Snow Like Ashes by Sara Raasch is the first in a young adult fantasy series centering around Meira, a young refugee left orphaned when her country was overrun and conquered by a neighbouring power. It focusses on her struggle to locate the missing magical Conduit of Winter and to free her imprisoned countrymen.
What I liked
The world. I really enjoyed the world that Raasch has built for her story. There are eight kingdoms; four Season realms, each dominated by a single season (our protagonist is from Winter) and four Rhythm, whose climate cycles through each season. Each kingdom was wonderfully described and I loved their seasonal themes. The tensions between the kingdoms were interesting and well described and I appreciated the political machinations that were going on behind the scenes.
The magic system. The magic system of the Conduits was fascinating, and I look forward to reading more about the chasm of magic and the Decay in future books. I always appreciate it when limitations are written into the magic system – often, they are as interesting as the magic itself. In this case I enjoyed the fact that certain artifacts are limited by gender and can only be used in certain ways. I loved reading how the various wielders of the Conduits worked within those limitations to either serve their own ends or help their people.
What I didn’t like
All the tropes. Too often I felt that Raasch was ticking boxes to see how many YA and fantasy tropes she could fit into this book and more, that they are not subverted. Young orphan discovers she has a secret past and destiny filled future. Check. Missing magical artifact hidden right at the heart of the antagonist’s power. Check. Young king struggling to meet the needs and expectations of his people. Check. Honestly, there are simply too many to name, and many I can’t name for spoiler reasons. Now, I’m aware that there are very few new stories in the world. but I would have liked to see some kind of twist on these old tropes.
The foreshadowing. This came across as being rather heavily emphasised, which, along with the use of the tropes, made the story for me at least very, very predictable.
The love triangle. This seems an obligatory part of every YA book these days and Snow Like Ashes is no exception. It wasn’t badly done, it just didn’t grab my attention at all.
Despite the predictability, the worldbuilding carried me through Snow Like Ashes and I gave it three and a half stars out of five. I probably wouldn’t be interested enough to pay for the sequel, Ice Like Fire, but as it was available from my local library I will check it out.