Title: Snow Like Ashes
Author: Sara Raasch
Published: October 14, 2014
Series: Snow Like Ashes #1
Genre: High Fantasy
Game of Thrones meets Graceling in this striking fantasy tale of dark magic, dangerous politics, and discovering your true self. Sara Raasch’s debut fantasy is a lightning-fast story of loyalty, love, and controlling one’s destiny.
Sixteen years ago the Kingdom of Winter was conquered and its citizens enslaved, leaving them without magic or a monarch. The Winterians’ only hope for freedom is the eight survivors who managed to escape, and who have been searching for the opportunity to steal back Winter’s magic and rebuild their kingdom ever since.
Orphaned as an infant during Winter’s defeat, Meira has lived her whole life as a refugee. Training to be a warrior—and desperately in love with her best friend, Winter’s future king—she would do anything to help Winter rise to power again. So when scouts discover the location of half of the ancient locket that can restore their magic, Meira decides to go after it herself—only to find herself thrust into a world of evil magic and dangerous politics, and to realize that her destiny is not, never has been, her own.
Snow Like Ashes, Sara Raasch’s debut YA fantasy, is a beautifully woven tale that represents everything I love about the high fantasy genre. When I first heard about Snow Like Ashes, I noted comparisons to Graceling, one of my favorite high fantasies, and wondered whether (hoped that) it would live up to the hype. I’m thrilled to say that after all the build-up, Snow Like Ashes actually exceeded my expectations.
In the world of Snow Like Ashes, there are eight Kingdoms. Four of them are “Seasons”—Winter, Spring, Autumn, and Summer—and four of them are “Rhythms,” which experience the changing seasons. Each Kingdom has a royal conduit—a bearer of magical powers to protect and benefit the Kingdom. Sixteen years ago, the Kingdom of Winter was all but wiped out, conquered by a neighboring Season. One of only twenty-five Winterians who escaped when their Kingdom fell, sixteen-year-old Meira is trying to figure out her place in reclaiming their kingdom.
I really enjoyed reading from the perspective of Meira. One of the two youngest Winterian refugees, Meira is struggling to find herself. The only other teenager in the Winterian camp is Mather, the heir to the Winterian throne. They have grown up together, and there is obvious romantic tension between them, but she constantly feels unworthy of him because she is just an orphan struggling to find a purpose.
Meira’s sole goal is to find a way to matter to Winter. Discontent with “ladylike” activities, she trains to become a warrior who will bring honor and glory to the restoration of her homeland. Her other goal is to find a way to matter to “Sir” William, the leader of the refugees and a former general in the Winterian military. Sir rescued her as an orphan and effectively raised Meira from the time she was an infant, but he has made it clear that Meira is not his daughter and never will be.
The eight Kingdoms in Snow Like Ashes are built full of rich background and cultural context. From the distinguishing features of each Season’s people to cultural details like Ventralli’s love for the arts, Sara Raasch built Meira’s world seamlessly.
Another aspect of this book that I really loved was that although there was an element of romance—and even a love triangle—it didn’t take over the entire book. When Meira was in a dangerous situation, Raasch didn’t throw in random thoughts about her love interest’s perfect lips or hair. I felt like the romance in this book was very well-executed, and I loved the tension between Meira, Mather, and Theron.
No matter your age, if you love high fantasies like Graceling, I promise you’ll enjoy Snow Like Ashes. This has been one of my most-anticipated reads of 2014, and I’m so thrilled that it didn’t let me down. Snow Like Ashes was a five-star read for me, and I recommend it to high fantasy readers of all ages!