Thursday, January 1, 2015

{BookTalk} Snow Like Ashes #1: Sara Raasch

Rating: 96%
Series: Snow Like Ashes #1
Genre: High Fantasy, Romance, Fiction, Young Adult,
Publisher: Balzer + Bray
Publication Date:October 14, 2014
Page Count: 416
Format: Hardcover
Source: Gifted

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Goodreads Synopsis: 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.

Who Would I Recommend This Book To?
Would I Buy It?

This is an Instagram of SLA @ Katz's Deli in New York City
Considering I begged for the book for Hanukah and it was one of my most anticipated books of 2014, I would say.... yes. I would have absolutely 100% bought it if I hadn't begged my best friend to get it for me. 

Background & Backstory
I first heard about this book in January of 2014 when Fiction_The New Reality was doing her New Year, New Books celebration when there wasn't even a cover or a complete synopsis. I've been following Sara Raasch on Twitter ever since and knew I HAD to get her book. High Fantasy is a genre I have recently become interested in and this seemed like the perfect book to read. 

What Was My Reaction After I Finished This Book?
Oh. My. Gawd! This is my new obsession. Let me yell from the rooftops!

In past blog posts, I have talked about how I find a new bookish obsession every year or so. From an outsider's perspective, "obsession" is a word taken extremely lightly. A lot of friends have said, "You say every book you read is amazing." As anyone knows in any dedicated fandom.... "obsession" is something that should be taken 100% seriously with the assumption that whatever it is (book, movie, celebrity) will henceforth take over your life. And that anyone in the foreseeable future should know that this book will be pushed/forced on them.

Snow Like Ashes by Sara Freaking Amazing Raasch is that new obsession.

If anyone has followed this blog for more than a week, they will know that from January 2013 ON, the Legend Trilogy by Marie Lu was something I lived and breathed. I have gained my best twitter friends, met the author twice, and made the commitment to the fandom like no one else has before. While it is still one of the best trilogies of all my existence, it was time that a new book came to take the crown.

I have to admit, like Legend and the Hunger Games, it was not my immediate reaction to LOVE this book. It took time, but not enough that I was almost ready to give up on it (Throne of Glass). In fact, I have two critiques for it. This is Sara Raasch's debut novel, she's young, and obviously doesn't have the experience Ray Bradbury does.... or even Veronica Roth. So it is expected that her debut won't be 100% perfection. There were some cliche phrases and awkward wording that more seasoned authors have smoothed out in their writing. 

Because of this, the protagonist of this novel, Meira, was affected. It was most certainly not love-at-first-sight for me. In fact, even at the end of the novel it isn't. Meira is insecure and seeks out praise from her father-figure in the story, William Loren aka. "Sir." She seems extremely unsure of herself at times and a bit immature. Yet, with fantasy stories especially, the beauty of everything is that we as readers get to sit back and observe these character's development. Each time they overcome a new obstacle, each time they stand up for themselves/their obligations, you see them in a new light and I am so excited to see Meira's progression.

Something interesting throughout the first hundred pages or so of Snow Like Ashes, was that it seemed as if I was willing myself to dislike it. I don't know why, I don't know how (because of how undeniably awesome of a book it is), but I kept searching for some little quality to dislike. With this heightened sense of awarement (totally a word), my brain went into critical figure-everything-out mode. At each twist, turn, and bend in the road, I projected and inferred. To my (now pleasant) surprise, I was unable to guess what was going to happen. There are some common tropes/themes that make themselves prominent ONLY in fantasy (which is what has deterred me fro the genre the past 2 years) and Snow Like Ashes only had one of them, which I can overlook and forgive Sara for because of how well it was done and served only as a stepping stone in the plot versus a huge "What are we going to do now?" element.

Characters are an element that you could almost consider most important throughout a high-fantasy novel. Because of their reputation for being notoriously slow due to excessive world-buildind and build-up.... you have to rely on the characters to get you through the not-so-riveting sections. I am so happy to tell you that I liked nearly every one.

Despite Meira's short-comings in terms of confidence levels.... she had some excellent character traits. She was sassy and sarcastic at times, which was a surprising combination. On top of that, she was a bit of a theatric, especially when it came to Sir not allowing her to go on the mission for the locket half. All of these qualities and more are what made her relatable and lovable, versus Celaena Sardothien who takes some time to warm up to.

As I am composing my thoughts, I am having a conversation with Twitter BFF +Nathania Shuttleworth about Theron, who is one of Meira's two love interests. We are both firmly Team Theron. I don't know what was off about him, he was, in fact, endearing, during the majority of the novel towards Meira, but Mather was not the most likable character (plus his name annoys me). Theron is strong leader, he stood up to his father, is dependable for his kingdom, has an artistic writing side AND hot (according to Meira). He's the total princely package. I had brief suspicion that he was a bad guy and would turn against Winter.... but luckily that wasn't the case.

The dynamic between Meira and Sir is an intriguing one because of all the white lies that were told to hide Meira's identity. I am so looking forward to how their relationship will change in the sequels and how the positions of power will shift. For so long, she searched for his approval and she has finally done something to validate it, but how much will that change them?

It was a classic twist and one (out of the billion I thought of) that should have seemed the most glaringly obvious that Meira was the true heir. There were little hints/clues as to her true identity.... but I obviously sped right past them. I had a feeling (for some reason) that she wasn't a Winterian, but a citizen of another Season or even a Rhythm.

Can we just talk about the Chakram? In so many YA novels, the protagonist has some be-all, end-all weapon of choice. For Katniss, it's her Bow and Arrow. For June, it's her wits. For Jaron, it's his sword. Yet, I have never conceived of a weapon as epic as the chakram. It took some time for me to grasp as a kind of frisbee-boomerang, but once I did, I wished I could order it off of amazon. I have no clue how you would catch it without slicing your hand open OR how it comes back to you without bouncing off of another surface. Yet, I accept it anyway and think it's remarkably badass.

I remember when I first saw the cover back in (let's call it May) when it was first revealed and was sent reeling with how incredibly epic it was. And it is by far my best looking naked book.

The title is something interesting to discuss. The prequel novella is Icicle Like Kindling, first book is Snow Like Ashes, sequel is Ice Like Fire. There is a gradual progression of power and development between them and their power. Icicles and Kindling are the weakest forms of their power. Snow aka Winter is weak, fine, and powdery, similar to ashes. Ice is harsh and Fire is its opposite which gives me hope that the sequel will be just as complex with an equally good conflict. I especially look forward to hearing about Summer which is never mentioned in detail. 

The ending is satisfying and spins you around at a break-neck pace, yet is extremely conclusive. I have a feeling Raasch wanted to give us a mini reprieve before thrusting us into the action-packed sequel which I look forward to, especially if it means I can enjoy a little Theron/Meira fluff.

How Likely Is It That I Will Read The Sequel To This Book?
I loved loved loved this book so much and the sequel -Ice Like Fire- is one of my most anticipated books of 2015. I will be requesting an ARC from the publisher and entering every giveaway under the sun so I may obtain it.

Conclusion: Snow Like Ashes was a stunning, gripping debut with a break-neck pace, lovable characters, and an intriguing plot.


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