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Snow Like Ashes (Snow Like Ashes, #1)
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message 1: by Amy (last edited May 03, 2015 03:08PM) (new)

Amy | 36 comments Mod
I am, by nature, a completionist. I am crazy for finishing things: work projects, embroidery, books, TV shows, movies. Which sounds like a great trait, right, until you think about how much time I have spent finishing things that I really didn’t like, and really weren’t that useful, and that didn’t teach me anything about myself or society or anything else. Seriously, I have addictive tendencies, and when that means that I can’t stop watching a TV show until it is canceled, you might just call it a problem.

A few years ago, my best friend finally convinced me to adopt the 50-page rule (and the 20-minute rule). If I’m not into a book after the first 50 pages, she gave me permission to stop reading. And apparently her permission was what I needed to give myself permission, because now I’m a huge proponent of the 50-page rule: If, after 50 pages, you don’t like a book and it isn’t an important cultural book and it isn’t teaching you something or somehow making you a better person, you get to stop reading it. This may sound normal to you, but it has been life-changing for me. I still probably finish more books (and shows and movies) than I ought, but this idea that I don’t have time to finish unremarkable books frees up so much more of my time for books that I do find remarkable. It’s awesome.

A different friend asked me the other night, though, if I ever make a mistake by quitting a book after 50 pages. And I told her sure, I’m sure I do. I wouldn’t know it, but I’m sure it happens.

And then I read Snow Like Ashes.

Snow Like Ashes would have been one of those mistakes.

Snow Like Ashes is Sara Raasch’s debut high fantasy novel, about a kingdom conquered by another and a very small band of exiles fighting to regain their land. The world building is pretty much what a six-year-old might conceive, and the plot is so common that I knew in the first 50 pages what the book’s twist was going to be and how it was going to end. And I was right, but along the way, Raasch wrote herself a very smart heroine and made some very smart decisions. Had I applied the 50-page rule, I would have missed that. And that would have been too bad.

15 years or so before the book begins, an ambitious king of Spring used his share of the world’s magic to make himself some super-soldiers and conquer neighboring Winter. As you might expect, it is always spring in Spring and always winter in Winter, and the Winterians have white hair and pale skin, and Autumnians wear orange and red, and seriously, the only part you haven’t guessed by now is that this world also has four Rhythm kingdoms that experience all four seasons.

25 Winterians escaped Spring’s onslaught, while the rest of their people ended up in Spring’s work camps. As the book begins, we’re down to eight exiles, five men and three women, including the male heir to the throne. And it turns out that it’s too bad that he’s a man because Winter’s line is matriarchal and only women can wield the kingdom’s magic. They have to keep him alive until he can marry and have a daughter for Winter’s magic to survive. Also, when Spring conquered Winter, they stole Winter’s magical conduit, a locket, and broke it in two, and bizarrely (since their heir can’t use it), the Winterians’ have this tremendous focus on finding the locket before overthrowing Spring.

But ignore all that, because there are two very smart parts to this book. First, the heroine, Meira, despite having a tendency to focus almost single-mindedly on mattering to people, is smart, capable, determined, and brave. She makes things happen, even when they’re bad things. She’s willing to risk life and limb for her country, and in the first act of the book, she succeeds where her fellow exiles have repeatedly failed, largely through a sort of sheer, relentless will that she uses, throughout the book, to keep going long after almost anyone else would have quit. She’s tremendous.

Second, if you’ve read even a few fantasy books about revolutions, you know that there are a lot of authors out there writing revolutions that don’t make a whole lot of sense, that are quite often reduced to an evil mage, a plucky band of rebels, a bold girl and a stalwart boy. There’s little about the logistics of a revolutionary, or even more importantly, about the sacrifice of a revolution. And while I don’t need a dozen pages on currency destabilization in a high-fantasy world, simplistic revolutions are driving me batty. But there’s nothing simple about the politics or sacrifices of Raasch’s revolution, and even when you think you’ve got those figured out, she takes you around another corner. If you’re a fan of fantastic revolutions, it’s worth a read.

I won’t tell you more about the plot. Half of you are going to guess, in the first 50 pages, where the book ends, though you’ll still be surprised by how you get there. The other half of you deserve all the surprises and intricacies and sacrifices that Raasch has given her readers.

Amy


Hannah | 3 comments I enjoyed Snow Like Ashes. And I will admit that I only picked it up because

1. I had access to the pre-pub copy and
2. it had a chakram on the cover

I saw the ending coming. Overall the Season/Rhythm thing threw me, but after a while I kind of understood what was happening there. And I never really felt a connection to Mather except in the very beginning.

It was a good read once you get into it.


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