Author: Sara Raasch
Series: Snow Like Ashes (book #1)
Genre: YA Fantasy
Format: Paperback (416 pages)
Publisher: Balzer + Bray (September 15th 2015; originally published October 14th 2014)
My Goodreads rating: 4/5 stars
Book Depository: Snow Like Ashes
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. Training to be a warrior—and desperately in love with her best friend, Winter’s future king—she would do anything to help Winter 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—only to find 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.
Hey there, strangers! One day, one day I will get through all the books I keep piling on my TBR list, but I’m happy to say that I’m getting there! Snow Like Ashes is one book (and trilogy) that I’ve been wanting to get to for quite some time, and I’m pleased I’ve finally gotten the trilogy started. The review today will be short and sweet, perhaps not as in- depth as usual, because I haven’t really got a lot to say about this book except that, for reasons I can’t quite explain, I really enjoyed it. Let’s discuss:
Before I get into anything, I just need to say this: Snow Like Ashes will not win any originality awards, for obvious reasons. Is the world-building, plot and character arcs anything that we’ve never read about before? Nope. Not by a long shot. Did I care? Honestly, I thought I would, especially when I started to get into the book and discovered that everything I was reading had been done before, and a lot of the time much better. But, to my amazement, I wasn’t left seething with rage at having to read the “typical YA fantasy book” all over again.
I actually found myself really, really liking this little book.
I don’t know what it is about it! First of all, despite what the Goodreads page says, this book is nowhere as dark and gritty as it tries to tell us it is:
“A striking fantasy tale of dark magic, dangerous politics, and discovering your true self—perfect for fans of Game of Thrones, An Ember in the Ashes and A Court of Thorns and Roses.”
Snow Like Ashes is far too mild to be compared to Game of Thrones and An Ember in the Ashes, even though technically there are gritty political schemes going on in this book. But that is the only way I can put it. It felt a little….safe? Does that sound right? I mean, it has all the markings of a “dark” YA fantasy book about fallen Kingdoms, etc. Here’s a quick checklist:
- Kingdom overtaken by some corrupt government plot
- A strong female protag burdened with reclaiming said Kingdom
- Love interest(s) to keep things spicy
- A group of people from said Kingdom that are barely surviving
- Corrupt leaders
- Map of made-up Kingdom thrown in at the start of novel
- Just enough world-building to try to make the book seem original
- Some kind of system in said world; in this case a magic caste system
The list goes on. But the thing is, I’m not actually angry at the book. Nor do I want to bash it. Because holy hell was it a super fun read.
Sure, the exposition was piled on a bit heavy at the start, as was the history of the Kingdoms, the magic system, and the relationship between them. But I was actually drawn into the story from the start, and I think this had to do with the characters.
I love Meira. In general, I have no problem with the “female protagonist who must save everyone” trope, because it is literally everywhere. Sometimes, some female protags are written better than others. Some come across as too perfect, some are given flaws to try to make them seem realistic but instead make them unbearable. Meira is neither. She is sassy, strong, hilarious and a wonderful character to support. I love how she was raised to help reclaim a Kingdom that was taken before she could even get to know it, and how her training has made her both a warrior and a compassionate woman who knows when sacrifice is necessary. I loved watching her prove her strength, and she was never selfish nor whiny in any way. Okay, I admit it, I’m a little bit obsessed. She’s really funny too, and I love certain scenes in which she would rather jump off buildings to train than listen to others’ instructions. My feminist heart is glowing.
And despite what I said about the book being a little mild for the task it takes on, this doesn’t mean that it didn’t have its dark moments. It was actually harrowing reading about what happened to Winter because of a thirst for power, and the fate of Winter’s citizens is quite brutal. The entire final half of the book is gritty, sombre and terrifying, so it was great to see Meira have to face the threats she has been on the run from all her life.
Someday we will be more than words in the dark.
The other characters, from Sir/William to Mather to Prince Theron, are all great characters who only added to my enjoyment of the book. Meira’s complex relationship with her father-figure, William, is really interesting to read about, because it’s clear they care about each other but as always, reclaiming Winter must come first. And ok, this book has one of my least favourite tropes of all time:
The cursed love triangle.
But, I admit, even that failed to anger me. Because for once, it was done well. Usually, both contenders are either ridiculously imbalanced in some way, or so ridiculously perfect that I would rather eat hot pokers than try to pick a side. But Mather, the best friend who she was never allowed to love, and Prince Theron, the man she distrusts and learns to understand, are both fantastic characters. I actually like both of them, and I really want to read on to know who Meira chooses. Another great thing? The love triangle doesn’t swamp the book. It’s there, but Meira knows when to drop all the romancy thoughts for more pressing matters. Can I hear an Hallelujah???
Finally, Raasch is a really good writer who knows how to keep a story going. Although not too long of a book, there was enough packed in to keep me wanting more. And I appreciate the effort she puts in to try to give some substantial force to both the plot, world-building and characters. And a certain reveal at the end genuinely caught me by surprise, so hats off to you, Raasch. Will I read the rest of the trilogy? Um, hell to the yes, shamelessly. It was a nice, quick, entertaining read that I’m glad I got to experience.
And that is it for this review! As always, I’d love to hear your thoughts about this book if you have any, and thank you so much for reading. More coming up later in the week!