**I received an ARC in exchange for an honest review
Our story opens with our main character, Katya, being ripped away from the only home and family she has ever known. It is a heartbreaking first scene and pulled at my heartstrings immediately. I knew nothing about this girl, only that she was losing everything in the blink of an eye and there was not a soul there to defend her. The members of her small frozen village, a village she had grown up in, looked on with hatred in their eyes. They were terrified of her and only wanted to be rid of the girl with powers they could never understand.
Katya is a damaged 17 year old girl from a small village on the outskirts of Kiev. Orphaned as a baby in the frozen forest, she is discovered by an older couple who take her in. She calls them Babushka and Dedushka, the Russian word for grandmother and grandfather, but they are no relation to her. She is a lost girl whose family gave her up and left her to die in the cold. Katya could never succumb to the cold though, for she has powers that would keep her alive in the harshest wintery terrains. She has the power of cold. Ice. The ability to freeze water in any temperature. There is also a power she possesses that is a bit more destructive-- something she has labeled 'cold fire'. A power that has gotten her exiled from her village and sent to the rumored 'evil prince' of Kievan Rus'.
"As long as I can see the stars, I told myself, I won't feel so far from home."
I was able to connect with Katya, and I fell in love with her. She is a lost girl, searching for a way to be strong in a world she doesn't understand. Her ability to trust is non-existent from years of ridicule, but her want to overcome that is one of my favorite aspects of this story. She wants to be better, and that drive in her is stronger than her past. I admired her ability to change when faced with new situations. She is an open-minded, multi-dimensional character, well-written and fierce! SO very fierce and protective of the ones that she cares about.
Sasha is the young prince of a city on the brink of war. He has long since given up on using his own power to control fire, and is in search of other powerful element wielders to help defend his city. I fell in love with this young prince. His determination to protect his people, and his drive to do that at all costs is admirable. When faced with adversity, he doesn't get angry. He finds a way around or through it.
I enjoyed the world building in this story. While this is not a sequel to Beyond a Darkened Shore, it is still set in the same world, close to the same time period. The Russian and Slavik folklore is very present, including tales of Baba Yaga and the Firebird! The mythology is woven so well throughout the adventure; I absolutely enjoyed learning more about this culture that is rarely found in YA literature.
Jessica Leake has quickly become one of my favorite story-tellers. I find myself falling in love with her characters and worlds, to the point that I dream about them. As a constant reader, that is my ultimate differential of a good book and an excellent book. Throughout the day, drifting off to a frozen world where princes are passionate about the people that they rule. Where young, damaged girls find the power within themselves to change their future. And ultimately, where a group of young people can band together to try to defeat an enemy that threatens their world. I LOVED every second of this book!
Thank you so much to Jessica Leake and the publisher, Harper Collins for sending me an early copy!