“Even the strongest blizzards start with a single snowflake.” – Meira (Snow Like Ashes by Sara Raasch)
I received this book, and its subsequent sequel (Ice Like Fire) as gifts for Christmas. While the concept seemed interesting, I had been hesitant to buy these books for myself, as they seemed somewhat juvenile, in terms of the writing style and language. Turns out, I was right on both counts- Snow Like Ashes was both a fascinating read, however the writing was definitely rough around the edges and not as well rounded as it could have been. So, without further ado, let’s get into it.
The continent of Primoria is a continent divided between Season and Rhythms alike. Winter, Spring, Summer and Autumn rule over countries perpetually locked in their respective season. Rhythms
rule over more volatile lands, where the rhythms of nature still hold sway and normal seasonal changes occur. 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 she would do anything to help Winter rise to power again. So when scouts discover the location of half of the ancient locket that can restore Winter’s magic, Meira decides to go after it herself, setting off a catastrophic chain of events that launches her headfirst into politics, love and war.
So, as I mentioned above, I found the concept of this book to be intriguing. The world-concept seemed to be refreshingly different than that of other Fantasy books (however, now that I think about it, this screams the fae courts from A Court of Thrones and Roses, etc. at me, so perhaps countries dictated by perpetual seasons isn’t as fresh as I’d like to imagine), the characters definitely had lots of potential, and the story itself had so much opportunity to become something great. Now, I’m not going to say that this book didn’t have its merits, because it obviously did, but to be brutally honest, the writing totally detracted from the story for me. I felt like I was reading something I myself could probably have written (and to be fair, I’m not horrible at writing, but I don’t quite consider myself to be author quality). The writing felt juvenile, clumsy and disjointed. The “big reveals” of the plot were basically given away by poorly done foreshadowing long before they happened, and character development (for everyone but Meira) was all but non-existent. Raasch essentially just handed us the plot and some pre-built characters it was hard to relate to because you didn’t really have the opportunity to get to know them. Essentially, Snow Like Ashes lacked depth and realness through the plot, and there was far too much info-dumping going on for any of the “revelations” to be all that shocking or exciting.
With all that in mind, this book was still enjoyable. It wasn’t anything spectacular, but it was a nice, light, easy read that left me feeling just short of satisfied. Meira, Mather and Theron all had their merits, although, as I’ve mentioned, Meira was that only one who really got any character development.
- Mather had that whole “tortured prince” vibe going on, which I suppose he was supposed to, because, you know, he’s supposed to be the sovereign of a ruined state. A state he can’t even really run since he’s the male heir to a female-blooded throne. Woe is him right from page 1.
- Theron is the handsome, charismatic prince of a wealthy Rhythm country. He’s basically got it all, except for a cool dad. Yep, hero #2 has major daddy issues. Can’t have him be too perfect, after all.
- Meira is an orphan/soldier pining over a forbidden love for her Prince, dedicated to restoring Winter to its former glory. She starts off not really knowing her place, but totally unwilling to let anyone else tell her what her place could be. Cue a few well-timed adolescent temper tantrums, magic and romance and you’ve got a pretty well-rounded protagonist.
Now, for a couple spoilers I can’t just ignore (haven’t read the book? Turn back now!). The “plot twist” in the last third of the book, which reveals that Meira is in fact the heir, not Mather (conveniently, since they needed a female heir), wasn’t really all that twisty or unexpected. Raasch basically prefaced it right from the moment Mather and Meira first laid eyes on the necklace- Mather felt nothing, while Meira’s breath hitched. Then there’s Meira’s convenient link to the deceased Queen Hannah (aka her mother) and her unexpected ability to access magic. By the time Raasch finally gets to the revelation that Meira is, in fact, the heir, the reader has already been there for ages. The only unexpected part of this revelation (which really should have been obvious if I’d been paying closer attention) is that Meira herself is the conduit now, and the necklace no longer holds any power, as Hannah transferred it to her heir.
Overall, this book was exactly what I expected it to be. I think this book could have been so much more, but poor writing detracted from an otherwise enjoyable plot. The characters fell flat without proper development. I wish I had more good things to say about this book, but to be honest, in the end, it just fell short of what I wanted it to be.