Friday, January 23, 2015

Review: Snow Like Ashes by Sara Raasch

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Review: Snow Like Ashes by Sara Raasch
Snow Like Ashes
Sara Raasch
Series: Snow Like Ashes #1
Genre: Fantasy, YA
Publication date: October 14, 2014
by Balzer & Bray

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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, 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 copy was provided by Balzer + Bray for review-

Holy Jesus in a manger on the 25th of December… I think I just found a new fantasy series to love.

And here I thought the Young Adult demographic has forgotten to churn out awesome high fantasies. The last time I’ve ever loved a YA Fantasy with a female heroine this much was when I read The Girl of Fire and Thorns Trilogy by Rae Carson. Since then, the fantasies I’ve read didn’t even ignite any wonder or awe in me, didn’t make me feel as immersed, didn’t make me feel as involved or as engrossed. They paled in comparison and I was left to looking at non-YA fantasy books to give me my fix (hi, Brandon Sanderson!).

And then I read this beautiful book. Snow Like Ashes reminded me of the beauty of a fantastical setting, of a heroine who struggles with herself while finding her place in a bleak and confusing world, of finding courage from the most unexpected of places. To say that I loved this is an understatement – I adored it! It perfected the formula that I mentally concocted to myself when it comes to evaluating the epicness of a fantasy book.

* Is this a book with good world-building? YES!
* Is this a book that doesn’t have an overwhelming romance? YES!
* Is this a book that portray deep and complex relationships and conflicts? YES!
Is this a book with a strong heroine? YES!
* Is this a book with a strong and relatable heroine? YES!
* Is this a book with a strong and relatable heroine that also undergoes massive character development? YES!
* Is this a book with a strong and relatable — FUCK IT ALREADY YES YES YES YES TO EVERYTHING!

Can you feel my enthusiasm? I truly do love this book, I do. If that’s not enough to convince you, I don’t know what will. But in case it doesn’t (I am mentally shaking my head here!), I will list the reasons in extensive detail on WHY YOU SHOULD READ THIS BOOK:

First of all, the world-building. I love it so much. There are eight kingdoms, four that are Rhythm (in which they all experience all the seasons in a year) and four that are Seasons (in which each is eternally in one season for all year long – Spring, Summer, Autumn, and Winter). Usually, I see something like this, I somehow raise an eyebrow because there is a tendency for this to feel “cheesy”. But Raasch was able to weave a setting in which every kingdom and every citizen from their respective kingdoms are different from each other and have characteristics of their own that they can truly call theirs. I loved how everything was so unique, having their own delicacies (frozen berries! YUM!) to having their own unique appearances (white hair and blue eyes…?! I need to draw this!). It definitely helped that Raasch is a terribly good writer. She can weave words and descriptions so intricately that I was able to imagine myself being surrounded by the world to the minute detail – I could somehow feel the cold of Winter, the happiness of the people in Bithai as they greeted their soldiers, the bleak atmosphere in Abril as slaves milled about defeatedly.

And the heroine! I absolutely loved Meria. I loved how she was such a complex character that had a lot of issues inside her that I could relate and emphathize with. She wasn’t a doormat, and she knew what she wanted and she knew what needed to be done, and I loved how throughout the novel, we get to witness how she struggled to balance both of them, how to serve her country without losing an integral part of her, and how she realizes later on the stakes and how to achieve the freedom they have sought for sixteen years.  She was incredibly layered, and even though she had moments of angst, they never felt overwhelming and over-the-top – she just really felt genuine and human. And did I mention how she’s a strong, independent girl? I loved all sides of her, and she even beats Celaena Sardothien from Throne of Glass in the “Kick-Ass” category.

And her relationships with everyone is as complex as well, especially with Sir. Usually, the only complex relationships we get are between MCs and their love interests, so this one was such a nice change – a relationship between that of a “father” and a “daughter”, of a “superior” and a “soldier”, one who continuously tries to seek the other’s approval. I may or may not have shed a tear during a scene with both of them while reading (hint: I actually cried).

And the romance? I loved how it didn’t overtake the story. I loved how the story didn’t revolve around it. I loved how it stayed in the background and strengthened the characters rather than took the controls of the plot. This is the kind of romance that I live for – one that isn’t so “in-your-face” and relies on gestures and subtely to tickle your heart. Even though it’s a love triangle, I didn’t mind, because it wasn’t a romance that demands your full attention; it wasn’t a romance in which we have to side with Guy A or Guy B – it was a romance in which we are simply TEAM MEIRA! 

(In any case, the book makes it hard for you to choose anyway, because both guys are awesome people with kind hearts and good intentions. And Meira isn’t all over them like a lovestruck fool, making it a better experience. It truly reminds me of Rae Carson’s series in this aspect, because in that one, we don’t truly get to know who the main love interest is until the second book.)

So what did we learn here, ladies and gents? It’s that Snow Like Ashes is a goddamn good book and you need to buy it and read it and treasure it forever and ever. 

Amen.

4.5 Stars
4.5 Hot Espressos

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Canadian blogger, wife, mother, coffee lover, and sarcastic at heart! She has had a love for all things bookish since before Amazon and eReaders existed *le gasp*. You can also find her organizing tours and other fun things at Xpresso Book Tours.
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15 Responses to “Review: Snow Like Ashes by Sara Raasch”

  1. Kelsey

    I tried to get into this one but I just couldn’t, there was too much that annoyed me or I didn’t like and was predictable, so I had to DNF it. I’m glad you liked it though!

  2. Nick @ Nick's Book Blog

    Yay! So glad you loved this, Faye. This was one of my favorite books last year. I love fantasy but I loved the world building in this one. Also, yes to everything you said about the romance! I liked how it wasn’t very overwhelming.
    Lovely review, Faye!

  3. Pili

    YES YES YES YES YES YES!!!

    I so loved this one! And I agree that Meira is one hell of an awesome heroine! I started rooting from page 1 and didn’t stop until I turned the last one!

    I must confess being Team Theron, even if I agree that it’s hard to choose!

    Great review Faye!

  4. Jeann @ Happy Indulgence

    OMGGG Faye! I’ve been HIGHLY Recommended this series and now I know why, because it sounds deeply complex, with great world building and a completely kick ass character and a romance that doesn’t take over – where can I sign up? I must read my ARC soon!

  5. Kera

    Love the review! I read it a while back for a book club and sadly couldn’t get into it, which was too bad because I’ve been wanting to get into a fantasy series again after finishing so many. I hope that Raasch writes more books after this series though because I LOVED the way she wrote! 🙂