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Snow Like Ashes

Review

Snow Like Ashes

SNOW LIKE ASHES is the first in a new fantasy trilogy by Sara Raasch. Set in the magical world of Primoria, SNOW LIKE ASHES is definitely a great read for fans of “Game of Thrones” who want to see a headstrong, smart girl take the lead.

The world of Primoria is divided into two sets of four magical kingdoms, the Rhythms and the Seasons. Each kingdom is able to thrive and survive with the help of magic in the form of a conduit --- a seemingly normal object such as a locket or ring that draws magic from a glowing orb beneath the Klaryn Mountains. The magic can only be used by the King or Queen of the kingdom, with some kingdoms being controlled by the male heir and others by the female. The protagonist, Meira, is a young Winterian girl, orphaned 16 years ago by the brutal takeover of her kingdom, Winter, by Spring’s evil king, Angra. When Angra destroyed her kingdom and killed Queen Hannah, he squashed any hope the Winterians had of surviving, as their magic, concealed in a locket, died with their Queen. Though Hannah left behind an heir, Mather, he is male and therefore cannot use Winter’s magic. Even worse, Angra tore their conduit in half, and changes the hiding places of the two pieces frequently, so even if Mather could produce a female heir, she could not harness any power. As depressing as this is for the surviving Winterians, it’s a wonderfully refreshing change for readers used to male-dominated history books and fiction. Raasch does a terrific job of applying the vulnerability and uncertainty that comes with being a female to a male character.

Forced to spend her life on the run with 24 refugees, Meira is trained in the art of combat, but longs for the chance to actually use her training to save the rest of her kingdom, which is trapped in labor camps in Spring. Years of running, stealth missions and dangerous terrains have killed most of her camp, leaving the remaining eight focused on finding at least one half of the locket to help them defeat Angra. Leading the hunt is Sir, a towering, unyielding soldier in the fight for Winter. Behind him are a few able-bodied soldiers, two women, Meira and Mather, Meira’s best friend and the future King of Winter. Though Mather far outranks Meira and the two could never be together, there is definite chemistry between them.

SNOW LIKE ASHES was completely thrilling from beginning to end….. I can’t commend Raasch enough for her ability to create a thoroughly well-thought out world of magic, fantasy and danger.

When SNOW LIKE ASHES opens, Meira and Mather are practicing their close combat skills while the leaders of the camp are on a scouting mission. Meira’s personality immediately jumps off the page as we learn that she is angry with Sir for not allowing her to come on the dangerous mission to Spring. Her desire to help her kingdom ---  a kingdom that she has never even had the chance to enjoy --- is admirable, making her immediately likable. Soon the other members of the camp return and we learn that half of Hannah’s locket is nearby in Lynia, a city of Spring. Mather is assigned to take a team to retrieve it, but, in a moment of chivalry, he fakes an injury so that Meira can go instead, just as she’s always dreamed. Just before she leaves, Mather gives her a good luck charm in the form of a beautiful blue stone, lapis lazuli.

As Meira and her partner, Finn, draw closer to Lynia, the reader is exposed to the full breadth of her training. Meira effortlessly sneaks into the city before climbing walls, jumping over roofs, and, finally, landing on a balcony on the Keep, Lynia’s seat of government. Raasch also offers a glance at the pure evil that is Angra, as his citizens are all clearly brainwashed by his magic, whereas most other kingdoms use magic only for the good of their people. Meira, devoted to her cause, is quick to find entry to the Keep, even when she knows that Angra’s most powerful General, Herod, is in the building. Although she is seen, Meira manages to locate the locket half and escape before she is killed. The suspense and exhilaration I felt while reading about Meira’s escape seemed like enough for one book, but Raasch managed to keep it going long after.

Upon returning to camp, Meira is praised for her accomplishment, but Sir remains as detached as ever. Mather, however, takes Meira aside to check on her, which is when they notice Spring scouts preparing to raid their camp. Fortunately, Sir has prepared his team well, and they split up and make for Cordell, a Rhythm kingdom with no known affiliations. Sir is clearly disturbed by their path, as Cordel’s king, Noam, made no motions to assist Winter in its time of need, but, knowing they have half of the conduit, he feels it is their only choice. But when they arrive, Meira intuits that something is wrong. She is called “Lady” Meira and treated not like an orphaned peasant, but royalty. She soon learns that Mather and Sir have offered her as a bride for Cordell’s prince, Theron, in exchange for the Noam’s help in saving Winter. Meira feels not only betrayed, but completely helpless. Still, she is ever the soldier and realizes that this is the way she must fight for her kingdom, even if it doesn’t involve the weapons or excitement she is used to.

Cordell’s prince, Theron, is quite the charmer, as he is both well-read and strong, and takes his responsibilities very seriously, just like Meira. Still annoyed with Mather, Meira is soon caught in a love triangle between the two royals. While the love triangle could be a predictable or disappointing choice, Raasch makes it compelling by creating two intensely likable male characters. I honestly couldn’t even tell you which team I’m on, as both boys would make great suitors --- and kings.

For a few pages, it seems as though Winter finally has a chance --- until Meira discovers Noam’s plot to help Winter only long enough to give it to Angra. Noam makes no apologies for his actions, but even he is surprised when Angra marches on Cordell, proving that there can be no alliances with a man so consumed by evil. Meira is captured in the ensuing battle, and becomes a laborer in one of Spring’s work camps, alongside her fellow Winterians. Though Meira’s entire journey has been exciting, this is where the real drama picks up. For the first time, it seems like she may not survive. She does, of course, but the way she defeats Angra will shock you. SNOW LIKE ASHES also ends on a really satisfying cliff-hanger, leaving the ending just open enough to make me want the sequel in my hands immediately, without forgetting any loose ends.

SNOW LIKE ASHES was completely thrilling from beginning to end. Every time I thought I knew what was going to happen, I was surprised. I can’t commend Raasch enough for her ability to create a thoroughly well-thought out world of magic, fantasy and danger. Her descriptions of the flora and fauna of each kingdom were spellbindingly beautiful and her descriptions of the people were just as compelling. Meira’s character development was heartbreaking, believable, and inspiring. I cannot wait to see more of Meira, Mather, and Theron and track Winter’s rise.

Reviewed by Rebecca Munro on October 15, 2014

Snow Like Ashes
(Snow Like Ashes #1)
by Sara Raasch

  • Publication Date: October 14, 2014
  • Genres: Fantasy, Young Adult 12+
  • Hardcover: 432 pages
  • Publisher: Balzer + Bray
  • ISBN-10: 0062286927
  • ISBN-13: 9780062286925