Snow Like Ashes (Snow Like Ashes #1) by Sara Raasch
Published October 14th 2014 by Balzer + Bray
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, 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.
The minimalistic design under the dustjacket is gorgeous and I straight up spent a good hour just admiring the book’s design instead of reading it whoops But then I started reading Snow Like Ashes! And GUYS. The story’s just as interesting as the cover and I really like both of them!
White strands stream around me, some matted with sewer muck, but most tossing in the wind. A living snow-storm, a vibrant white reminder that they haven’t enslaved every Winterian. Some of us are still alive. Some of us are still free.
And some of us are half a locket closer to taking back our kingdom.
Meira’s hands-down one of the best main characters in the books I’ve read this year. I love how strong and relatable and determined she comes across, with a tinge of sarcasm and wry – because we all need some kind of humor to keep us aloft when the world is falling apart, right? She’s not perfect, but I love the massive amounts of self-reflection and subsequent character development she goes through. She comes across as sweet and struggling and genuine. She’s not perfect, but she tries – she really does, and that’s what makes her all the more likable and relatable. Meira’s the kind of person who’ll throw a tantrum, then get back to her feet and do.
I’ve been so selfish, haven’t I? Selfish and narrow-minded and wrong, because I wanted to matter to Winter, but in my own way. Within my own set parameters that would also fit who I wanted to be. I choke on a laugh, hating that it’s taken me this long…
And I really liked Sir also! I loved how he was a kind of but not really father figure to the story, and I loved how he was this important adult figure that actually had a hand in helping the plot along! Oftentimes in YA the world’s falling apart, and we’re supposed to believe that everything’s put back together by a band of teenagers, which (though granted, some teenagers are hella smart) isn’t the most believable. I loved how, in Snow Like Ashes, it was a group effort. Sir was doing his best to keep it together and bring things back together; Mather was doing his best to shoulder this huge responsibility he thought he had; Meira was doing her best to come into herself and do what she could to help her kingdom. The relationships were complex and distinct, and all the main characters were easily differentiable because they came across as genuine, genuinely thinking they were doing the right thing, genuinely thinking that if they struggled onward, things would look up.
The romance – though, really, does every YA series need a love triangle? is there some ironclad rule? why is this a thing? – was surprisingly okay. I really could’ve done without all that metaphorical dick measuring between Theron and Mather, but it wasn’t all-consuming, and it didn’t detract much from the story. It was a little annoying in places, but I could deal. I rather liked the two, actually? (Also, reading books with YA love triangles has shown me how easily swayed I am and I don’t know what to do with this information.) I liked how balanced Theron was, how consistently respectfully he treated Meira throughout the book. And if I didn’t like him enough before, that scene where he blew up on his father and basically opened his father’s eyes to the truth? Won me over. Completely. BUT THEN ON THE FLIP SIDE Mather was also nice – I felt kind of bad for him throughout the story, actually, because he had all this responsibility, and he did make some questionable decisions but he was genuinely trying to do the right thing and he did try to make it up afterward. They were both just nice boys with kind hearts and good intentions in a shitty situation. That’s definitely something I could get on board with.
Someday we will be more than words in the dark.
The set-up was also fairly easy to follow once you got the hang of it, though it did take some time. Another thing I really enjoyed about Snow Like Ashes was how it switched things up! Most of the time, if it’s the elements, Fire is the bad guy, and if we’re talking seasons, Winter’s the antagonist. I liked how Snow Like Ashes switched things up a little, with Winter being the protagonist, and Spring the antagonist. It was really refreshing to read!
I do have a few complaints, though. First, Snow Like Ashes dragged in the middle. This book’s pretty hefty for the plot it covers – it could definitely be cut at least a hundred pages. Also, the “big reveal” toward the end is pretty blatantly obvious from chapter two. The little flashback-like scenes here and there just give too much away in one go! It would be a lot more impactful and shocking if the information was rationed instead of all laid out like that from the get-go. And, lastly, the scene at the beginning with Meira and the locket – she got out of that sticky situation way too easily. Meira practically got in and out of a heavily guarded area with minimal chasing and minimal notice, which is highly unbelievable, especially considering the terrifying might she’s supposedly dealing with.
All in all though, Snow Like Ashes really surprised me. With a kick-ass, relatable protagonist, a cast of characters that were likeable and genuine, solid writing, and an original set-up, it’s easily one of my favorite reads this year.