The short: 3/5 ✦. The interesting premise doesn’t save this book from bland characters and flat writing.
It’s hard to review books that are good, because all you usually wanna do is say, “IT WAS AWESOME. EVERYONE SHOULD READ THIS. THE END.” But it’s even harder to review books that are more . . . meh.
Snow Like Ashes isn’t bad, but it isn’t great, either. I admit that it’s possible that I’ve simply been reading too much of the same genre of AU fantasy (and nearly any book that has to follow The Fifth Season will have a hard time matching up). I was reminded very strongly of the Throne of Glass series, which I certainly had my issues with, but it still motivated me to continue past book one. I have no such urge for Snow Like Ashes.
The concept is a pretty unique, with kingdoms that not only represent the four seasons but actually embody them in environment and the appearance of the citizens. The author’s dedication mentions that she conceived the idea when she was eleven years old, and it definitely feels like an idea a writer would have at that age. And I don’t mean that as a criticism – heck, I had similar creations myself – but maybe this is why the world feels both too sprawling and too sparse. There’s a great deal of info-dumping without much insight, and protagonist Meira’s narrative voice doesn’t inspire curiosity into her world at all. To be fair, she was more flawed and realistic than many YA heroines, but every time she would remark on or do something notable, it was immediately countered with a totally different action that knocked her back into stereotypical territory. She has admirable aspirations for herself, and even the love triangle (really more of a love-angle, since Mather and Theron don’t like each other) wasn’t as annoying as it could have been because Meira didn’t put herself in that situation; it just kind of happened, and she wasn’t pleased about it. It pains me to say this, but better writing would have done her character much more service. As it is, she is incredibly inconsistent, making her victories bittersweet. (The amount of convenient plot points and overused tropes didn’t help, either.)
Unlike the similar Crown of Midnight, I figured out the “twist” long before it was even hinted at, which is a huge surprise for me, since I’m usually unbelievably obtuse about these things. Then it became the waiting game for when the characters would figure it out, and so made for rather bored reading. Too much and not enough happens throughout the book, and pretty much every other character besides Meira was rather static and archetypal.
Fortunately, there is enough originality and competence in this novel to keep it from being bland, and overall, I did quite like it. It is also a fairly self-contained novel; while open-ended for subsequent books, it ends satisfactorily with the completion of all plot lines and character arcs. But I don’t think I’ll be continuing the series.
Header image: Snow Like Ashes by Sara Raasch, published October 14th 2014 by Balzer + Bray.