I’d seen Sara Raasch’s Snow Like Ashes (Snow Like Ashes #1) reviewed and recommended in a number of places, so promptly added it my ever-growing, never-shrinking YA fantasy to-read list. Plus, I liked how the cover literally displayed the title, with snow like ashes falling and laying about, even if I still don’t quite understand how the title played into the plot.
Sixteen years ago (the perfect amount of time for a protagonist to grow up and experience sexual tension), the realm of Winter was invaded by the King of Spring, its queen killed, and its people enslaved. Now it only exists in the hearts and minds of a handful of survivors, hiding out in the desert and waiting for the day to reclaim their kingdom. Meira, orphaned as an infant during the burning of the capital Jannuari, trains every day to be able to go on the missions looking for the Winterians’ lost locket, a relic that serves as a conduit for their magic. Her guardian and the leader of the refugees, Sir, refuses to give her a chance in spite of her pleas and the support of Mather, the Winterian prince and Meira’s crush. However, the day arrives where Sir is forced to send her on a mission to retrieve half of the missing locket, a day that changes Meira’s life forever but brings her one step closer to regaining her homeland.
This world is certainly a unique landmass, with 4 Season kingdoms (one for each season) and 4 Rhythm kingdoms that cycle through all four seasons as normal. Although it was fascinating to think about, I didn’t love this setup because, being in a miserable winter myself, I can’t relate to being excited to reclaim a land that’s all winter all the time. I understand it’s their homeland, but personally I’d prefer to live in Summer if I could choose. Anyway, presumably there is a reason behind this weird weather phenomenon, though it hasn’t been explained. It’s likely tied to the magic that was once found in the mountains of Winter, from which the magical conduits of each kingdom came from. Each object (a locket for Winter, dagger from Cordell, staff for Spring, etc.) is entwined with the dynastic line, four of which are matriarchal and four of which are patriarchal. Again, balance of some inexplicable variety. Since Winter’s conduit is female-linked as well as broken and separated, this is a serious impediment for Mather and for retaking their country even once Meira recovers the first half.
Several of this book’s reveals were fairly obvious from the first few chapters, the main one being that Meira is the heir to the throne rather than Mather. Firstly, she’s not allowed to go out on missions, although Mather is – why would they risk the heir, even if he is a male in a matriarchal lineage? Secondly, Sir feels uncomfortable with her referring to him as her father, most likely because of his position beneath her in the realm’s hierarchy. Thirdly, once she starts having dreams of the deceased Queen Hannah after retrieving the locket, its clear that they share a bond beyond being Winterian and that Meira is destined to be more than an inept soldier.
Despite Meira’s bloodthirst and lack of interest in being a bride, this book unfortunately contains a, ugh, love triangle. Romance #1 is the best friend. Mather is certainly supportive of Meira but very bland, to the extant I’m glad Winter dodged a bullet by not having such an uninspiring leader as king. Romance #2 is Prince Theron, whom Meira is reluctantly engaged to for a marriage alliance with Cordell. However, he turns out to be well-read, caring towards his subjects and Meira, and brave enough to stand up to his slightly-crazy father – now if only he was the only love interest. But alas, that’s not allowed in YA these days. What is allowed is many gratuitous shirtless scenes where Theron and Mather physically and/or verbally fight over Meira. It made me cringe, especially as her halfhearted attempt to stop it kept being sidetracked by her drooling over them.
Worse than that was her pages-long hissy fit over being forced to get married at all, feeling so betrayed by her comrades…and not remembering for a moment that most of her people are dead or slaves so playing dress-up and marrying a cute guy is a far better fate. While she suffered as a refugee, she constantly recalls how their group dwindled in number, yet as soon as she’s called to do something that could actually help, she behaves selfishly. I admit it is courageous of Meira to want to fight for her people but if she paid more attention to political history than chakra throwing, she would realize what’s obvious to the reader – the odds are not in their favor with only eight free rebels and no other allies. Her people desperately need this alliance. Her gradual acceptance of this is drawn-out and tiresome as she finally has an “aha” moment after numerous reckless and ill-thought out acts.
I’d be fairly sure that Winter is screwed with such an unprepared ruler but, well, magic will probably save the day from the Decay, the evil formerly in the body of the Spring King and now let loose on the world. The next books will likely be a straight-forward good vs. evil fight with more triangular tension between Meira, Mather, and Theron. Unsurprisingly, I probably won’t be reading to find out.