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Sara Raasch – Snow Like Ashes

December 15, 2014

92. Snow Like Ashes by Sara Raasch (2014)

Read By: Kate Rudd
Length: 10h 56m (432 pages)

Genre: Young Adult Fantasy

Started: 15 November 2014
Finished: 21 November 2014

Where did it come from? From the publishers for review.
Why do I have it? The cover caught my eye, and the synopsis sounded pretty awesome.
How long has it been on my TBR pile? Since 13 November 2014.

Do you want to build
a snowman? Not when you’re a
life-long refugee.

Summary: Meira’s always been told she’s a citizen of the kingdom of Winter, even though she hasn’t been there since she was a baby. In fact, no one has been to Winter in over a decade, since the armies of Spring destroyed their capital, killed the queen, stole the conduit that links the Winterian ruler to the magic of the land, and enslaved most of the Winterians. Now only a small band of fugitives is left, including Meira and her childhood friend Mather, the heir to the throne – but male, so unable to use the conduit even if it is found and recovered. Meira wants nothing more than to feel like a part of something, to feel as though she belongs to her country – but that desire will be put to the test, as potential allies are hard to come by, and the powers of Spring threaten to snuff out Winter once and for all.

Review: This book has a very strong resemblance to Finnikin of the Rock, what with the dispossessed people kicked out of their homeland when the young narrator was just a kid, and struggling to find allies and overcome the magic to get back home. This is either good or bad, depending on how much you liked Finnikin of the Rock; if you loved it, great; if not, well… not. For me, this resemblance was unfortunate but not a deal-breaker. I didn’t really care for Finnikin, but it was for reasons unrelated to the plot, so while the echoes of that book did probably make me view this one a little less favorably, there were still a lot of things in this book that were unique, and really good, so on the whole I wound up really enjoying it.

For one, Meira’s an interesting protagonist, and she’s driven by motivations that are more complex than “Revenge!” or “Boys!”. She wants her life to matter, but she also wants her life to matter on her terms, and watching how she adjusts as circumstances dictate changes she hadn’t anticipated was really interesting. Her relationships with the “Boys!” are also interestingly complex — although there is the seemingly ubiquitous love triangle developing between her, Mather, and Theron, the prince of a kingdom that the Winterians go to for help. I am oh so very tired of love triangles (especially when they’re not triangles so much as arrows; The Infernal Devices series had an actual three-sided triangle, so that I will forgive), but in this case, I might have a bit of a crush on Theron. He’s smart and confident without being cocky, treats Meira with respect as a person and an equal, and is strong and loyal and just generally all-around awesome.

It’s also nice to have a plot that’s out of the ordinary for your general YA fantasy novel (well, except for Finnikin). It’s not that often that you get a story that can bounce between palace and battlefield and work camp, and keep the whole thing flowing and smooth. I also enjoyed the world-building that was done; the magic system is unique and well-described, and I thought the way the countries and their differences were set up was interesting, if hugely economically and ecologically infeasible. (Seriously, what do the Winterians eat if they never have a growing season? Do they import ALL their food?) I did think that the big “reveal” at the end of the story was telegraphed really far ahead of time, which was unfortunate, but I also read a lot of this kind of book, so maybe I’m just used to spotting the twists? I also think the story – and Meira’s character development – would have been more interesting and more unique without the twist, but I can see the reasons that Raasch plotted the story the way she did. I believe that this book is the first in the series, but it works well enough as a standalone – not all of the issues are resolved, but it still comes to a satisfactory ending place.

I listened to the audiobook version of this, and in general, Kate Rudd does a very nice job with the narration, seeming age-appropriate for Meira, and having distinguishable voices for the other characters. One thing that did bother me a little bit was that there were these occasional inner-monologue-y sarcastic snarky bits that seemed out of place. They seemed like the way real modern people talk/think, but not the way this semi-medieval character who is used to monologuing about purpose and meaning and belonging would talk. It’s unclear whether this is a product of the writing, or of the narration, but it did have the effect of temporarily pulling me out of the story. Thankfully, though, the story and its characters are engaging enough that they sucked me back in with no problem. 4 out of 5 stars.

Recommendation: Worth reading. Fans of other YA fantasy novels like Graceling (or Finnikin of the Rock, of course) will probably really enjoy this one as well.

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First Line: “Block!” “Where?”

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2 Comments leave one →
  1. annettesbookspot permalink
    December 16, 2014 12:56 pm

    I often wonder if I’m better at figuring out the big twist because I read so much. I can’t help but think that’s true. What we perceive, might not even cause the average teen reader to blink. Great review. I liked this one a lot. And, Finnikin was a DNF for me…(a long time ago. I should probably give it another chance.)

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