Snow Like Ashes by Sara Raasch
My rating: 4 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.
First of all: great concept of having four kingdoms (Season) ruled by the seasons, each with it’s own race, and customs and all, even though they are next to each other, along with four other kingdoms (Rhythm) having ‘normal’ (our) seasons. So, there were plenty of lines drawn in the population – one based on whether they were Seasons or Rhythms, and then again which Season they belonged to. Naturally, this made for a lot of politics, and politics and magic – well, they are a deadly duo. Magic, though not a major arc plot-wise, plays into a lot of the motivations of the characters. The Winters want to complete their broken conduit, Spring wants power, Cordell wants the source of the magic, while other kingdoms just want a peaceful existence.
Now, Meira, our protagonist, is a soldier in the meager Winter army – and is patriotic for a kingdom she never lived in. She still has the borrowed memories of everyone else, and longs for a simple life in her kingdom. She is ready to contribute in any way possible – but the General doesn’t let her; not because she is a girl, but because she isn’t ready. It’s important to note that there is a slightly misogynistic attitude in Cordell and Spring, but thankfully not in Winter (maybe because it is a female-blooded conduit kingdom?). As Deborah said, a lady can be both a warrior and gentle. She wants to be a warrior, but is asked to contribute as a lady through a political marriage to Cordell’s first prince Theron. Theron, is actually a nice guy and frankly, I am shipping him with her rather than Mather and her. For starters, Mather is too passive, while Theron is more in tune with her feelings. Moreover, Theron supports her every step of the way, even going as far as to fight with Mather (I don’t see why that was necessary, though, besides being a testosterone level test) and risking himself to aid her. They are both bound by duty, and become close pretty fast. Mather is not bad, but maybe better as the best friend?
The second half of the plot, then shifts to revealing the magic and explaining the conduits. It also reveals something I had partly suspected all along, when the gender-based conduits were mentioned. By the way, the gender-based conduits were a nice touch – equality to both throughout the kingdom. Things go down pretty fast after that, with a war and some cool action, and Meira shining through it all. Her stint in the slave workhouses, and her reclaiming her past through them and then leading them all – that was beautiful and quite smart. The ending was quite good – hopeful but of course the other shoe will drop in the sequel.
Overall, quite a good fantasy – strong protagonist, divided kingdoms, war for freedom, hidden heir, and all. I don’t like to compare, but this one reminded me (in a good way) a bit of Throne of Glass, with the slave houses and the reclaiming of the kingdom. I enjoyed this book, however, and look forward to the sequel!
Received an ARC from Balzer+Bray via Edelweiss. This in no way affects my opinions or review.