I have always found that books can be an excellent form of escape from the real world. When life gets too hectic or upsetting, they provide an alternate narrative for one to be a part of. Books allow us to forget our everyday troubles for a while by sending our minds on adventures that we might not ever dream of. I know that this year has not been easy for some, so I wanted to recommend a book that I read a while ago that, in my opinion, provides the perfect kind of escape.
I bought Snow Like Ashes because it has received a number of good reviews. I will just let you know now that all of those reviews are true. This book is a roller coaster that never slows down. The description on the book jacket doesn’t begin to describe the experience (the description is basically a summary
of the first four chapters, but that’s it). There are multiple twists and turns which eventually lead to a heart-wrenching climax.
Sara Raasch has given us a super-cool dystopianesque fantasy consisting of eight different kingdoms divided into two different realms, both of which exist on the continent of Primoria. The two realms are known as the “Rhythms” and “Seasons,” and each of those realms is home to four kingdoms. Now, what would a good fantasy book be without some awesome magical power, which makes everyone in the novel just that much more epic? Each kingdom has a conduit, an object infused with magic that only a person with royal blood can use. As if that isn’t enough, the conduits are made even more complex because four of them are female blooded, and four of them are male blooded, (meaning their power can only be harnessed by one gender or the other). The main character, Meira, is a Season, or more specifically, a Winterian. Winter, along with Spring, Autumn, and Summer, are part of the Seasons realm. We join the story sixteen years after a major war between Spring and Winter, a war that Spring won. Twenty-five Winterian refugees managed to escape but the rest were forced into slavery by Spring.
We learn that Meira is an orphan who was saved during the war by the intimidating, yet somehow very lovable, Sir. The original twenty-five refugees have dwindled down to eight and include one gorgeous future king, Mather. Miera, understandably, has a bit of a crush on our white-haired boy king but is unable to do anything about it because of their class differences. On top of that, Sir refuses to let Meira go on any reconnaissance missions to collect information on the whereabouts of Winter’s conduit, a locket (which Spring had destroyed). In a bold display of determination Meira ends up going on a mission to the capital of Spring. Using her general badassness and her insanely cool chakram she retrieves one half of the locket. However, she also unwittingly leads a few Spring soldiers straight to the refugees’ camp. They are forced to flee to one of the Rhythms, Cordell, to seek help there. This is where things start to go awry: Meira is thrust into a world she never dreamed she’d be a part of. Intrigue, romance, deception, and biting sarcasm ensue.
One of the best parts of this book is that you can’t not become invested in the characters. Another is Raasch’s world-building skill, which is also to be applauded. The descriptions of the citizens from different kingdoms in the Seasons are both elaborate and engaging. The distinctions between them, not just in looks but in attitude and demeanor as well, are well thought out and entirely believable. These add a complex layer of interactions between different ethnicities to the story, something that makes it just that much harder to put down.
Though they are not considered classics, dystopian novels like this one can do more than simply entertain. Oftentimes authors will take what is happening in the world around them and magnify it, shedding even more light on the issues that everyday people may be facing. Novels like Snow Like Ashes can be a tool to point out the flaws in our society and to provoke readers to action. In my opinion, this is what makes dystopian novels so fascinating; when done well, they perfectly combine the worlds of entertainment and social politics. Stories like this one are an entertaining, peaceful, and thought-provoking way to address all sorts of issues. If you’re looking for a good read that encompasses all of these things, then I would highly recommend Snow Like Ashes.