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.
A great start to what I hope will be an epic fantasy trilogy. And with a plot twist that I have to admit that I didn’t see coming. I knew there was some kind of ~background~ to our MC, but I hadn’t suspected THAT.
Snow Like Ashes deals with a group of exiles, including our heroine Meira, prince Mather and Sir William, former general and leader of this not-very-merry band of survivors. Their Kingdom of Winter was conquered, butchered and/or enslaved by the Kingdom of Spring 16 years prior, and they have spent the time evading capture and trying to figure out a way to reclaim the kingdom. The rest of the seasons also feature in the universe Raasch has created, as well as four “rhythm” kingdoms – areas that experience a normal seasonal cycle.
Things come to a head when Meira decides that she doesn’t want to be useless – as one of only eight free survivors of the fall of her kingdom, she is determined to fight and contribute to the cause. Ultimately, this sets everything in motion, leading to betrayals, alliances, magical exploits, and the uncovering of secrets long-since buried.
It took me a little while to familiarise myself with Meira’s world – the different kingdoms, the explanation of the magical system and past history were a little convoluted, but things soon made sense.
There was the making of a love triangle – my heart sank at the introduction of Prince Theron – but I will admit, the would-be relationships between the characters was handled well – in the end, Meira has no time to worry about her conflicting feelings for the two boys in her life when she has a DAMN KINGDOM TO SAVE. Atta girl.
(I think the author should totally throw in a plot twist in the next book where Theron and Mather set up house together while Meira conquers the world and all that. Just sayin’.)
Initially, I got a little annoyed with Meira’s insistence that she go along on missions when she didn’t seem to be as good of a fighter as the others – if you’re not up to scratch, you’ll just endanger everyone else. However, she proves her mettle with her skill in handling her chakram weapon, her dogged work ethic and her ability to handle pain and less-than-tolerable conditions.
Indeed, Meira really develops as a character throughout the book:
It doesn’t matter what I want. My desires don’t matter here. They never did. While I took merciless advantage of the fact that I never had to deal with growing up in slavery, they were here… It’s just me now, like Hannah said. Sir should be here, it’s true. Mather should be here. But they aren’t. And since it is just me, I owe it to them to do everything I can to free our people. Even if I die here, I will die mattering, and that’s what I’ve wanted all along, isn’t it?
Overall, an absorbing read. I look forward to the sequel!