2.5 out of 5 stars
Another series I really want to enjoy, but I just can’t get past the mess.
The first installment of this series, Snow Like Ashes, didn’t fully engage me, and at the end, just seemed lacking of the very magic its story is about. Now the sequel, Ice Like Fire, has both the same and completely opposite problem: the story has too much magic, and the book, again, has little.
This book picks up with Meira, Queen of Winter, struggling to keep her newly freed kingdom from again falling under outside rule: this time from Cordell. While Cordell helped free Winter, they did it for a price – access to the chasm that feeds all the magic in the world. Now Meira is tromping across the world trying to figure out how to control this magic.
SPOILERS: Magic is bad. It doesn’t work as people think (through conduit objects wielded only by the ruler of each kingdom), but rather it can escape the conduit and embed in a person himself, making him impossibly powerful and corrupting him thoroughly. Meira herself has this power, and fights to remain in control. She does what characters in books in desperate need of plot contrivance do: she keeps it a secret. And suffers. So do her friends. Her country. Everyone, including the readers, suffers because Meira doesn’t have one little conversation.
Finally, it all comes out, because the bad guys figure it out first, get the power, and stage takeovers. Thanks, Meira. At least you got more pages out of this.
The story isn’t bad, per se. The world is well built, but opportunities that seem very cool (tracking the Order of the Lustrate across the world, unraveling ancient clues and finding hidden artifacts) are wasted by each being solved in about a page. Meira would make one hell of a detective – or maybe she’s psychic, because these mysteries that seem impossible solve just fall at her feet, one after another.
Mostly, my issue with Ice Like Fire is that the magic is thoroughly confusing. Bad guy King Angra has magic, but he’s been dead a while, oh wait, now someone else has it, and more people, even those who aren’t of the bloodline, and hey, maybe everyone can have it, but we don’t want that because it’s bad, but it’s happening anyway because Meira has trust issues and Angra was never dead. Got all that? No? Don’t care.
There’s some side-switching treachery here too, complete with the most predictable twist of all time. (Theron: Good or Bad? Hero or Villain? Taylor Swift would write the soundtrack for this movie if she couldn’t get other work.)
Overall: I didn’t hate this book, but there are things I hated about it. Those things outweighed what was good, or could have been.