Author: Sara Raasch
Series: Snow Like Ashes (Book 1)
Genre: Young adult; fantasy
“…even though I’ve never seen Winter or its enslaved people or set foot on its soil, I’m expected to sacrifice everything, because until Winter is free I don’t matter.”
Meira is an orphan – by some stroke of fate one of the few survivors of the decimation and enslavement of her people – who lives with the dwindling handful of people who made it out of Winter. They are constantly on the run to keep one step ahead of Spring’s forces while they search for Winter’s magical conduit, destroyed when Winter fell.
The action. So, a lot of people like to say a lot of things about action scenes. George R. R. Martin sings the praises of Bernard Cornwell’s ability to write action and, for my folly, I bought one of Cornwell’s books to see for myself. He’s good, but nothing on Raasch. The action scenes were fast paced and emotional , capturing the sheer intensity of combat. A-mazing.
The voice. I’ve seen a few reviewers mention that they couldn’t really connect to Meira. And initially, I felt the same. But her voice is so engaging! I was compelled to keep reading, just to see what would happen. There’s sort of this tension all the way through between the exiles about the conduit and the heir, and its fascinating to see Meira interact with this.
The world. While the premise was a little simplistic (and having a whole nation entirely one season is problematic on a number of levels), it was brought to life through the complex web of allegiances and relationships, the prejudices and attitudes of each nation to the other, the simmering animosity between the Seasons and the other kingdoms.
Ball gown with pockets!! Enough said, really.
Wider cast. Rest of the Winterian group, even the guy she went on the mission with (whose name I’ve forgotten, which kinda highlights my point), are little more than shadow puppets. They’re never really fleshed out or given any other motivation than to restore Winter, which is probably a limitation of scope but these are the people Meira’s lived with all her life. Maybe we’ll see more of them in the later books?
The Heirs of the Conduits. The conduit of each nation only works for the heir of that nation, and only for a certain gender. So what happens when the heir dies, or no heir of the correct gender is born, or the heir is non-binary, or the whole family is overthrown and a cobbler ends up king?
But frankly, I’m really grasping at straws here trying to find enough not-so-positives to warrant a separate section.
I really enjoyed Snow Like Ashes. I loved that Meira expressed her self-doubt, her lack of agency, but then overcome it and took back the agency for herself. As events got more and more out of hand, Meira only becomes stronger in her resolution to be herself, to hold her ground and fight the battles she had to fight on her own terms.
Would I read the sequel? Yes – and probably anything else Raasch puts out between now and forever.
Should you read it? Yes. It would probably resonate more strongly with 15-18 year olds, but there is something in this story for everyone.