’t comment on that). The other four are Rhythm kingdoms and they experience all four seasons. I thought this was really interesting, especially because the people who live in each kingdom really embody what their kingdom represents. For example, Winterians all have white hair and blue eyes and those from Spring have blonde hair and green eyes. Each kingdom also has their own sayings and references, which I thought was really charming.
“Oh, sweet snow. Seriously?”
There was a lot of really good world building in the book. I thought the first 25 pages of the book was a little bit info-dumpy – Sara Raasch was a bit heavy handed with the world building. But aside from that, the world building felt very natural throughout the rest of the book. Initially, I didn’t think that there was anything that special about the world but as I got further into the book, I realised that it was more complex than it first seemed. It’s a very intricate and well thought out world. I’m glad that the plot took us to a couple of different kingdoms so that we could see the differences between them. And I can’t wait to learn more about the customs and history of each of the kingdoms in the next two books.
The magic system is also very complex and interesting to read about. The royal family of each kingdom has a conduit that they can use to control the people in their own kingdom. We’ve only scratched the tip of the iceberg in Snow Like Ashes but the rest of the trilogy will definitely develop this wonderful magic system even further.
The characters in this book were also very well-developed. We get a good sense of who each character is and what they represent. Most of the characters were likeable and I found myself really rooting for them and going along with them on their journeys. Our protagonist, Meira, is a strong and independent girl, which is a trend we’re starting to see more and more of in YA now. But what sets her apart, for me, is that she’s not flawless or selfless. She does things with herself in mind and isn’t always sacrificing herself for everybody else. She had some selfish moments, but I found them to be kind of refreshing. There was a little bit of character development – Meira learns that she does need to do things for the greater good, but she’s still aware of who she is and who she wants to be.
There is a small love triangle in the book but I didn’t mind it too much. It felt very realistic and the romance wasn’t the main focus of the book anyway. Mather is our first love interest. He and Meira had mutual feelings for each other before the book even begins. Theron is introduced later on, and feelings start to develop then. So it felt like a natural progression from liking one person to developing feelings for somebody new in your life. Theron and Meira did feel a little bit insta-lovey – there was that spark of electricity that I hate seeing in books.
But Theron. Oh Theron. He’s pretty much a combination of everything I want in a book boyfriend. He’s a book nerd, has amazing abs, and is just a super nice guy to everybody.
But I just stand there, eyes narrowing to hide the fact that my initial reaction is to gape at Theron’s bare expanse of glistening skin. He’s shirtless – and it’s clear that Cordell subjects its men to rigorous chest exercises.
Did I mention, he has amazing abs? There’s not much more I want from a book, to be honest.