By Sara Raasch
Snow Like Ashes Series 1
Hardcover: 422 pages
Publication Date: October 14, 2014
Publisher: Balzer + Bray
4.5 out of 5 Stars
A heartbroken girl. A fierce warrior. A hero in the making.
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.
I am blown away by this debut novel from Miss Sara Raasch. It took me a while after finishing to fully collect my thoughts, and even when I did, I am still at a loss as to how to convey my complete and utter immersion into this world that the author creates. There are basically 8 territories in the world of Primoria; four seasons- summer, fall, winter, and spring, and four rhythms- Cordell, Paisly, Ventralli and Yakim. The eight kingdoms are ruled by either a Queen or a King, and each ruler has a magickal Conduit- basically an object that they receive their magick through. Certain kingdoms can only be ruled by a woman, and vice versa. The kingdom of winter, where our main character, Meira comes from, was destroyed by Spring before Meira was old enough to remember much about it. She was raised as an orphan with a band of outcasts, trained to fight with weapons at an early age. Her band of rebels has dwindled over the years and now consists of only eight people- the future king of Winter one of these rebels. Mather is an unwilling king, thrown into this life before he had a say in the matter. With most of the Winterians locked up in the land of Spring as slaves, a lot is resting on this young king's shoulders. He must fight to free his people with only his small group of rebels standing by his side. Without the magickal conduit that his mother possessed, he cannot ask for help from any of the other territories.
A quest for the pieces of the stolen conduit leads to Meira almost becoming captured as well, but she is able to bring back half of the necklace that holds her people's power. With this piece, they are able to request the help of a neighboring land, the kingdom of Cordell. But in exchange for their help, Meira must agree to marry their prince and bind herself to the kingdom for life. And the prince is actually a really great character- Theron is nothing like his father. But is the king really willing to help the land of Winter, or is this another game of power and lies?
The characters are wonderfully written- Meira is incredibly selfless and so strong. I connected with her immediately. Her personality leaked through the words and pages like a beacon of hope in a dark sky, and I knew that she would be something more than what the author hinted at in the beginning. No spoilers, I promise! I also connected with Mather's character; he was incredibly strong yet gentle, intelligent yet made the typical stupid male decisions! Sir was a character that I never really liked, yet in the end, his distance and discipline definitely made more sense. And Theron. I truly liked him, but at the same time, I felt that Meira and Mather were better matched. I guess we will see how the romance plays out in the future books in this wonderfully new series!
The world building was hands down, phenomenal. No other word to describe it! I could picture the lands in my mind; Miss Raasch did an amazing job with her descriptions of the different Kingdoms. I loved the idea of Kings and Queens, rulers with a magickal icon that controlled their power, and a land that helped to increase that magickal power. It was an original, creative idea, and the plot line flowed very well. The twists and turns definitely caught me by surprise, and I can't tell if the author just wrote it so well that it wasn't predictable, or if I was too immersed in the story to pay attention to the hints that she left? All in all, for a debut novel, I am again blown away and stunned by the awesomeness of this book! I would recommend this book to any fan of the dystopian genre; hell, any urban fantasy fan in general!
"I aim my chakram at the captain with his boots mucked up in sewer gunk. His eyes swim over me. "The Winterians are sending girls to do their dirty work now?" he sneers. "Why don't you put that thing down before someone gets hurt?" I push out my bottom lip and widen my eyes. "This?" I lower the chakram. It's now aimed at the captain's left thigh. "They gave it to me and said throw! I don't even know how it works-" The soldiers jeer, a deep-throated chuckling that says this is a fight they're sure they'll win. I let the chakram fly as the captain moves forward, my body bending into an arch. The chakram soars through the sewer, slices clean through the captain's leg, and continues its spin back to me in one elegant circle of purpose. He screams and drops into the sewage, grabbing his thigh like, well, like I just sliced through it. "Oh." I run one hand down the flat side of the blade. "That's how it works." -Meira
"Will this be enough? Will reuniting our conduit halves restore our magick, or will Winter forever be the only kingdom in Primoria without magick to make it whole? If so, how will we defeat Spring, a kingdom steeped in magickally induced strength, when all we have are eight refugees and a pretty necklace? Will another kingdom even ally with us once we have the locket whole again, if our only heir is unable to use it?"
""Just once, I'd like to see you leave a meeting with William like a lady, instead of a panting bull."" -Dendera
"My heart thwump-thwumps against my ribs and I don't look away from him, hating how with one glance he can crack me open. Anyone else I'd be able to ignore, to hide my fear from them behind a cocky smile, but Mather sees everything. I know he sees it, because for the briefest moment, he drops his expressionless mask and the look in his eyes shows me he feels the same way. A mirror of every part of myself I can't bear to face."
The Darkest Minds; Blood of Eden