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Snow Like Ashes - Sara Raasch



Review written by Zoey Tsoura


Snow Like Ashes was an easy read, an adventure written in simple language. It is fast-paced, with lots of action and twists. The quiet moments are fewer, but, undoubtedly, in them beat the heart of the story. Perhaps for people who have read a lot of books of its kind it isn't something particularly original, but it captured my interest and I turned the pages with anticipation until the end.

Sara Raasch has created a world of 8 kingdoms - 4 kingdoms of the Seasons, 4 kingdoms of Rhythm - each with its own traits. The only supernatural element that exists in this world (at least in this first book of the series) is magic, which is wielded solely by the monarchs of the 8 kingdoms through specific objects that act like conduits. Some use magic for peaceful endeavors - to make the earth more fertile, for example - while others use it to less auspicious ends, like strengthening their army. The defeated Kingdom of Winter has been without a monarch or magic for the last sixteen years, ever since the King of Spring murdered the last Queen of Winter and broke her magic locket.

The world of Snow Like Ashes is not very complicated, neither in its nature nor in its rules. To be honest, I'd say it's quite simple compared to other works of High Fantasy. I'm hoping we'll delve in it in more depth and detail in the next books. For now, in this first book, the author places more weight in the people of these lands, the characters and the relationships between them. She has weaved a web of intrigue, machinations, and delicate political balances between the 8 kingdoms, and it's very interesting to see how the Winterians navigate these dangerous waters in their crusade to win back their home.

The main character is Meira, a sixteen-year-old orphan girl and one of the eight remaining free Winterians. Meira doesn't want fancy dresses, formal balls, and other people solving her problems. She is a soldier, a warrior, decent but not extraordinary. She is constantly struggling to become better, which makes her human and likeable. She has a strong sense of duty and is dedicated to their cause. If she becomes impulsive and reckless sometimes, it's because of her eagerness to help, to be useful to Winter. Passively accepting her fate and feeling sorry for herself are not parts of her character, which is extremely refreshing considering the large number of female leads out there that display such traits.

Meira is in love with her best friend and heir to the throne of Winter, Mather, but fortunately this slightly clichéd romance plays a secondary role in the story and doesn't occupy many pages. I would also have preferred there not to be a love triangle, a theme so overused in young adult literature. I found Meira's complicated relationship with the strict and demanding Sir - Winter's general and the leader of their small group, the closest thing she ever had to a father - much more fascinating.

Ultimately, if there's one thing that set this book apart from dozens of its kind and stroke a chord with me, is this, best described by a quote from the book:


"The promise we refugees always make one another - before going on missions, whenever people come back bleeding and hurt, whenever things go badly and we're huddling together in terror. We'll be better... someday."

Snow Like Ashes, pg 6


Meira and her companions are refugees, and here Raasch is flawless. The trauma from their kingdom's sudden demise, the hardships and challenges of an everyday life of being hunted, the bitterness and disappointments, the heavy responsibility on the shoulders of these eight men and women who are free while the rest of their people reside in work camps awaiting rescue, the nostalgia and traditions they practice in order to keep their homeland alive in their hearts... Their eloquently described pain and struggles made me love these characters, and I'm looking forward to picking up the next book!

In conclusion, despite following some common paths in young adult high fantasy literature, Snow Like Ashes manages to be different. With its strong heroine, action, and emotion at its core, it is definitely a book worth your time.


Summary:

Meira was only an infant when Angra, the vicious King of Spring, destroyed the kingdom of Winter and enslaved its people. Orphaned, she grew up a refugee, one of the few survivors of that fateful night, always on the run from the forces of Spring.

Sixteen years old now, Meira is being trained to fight for her lost home, the country she hasn't known but through the memories of others. When information about the location of Winter's ancient locket arise - the magical object that will grant them the power to defeat Angra - Meira decides to do anything to find it, and help Mather, her best friend and heir to the throne of Winter, restore their kingdom to its former glory.



Title: Snow Like Ashes
Author: Sara Raasch
First Published: 2014
Publisher: Balzer + Bray

Text editing: Zoey Tsoura
Image processing: Panagiota Goutzourela 




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