Snow Like Ashes #1
Balzer + Bray
Source: ARC from publisher for review
THE STORY (from Goodreads)
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.
Snow Like Ashes is as unique as the frozen flakes that haunt the memories of every citizen of the defeated Kingdom of Winter, beautifully rejecting anything remotely formulaic and instead giving us a world of power and cruelty inhabited by people who shine vibrantly even in the shadow of tyranny. Ms. Raasch doesn't waste valuable page time explaining the parameters of Meira's fantasy world or its political and military history, rather she immediately introduces us to young Meira, a gorgeously determined underdog amidst a larger group of underdogs who seek to retake what was brutally stolen from them years before. The connection to Meira therefore forms swiftly and easily, swept up as we are in her quest to prove herself to both the leader of their ragtag group as well as her best friend and longtime crush, Mather. From this emotional foundation Ms. Raasch builds the aforementioned history of Primoria and its kingdoms, first ensuring our hearts are beating in time with Meira's before fully engaging our minds as she skillfully weaves a dark past in and through the shimmering promise of a better future.
Meira is a heroine who easily sets a new standard against which all future female characters will be measured, her fervent desire to be an asset to those around her–to be someone who makes a difference on a scale small or large–inspiring enough that we simply can do nothing but pour every ounce of faith we have into her. Not only is she dedicated to all things Winter and fiercely protective of a kingdom of which she has very little memory, but she also refuses to stay silent and accepting when she disagrees with the actions or orders of those around her. Many times willfull characters can come across as whiny and petulant in their objections, allowing heightened emotion to reduce the effectiveness of their argument, but Meira argues her points with passion backed by logic and reason, forcing the other person to see the validity of her words through the anger or hurt that colors them. She proves again and again that she has a spine of steel, but accompanying that backbone is an impressive self-awareness and ability to recognize her strengths as well as admit to her weaknesses.
Though some readers may feel this story has a love triangle simply because there are two young men in Meira's life, the romance is anything but so simply labeled, and Meira impresses at every turn with her ability to navigate what could easily become emotionally treacherous waters. Though both Mather and Theron express an interest in Meira, their feelings are far more complicated than merely admitting interest, each of them bound to circumstances beyond their control that have a profound effect on the dynamic between the three of them. As the story continues, however, we begin to see how one young man shuts his eyes to the person Meira truly is while the other opens his wide and sees her inside and out. It needs to be mentioned too that the romance, while a notable and intrinsic aspect of this story, is hugely secondary to the journey Meira herself undergoes, her path toward freeing her kingdom from the shackles of a seemingly impenetrable darkness leading to the discovery of who she wants to be as a woman, a friend, a soldier, and a proud Winterian.
Overall, Snow Like Ashes is a stunning debut from Ms. Raasch, characters leaping from the pages and wrapping themselves around our hearts so tightly we have little choice but to give them the full weight of our hope, love and attention. We're thankfully left with one epic battle behind us and no cliffhanger in sight, but on the distant horizon a familiar shadow can be seen, inviting us to count the days until we return to Meira and join the effort to rebuild Winter once again.
This book was sent to me by the publisher free of charge for the purpose of a review.
I received no other compensation and the above is my honest opinion.