Monday, 23 March 2015

Snow Like Ashes

Author: Sara Raasch
Genre: Fantasy, Supernatural, Young Adult
Type: Hardcover
Series: 1st book in the Snow Like Ashes series
Source: Local Public Library
Pages: 416
Publisher: Balzer + Bray
First Published: October 14, 2014
First Line: "Block!"

Book Description 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.

My Review:  I've gotten off of my love of Young Adult reads lately but after Abby, a 16 year old Shelver at the library where I work, eagerly suggested that I read this book I decided it was time to get back on the proverbial horse.  I'm glad that I took her advice.

Admittedly, I'm not a big fantasy reader and I felt that this book started off a bit slow - actually the first half of the book went a bit slow for me.  Granted, in fantasy there is a lot of world building as well as setting up plot and introducing characters.  I admit that I tend to struggle a bit in a new fantasy read with getting the setting and world straight and it happened again with this book.  

There's a lot going on in their world.  There are eight warring factions (four are named after seasons and four are 'Rhythms' - I wasn't really clear on the Rhythms, honestly) which all have conduits that are magical items that their rulers use to help their people.  I admit that getting this squared away in my head took a bit of time.  It was just a lot of information to take in while the story got going.  Raasch thankfully gives the reader a map at the beginning of the book which details the various lands which really helped me get the gist of the political upheaval in their world.  I just wish how the author imparted this information was a little clearer.

As the reader is given more information regarding the plot the pace picks up a lot and I found myself looking forward to stolen bits of time to keep reading about Meira.  As with many YA reads there is a teaser of a love triangle but it was thankfully handled in a non-Twilight-y kind of way (ie. it isn't the main focus).  I could see how readers would have their favourites but to me Meira's choice was too obvious.  One of the boys is very much like Meira - strong, independent and pushes Meira to do the right thing.  The other is her childhood crush who, for a future king, came off a little wimpy and a lot less interesting.

Meira, on the other hand, came off as a unique, strong female main character.  Sure she's impetuous and even a little rash sometimes but her character was convincing.  She has had a tough life - orphaned at a very young age and taken in by the remaining Winterians. She constantly tries to prove herself but always seems to fall short in the eyes of the one person whose approval she wants -- her adoptive father who she calls "Sir".  This only makes Meira want to help her almost decimated realm of Winter succeed even more.

The only negatives that I have about this book is that the pace was a bit of a roller coaster ride with some scenes flying by with intense scenes and others really slow.  I also found that it was predictable in parts.  Fairly early on I guessed the big reveal but overall I still enjoyed reading the rest of the book.  I just would have preferred to be shocked by the reveal.  

I'm glad that the reader isn't left with a huge cliffhanger at the end.  Meira and her group still have a big fight ahead of them but I'm pleased that things ended the way they did in this first book.  Snow Like Ashes is a strong beginning to a new YA Fantasy series.  After reading this book I'll definitely be getting some more suggestions from the teen Shelvers at the library.

My Rating: 4/5 stars

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