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.
If you start Snow Like Ashes and decide to stop reading it I shall have to kill you, no seriously I will have no choice but to find, borrow, or steal Meira’s weapon, a lethal Chakram, and hurl it at you because you will undoubtedly be missing the best part of this wonderful debut novel.
It starts a bit slow, there’s a lot to take in, Sara Raasch fills us in on the details and if you’re not careful you can start to feel you’re eyes clouding over a bit. There’s an information, over-telling overload. But don’t be fooled. It is forgiveable because this is one heck of an exciting read, so stick with it. Boy, does she know how to write a strong female character, as well as interesting supporting characters and those thrilling battle scenes, well you might just find yourself wincing in parts. You can just feel super pumped high adrenalin charging through your veins!
Main character – Meira
Meira is one of eight of the surviving Winterians characterised by white skin and white hair. She lives in Primoria, a land of eight kingdoms. This orphan may be only sixteen years old but she is used to hardship and warring and sparring with warriors. This struggle will help her to understand and overcome the obstacles in her way to ensure that her defeated land Winter is once again a powerful kingdom. She learns who to trust and whom to avoid, and she discovers that freedom to choose a suitor is not always a gift that we can all have when political circumstances stand in the way.
The Seasons and The Rhythms
There’s four Season Kingdoms: Spring, Summer, Autumn and Winter, as well as the Rhythms, whose four seasons occur naturally in a typical cycle: Cordell, Ventralli, Yakim and Paisly. The Season of Winter is as you would expect a chilly, frozen landscape of snow and ice. The thought of this just sends my teeth chattering. In contrast, Summer is a smouldering land of eternal sunshine. Like the sound of this one. Autumn is a kingdom of fallen, crisp, autumnal leaves. Spring is a place of awakening blooms, but instead of gentle flowering, evil lurks in this one. You get the picture? It’s interesting that Sara Raasch chose Spring to be the season of evil, rather than the more typical choice of harsh, unforgiving, Winter.
Evil King Agra
Spring may sound like a nice gentle season but don’t be fooled. No, sixteen years ago, Spring’s evil king Agra, stole the magical conduit and brutally conquered Winter, destroyed their magic, and enslaved most of the Winterians in the process, all except Meira, our heroine, Sir, her guardian, Mather, the heir of Winter, and five other Winterians. The two halves of the magical conduit are useless until they can be joined together, in a magical version of yin and yang. Yes, the clue’s in the wonderful cover of the book itself, you couldn’t get more conflicted yin and yang if you try.
The Former Queen of Winter, Hannah
Meira starts dreaming of the former queen of Winter, Hannah. To begin with she can’t understand these visions. But in time these dream sequences act as a device to explain, and fill us in on details in this great world-building, magical fantasy.
Winter are Tough Cookies
Winter may be a tough old season, and its people are too. The Winterians have taken one hell of a bashing, and some of them have just about given up. Our heroine Meira along with her seven other surviving Winterians are tough cookies but can they, and Meira in particular, save and restore Winter to it’s former glory?
Mather and Theron
Mather is introduced to us as the heir to the Winter kingdom, but unfortunately The Winter Kingdom is a matriarchy, where magic is passed on through a female-blooded conduit. So Mather may be a well meaning type of guy, but he just isn’t going to be the one to save the kingdom.
But can our heroine Meira save the kingdom? She spars with the men, is as fierce as the next guy, but there are times when her female side comes to the fore. No more so when she finds herself in amongst several warriors sparring with their tops off. Ok, so this kind of hormonal brain activity brings her down to normal mortal level, rather than kick ass heroine. But is it a bad thing? Not altogether in my opinion if the ……. yes, you guessed it …… love triangle is done well, and is shirts off, entertaining! This trio of love entanglement consists of our heroine Meira, her first love Mather, and Theron the Prince of the Cordell kingdom, who she is forcibly engaged to, an alliance reluctantly arranged by Mather himself. All’s fair in love and war!
Poor Mather you can’t help but feel sorry for him particularly when it becomes apparent that Meira starts to feel a bit of a smouldering attraction to Theron. Who can blame her? In my opinion, Theron comes across better, than Mather. The love interest is undoubtedly a cute well written diversion but it didn’t inspire me or fire me up quite as much as Meira’s fierce determination, bravery, and compassion in the face of adversity. As to the battle scenes these were thrilling, I never realised I was so blood thirsty! Meira sets out to find a solution to save Winter, and well let’s just say this young lady sure fights for what she believes in.
So to sum up, great characters, wonderful world building, and magic. Just love that word, MAGIC, it just rolls of your tongue. I loved the idea of the seasons, the rhythms, oh and the decay was just fantastic too. There are a couple of unexpected twists at the end of the novel, maybe not too surprising a turn of events, but I won’t say anymore on that, no spoilers! This sits beautifully as a stand-alone novel but I do believe there is more to come. A sequel. Fantastic. Definitely looking forward to reading more from Sara Raasch.
As to the criticism that Sara Raasch shouldn’t have made the Winterian’s pale skinned, I think this is taking political correctness just a little too far, thank goodness we’re talking about a magical kingdom here, not real life slavery. Oppression is oppression whatever the colour of the person’s skin. So if it’s dudes with white skin, and white hair, being enslaved, let’s rise up against it! I’m with you Meira!
So highly recommended for readers of high fantasy, fantasy, young adult, romance.
My favourite quotes:
The descriptions of winter just make you shiver inside!
“It’s so cold that foreigners have to wrap in layers of fur to walk from building to building, while our natural Winterian blood keeps us warm even in the worst conditions. And snow is everywhere, always, so much that the grass beneath it is white from lack of sun. An entire kingdom wrapped in an orb of eternal winter.”
You just can’t help supporting Meira, she’s strong, STRONG, STRONG!!!!!
“I don’t need made-up strength. I’m strong enough on my own—me, Meira, no magic or conduit or anything.”
“No matter what happens, no matter who turns on me, no matter what pompous swine thinks he has power over me, I am still me. I will always be me.”
This is just so poignant!
“Someday we will be more than words in the dark.”
She wants to be kick ass but also wants to be a woman. GREAT!!!
“I wanted to be a soldier. Someone who would earn standing in Winter. Someone Sir would look at with pride. Someone Mather would look at and —”
“I’m at the center of this, a weird possessive feud between the Winter king and the Cordellan prince.”
These simple words are so visually compelling
“Even the strongest blizzards start with a single snowflake”
“Fear is a seed that, once planted, never stops growing.”
For those amongst us who can’t resist a bit of well-toned bare skin!
“But I just stand there, eyes narrowing to hide the fact that my initial reaction is to gape at Theron’s bare expanse of glistening skin. He’s shirtless — and it’s clear that Cordell subjects its men to rigorous chest exercises.”
“But everything I want to say dies the instant I see him. Because –mother of all that is cold– he’s shirtless too, with only the locket half dangling around his throat and his freckled skin reflecting the sheen of a good workout. “
Have you read Snow Like Ashes? Do leave a comment below I’d love to hear from you.
Bye for now,
Marje @ Kyrosmagica xx