Once upon a time, there was a great Kingdom of Winter. It was full of magic, and it was gorgeous with its sparkling ice, soft snow, and blinding whiteness. But the Kingdom of Spring decided that Winter didn’t deserve what it had and conquered it. The Kingdom was ruined; people were killed or taken into slavery. Spring had no mercy for his captors or their home and queen. But 25 Winterians were able to run away. One of the survivors was a child of the queen… her son, the future ruler.
Meira, the main heroine, is a sixteen-year-old girl who was orphaned as an infant during Winter’s defeat. She was growing as a fighter, becoming a warrior who one day must save her Kingdom and her people by helping the future king take back his throne.
Unfortunately, only 8 of the 25 escaped Winterians have survived, and they’re the only hope for Winter. The problem is, the conduit that contained the magic of their Kingdom was broken into two pieces and is now guarded by Spring. Even if they can get it back, though, the conduit is female-blooded, and their only heir is male.
Meira has never even seen Winter. She was too small to remember anything, but now she is ready to fight for it. This doesn’t seem too strange, though, since she grew up in the company of patriotic warriors and the future king — who is, by the way, also
the love of her life her best friend. Meira desperately wants to prove that her Kingdom needs her and that she can be useful; but, what she wants to do and what she needs to do are two different things.
There are seven more kingdoms who clearly don’t want to mess with Spring, so they look at Winterians like they are dirt under their nails. But Cordell, one of the four Kingdoms of Rhyme, has its own interest in Winter. In order to become Winter’s ally, they want to marry their prince with Meira as a representative of her Kingdom. It’s the only way Winter can get help in a war with Spring, but the girl dreams of fighting, not of the crown and noble title.
“And now this is it. This is how I will matter to Winter. As a marriage pawn.”
As a character, Meira is wonderful. I can’t say that she’s smart, but she’s brave and determined, loyal and strong. She is one of those warriors who doesn’t pay much attention to the strategy and logic, but she would die fighting for a stranger in need. Most of all, she wants to find her place in life and do everything to deserve it.
“No matter what happens, no matter who turns on me, no matter what pompous swine thinks he has power over me, I am still me. I will always be me.”
Her character really develops through the book. At the beginning I was a bit tired of her constant rambling about how she wants to matter to her Kingdom and how she wants to help. The truth is that her “help” often brings more problems. She seems to merely be an ambitious child in desperate need of appreciation. But when a real chance arises to help her people — just not the one that was in her ideal scenario — she begins to wrinkle her nose and spit her rage on everyone because of the injustice of her destiny.
But then, when she happens to see the real condition of her Kingdom and how her people live in slavery, she grows some lady-balls and starts to kick ass. After that, she was a heroine I could really admire.
Author Sara Raasch’s fantasy world in Snow Like Ashes was great, but it was a bit tough to understand at the beginning with too many kingdoms and detailed information about them. I did love her writing style though; the words were beautiful and stirring. Even I started to feel a bit patriotic toward Winter. What I liked the most was that “saving the Kingdom” was the main theme of the story instead of just a background plot to add some spice to the romance.
I do have to admit that there is also a love triangle, which — strangely enough — didn’t annoy me. Mather is the future king of Winter and Meira`s best friend. They grew up together and, naturally, fell in love. But he is a king with GREAT responsibilities since he is a male with a female-blooded conduit and, technically, has no country to rule. He can’t be with a peasant girl, no matter what he feels. What he needs is to make a powerful alliance. He would make a great king, even though his temper often takes the best of him. The other male-member of said love triangle is Theron, a prince of Cordell, whose father is a king who likes to make a puppet of him. His mother was from a kingdom known for art; he inherited her talent for poetry and love for books and paintings. While the other 7 Winterians try to use Meira as they need, he understands her wanting to be a hero, not just a pawn. After all, he is in the same situation with his father.
Both boys were interesting and had their pro’s and con’s, so I still haven’t decided what “team” to choose. Meira also thought more about her duty than about boys, which is one of the reasons that I want to shake hands with Sara Raasch — because God forbid YA authors to actually write about independent and strong women! Although, this last statement isn’t very fair because we now have more and more of such heroines.
Overall, the book was very good: I was pleased with the plot — though the twist wasn’t surprising — with the writing, and with ALL of the characters. I can’t wait to read the sequel!