3 out of 5 stars
Strong characters have you rooting for the good guys, but shaky world-building buries the high points of this story in clutter.
In the world of Primoria, the Kingdom of Winter was overthrown 16 years ago by the evil, power-hungry King of Spring. All Winterians were killed or enslaved, save for eight survivors. Two infants were among them, now two young adults who’ve spent their entire lives on the run: Mather, the nearly-grown rightful King of Winter, and Meira, a scrappy young girl desperate to prove herself worthy of a home she cannot remember.
There’s magic in this story (of course), and that’s where Snow Like Ashes gets a little weak. In Primoria, magic can only be wielded only by the ruler of each kingdom, channeled through an object, called a Conduit, that was infused with its power by exposure to the source. That source lies deep within the mountains shared by the Season Kingdoms, it’s location lost to time. The Kingdom of Winter’s conduit is a locket. When the King of Spring breaks it, their magic is lost.
Just like that. [Insert balloon deflating noise here.]
Competing with this mediocre storyline is another layer, dictating the gender-specificity of the power. Some kingdoms’ power can only be passed through the female bloodline, others through the male. It’s almost cool, but ends up being underwhelming.
Are these plot points rules for the world-build, or hints about the story? Because they act as both, and spoil a lot of what is supposed to surprise you.
Meira is quite likable, desperate to prove herself but kept “safe” by those in charge. Mather, the King, is a good male counterpart – the obvious love interest who is noble and brave enough for you to see what Meira likes about him. (That, and there are zero other guys her age.) The rest of the cast is predictable but well-placed and serve their purpose nicely.
Snow Like Ashes is a good story, but it’s foundation is not quote strong enough. If it hadn’t been based on magic, or if the magic had been more interesting, it could have really been something. I’m not sure how the rest of this series can overcome its own underpinning, but it will be worth reading the attempt. I’ve added Ice Like Fire to my TBR.