Wednesday, January 7, 2015

Review of Snow Like Ashes by Sara Raasch

Raasch, Sara.  Snow Like Ashes. Balzer +    Bray, 2014.

On the continent of Primoria, there are four Season Kingdoms—Spring, Summer, Winter, and Autumn, which sit on a chasm of magic.  All of them have eternal seasons and female rulers who wield magic through conduits, talismans to control their kingdoms.  The Rhythm Kingdoms—Paisly, Ventralli, Yakim, and Cordell—go through all four seasons and have males who rule through their conduits.  The eight kingdoms lived in more or less in harmony until Angra, Spring’s evil conduit, and his army attacked and destroyed Winter, broke its conduit in half, and killed its queen.  Only twenty-five of Winter’s citizens were able to escape; they rest were killed or taken to Spring’s work camps.

Sixteen years later, only eight Winterians remain of those who escaped.  They are constantly moving around so as not to be captured by Angra or his general, Herod.  The eight citizens spend their days trying to survive and searching for their conduit.  Finding the two halves of their conduit would mean freedom, the return of magic, and the rebuilding of their kingdom. 

The two youngest Winterians—Mather Dynam, Winter’s future king, and Meira, an orphan—infants when the attack on Winter occurred, are now teenagers.  Their leader, Sir William, has trained them to fight fiercely for Winter.  Meira knows Mather will one day be her king and is of a higher class, but she still has feelings for him.  On her first journey to look for the conduit, not only does Meira have an encounter with Herod, but she also recovers half of Winter’s conduit.

This leads to a series of events in which Meira, guided by encrypted dreams, becomes first a commodity, then a soldier, and finally a prisoner.  She must deal with courtly politics and Angra’s evil magic to find her true destiny and place in Winter.

Snow Like Ashes, Sara Raasch’s debut novel, is a wonderful fantasy read.  The world building and the concept of designing kingdoms based on seasons are fresh and beautiful.  The main characters are strong, heroic, and selfless, ready to sacrifice anything--even death--for Winter.  The descriptions of the battle scenes are so real, the reader will feel he is right there on the battlefield fighting with the soldiers!  In addition,  if you like love triangles, you will not be disappointed!  The cover art is awesome; it depicts a chakram, a type of throwing knife, Meira’s weapon of choice, on a bed of fresh snow.

The only negative about the novel is the pacing.  The plot sometimes slows down and takes awhile to pick up speed again.  However, there is enough happening during the slow parts to keep readers motivated to continue reading.

Snow Like Ashes is the first in a series of the same name.   Icicles Like Kindling, a novella eBook-only prequel, was released in September.  It covers Meira’s life from her infancy to age sixteen and was originally intended to be the prologue in Snow Like Ashes.    Ice Like Fire (Snow Like Ashes #2) will come out this year!

This book will be enjoyed by fans of Kristin Cashore’s Graceling series and readers of The Games of Thrones series by George R.R. Martin.  I highly recommend it for middle school, high school, and public libraries.  I give it four out of five fleur de lis!