Review can also be read at Goodreads here.
“Someday we will be more than words in the dark.”
Snow Like Ashes is a strange little book. On one hand it is a well written and intriguing read, enough that I felt it was worth reading in full and then to pick up the second in the trilogy (although, admittedly, that last part might be more due to the fact that I’d brought both books at the same time). But in the other, slightly more weighted palm I can’t shake how I felt the story was both underwhelming and predictable.
Now don’t get me wrong, as Snow Like Ashes isn’t a bad read. Perhaps I’m just too used to the conventional YA Fantasy fiction plot, as I can easily see how this would be an entertaining read to the younger end of the books intended audience. But for someone whose seen the same formula this story has time and time again by now, I found that any of the ‘surprises’ weren’t all that surprising at all.
Snow Like Ashes’ plot is easy enough to understand, and it does pull the reader in. Sixteen years before the story begins the kingdom of Winter has been defeated in a war against the kingdom of Spring, which is ruled by a cruel and unjust King. With the royal family deceased save for the youngest son, its citizens now forced to work in war camps under the reign of Spring’s King, and only a small gathering of those who had managed to escape proving to be the Kingdom’s last hope of reclaiming what was lost by searching their royalties source of power – a small locket that is what’s known as a magical conduit – Winter is on the cusp of being nothing more than a long forgotten memory. It is a story told from the point of view of one of the surviving refugees, an orphan girl called Meria.
Meria struggles with feeling inadequate. She wishes to fight and aid on skirmishes with others in their group of survivors, but is more often than not told no. That she needs more training, that she’s not ready, that its not safe. Which, for me, was the first alarm bell of ‘I can see where this is going’.
If your first question when you read this book is ‘why can Mather – the crown prince and last remaining survivor to Winter’s royal line – go on these dangerous skirmishes but Meria – that lone orphan girl who seems to have nothing but this group of people to call a family – can’t?’ then you’ve likely already worked out one of the biggest twists of the story.
“I don’t need made-up strength. I’m strong enough on my own—me, Meira, no magic or conduit or anything.”
Snow Like Ashes also has what many YA books with any hint of a romantic subplot tend to – a love triangle. I personally wasn’t overly bothered with this – at least until Mather and Theron – Meria’s second romantic interest – decide to have fight at one point in the book.
… Which is probably the last thing you should do, when you’re trying to find an ally in the Kingdom you’re visiting. After all, Theron is the Prince of this Kingdom, so it likely doesn’t look all that good when the Prince of Winter is trying to knock you out.
Despite the frustrations this book made me feel on more than one occasion, I will give it the credit it deserves in having a rather powerful ending. Even if you expect part of or most of what you think is going to happen, the story provides the satisfaction of an ending that feels at least deserving. I will admit there was one surprise at the ending I wasn’t expecting as much as others (although looking back on it now, it probably is another obvious thing to other readers).
But what shines for me in the last quarter are the three Winter slaves Meria meets. This for me was the part of the story I liked the most, as it gave the reader (and Meria) a chance to see how the rest of the Kingdom has fared over the sixteen year gap; and it isn’t good. I found myself caring more about these people and the dying hope they clung too of one day being free far more than I cared about others, which is perhaps why I felt the ending was, in its own way, rewarding.
So I suppose I find myself caught in the middle of enjoying and rolling my eyes at this book. Unlike other stories in this genre that I found generic I am giving the sequel, Ice Like Fire a chance, as overall I did find myself enjoying Snow Like Ashes somehow. Is it the best YA Fantasy out there? No. Is it one of the worst? No, far from it. Could Meria be a more powerful character? Absolutely she could be, and perhaps with the remaining two books in the series I’ll be pleasantly surprised to see that she does come into her own and take up the mantle of a strong female character. For now however, having just read the first book in this trilogy, I’m going to have to settle for it feeling rather average.
“Holding on to some part of your past even if it means also holding on to the pain of never again having it. That pain is less horrible than the pain of forgetting.”
Star rating: 5/10 🌟🌟🌟🌟🌟
(Goodreads rating: 3/5)