Thursday, June 4, 2015

Snow Like Ashes : Review

Snow Like Ashes by Sara Raasch


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.

First of all, I was not expecting this book to be as action packed as it was. It was really fast paced and so many different things happened, which was really surprising considering that Snow Like Ashes is the first book in a series. Usually, first books, especially in fantasy series, spend a lot of time world-building which is so crucial in a book with a fictional world. As a result, the first book tends to not be so packed with plot. This one wasn't like that. There was tons of story and a whole lot of story progression and development, which, ultimately, ended up being a negative.

As a consequence of being story heavy, the book sacrifices a lot of valuable page time which could have been used in world building and character development. Both these things are seriously lacking and both those things, at least for me, are really important factors in determining how good a book is. The small amount of world building that happens in the beginning left me confused. I didn't have a clear idea of what the world looked like or how it was set up other than the four season kingdoms and four rhythm kingdoms. But that was a pretty basic concept and I really wanted more. The characters were also lacking in substance. They felt very one dimensional. Each character ultimately had one purpose and their entire characterization was built around that purpose. There was no depth to them, which made story feel quite dull.

Meira, the main character, comes off as very melodramatic or over dramatic at times. There was a huge thing throughout the entire book where Meira was struggling with wanting to be a warrior but was told that she would serve a better purpose by marrying Theron for the sake of an alliance. I understood the whole not wanting to be held back by the idealistic stereotype of what a woman is and should be and wanting to fight for her country. I get that! But I felt like the book seemed to really push this feminist idea to the point where it seemed to marginalize the rest of the story. I prefer the kinds of feminist stories where the girl is just doing her thing and she's strong and smart and powerful and her own person and it's not strange that she's fighting and it's not extraordinary that she wants to do or be something different from the stereotype. In this book, there are multiple times where Meira will be training and she'll note the Winterian women are only fighting now because there are so few Winterians left anyway or she'll walk on the training field and notice the stares and think "they must've never seen a woman training before."  And maybe Meira is a victim of my (unfortunate) comparison to Celaena Sardothien because Celaena is now my standard and ideal for a female kick-ass character. The thing with Celaena is that having women fighting is not super common and yes people are shocked to find out that Adarlan's Assassin is a woman, but she's Adarlan's Assassin because she's damn good at what she does and being female is not what makes her extraordinary. For Meira, a lot of the time it is her female identity that makes her remarkable and unique.

The other characters, like I said, are also pretty one dimensional. Mather is "eh" until he becomes bad for the decisions he's made regarding Meira and from then on he just stays bad. There is nothing else in his character other than not-a-great-guy. Theron is the exact opposite of Mather. He is artsy and the good guy. Just plain old good. He struggles with being Prince and what is expected of him as a future king buy this is more just stated than felt. The bad guys were bad mostly because Meira said so, their characterizations, again, were very one dimensional.

I ended up skimming through most of the second half because I was more interested in the plot points than the development, since there really was no development anyway. Also, the big secret that comes out in the end? The secret itself was pretty big but the aftermath of it felt really anti-climactic. I don't know if I'll be reading the sequel. I'm not in any kind of rush. Maybe one day if I feel bored and have nothing better to read, I might pick it up, but if I happen to be spoiled on the second book, I probably won't mind.

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