Book Review: Snow Like Ashes

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A heartbroken girl. A fierce warrior. A hero in the making.

Sixteen years ago the Kingdom of Winter was conquered and its citizens enslaved, leaving them without magic or a monarch. Now, the Winterians’ only hope for freedom is the eight survivors who managed to escape, and who have been waiting for the opportunity to steal back Winter’s magic and rebuild the kingdom ever since.

Orphaned as an infant during Winter’s defeat, Meira has lived her whole life as a refugee, raised by the Winterians’ general, Sir. Training to be a warrior—and desperately in love with her best friend, and future king, Mather — she would do anything to help her kingdom rise to power again.

So when scouts discover the location of the ancient locket that can restore Winter’s magic, Meira decides to go after it herself. Finally, she’s scaling towers, fighting enemy soldiers, and serving her kingdom just as she’s always dreamed she would. But the mission doesn’t go as planned, and Meira soon finds herself thrust into a world of evil magic and dangerous politics – and ultimately comes to realize that her destiny is not, never has been, her own.

I came into this book expecting a lot–and I was thoroughly amazed. I don’t read a lot of YA fantasy, because a lot of it doesn’t sound appealing to be. But this book caught my eye. I loved how the Winter people were the good guys for once. I looove winter, and cold, and snow; I mean, who doesn’t like watching snow fall? It’s just beautiful. Part of what made this book so wonderful was the description of the world around Meira; there was enough description to make the world seem real, and very beautiful, but not enough to bog down the story. I loved the little glimpses of the different kingdoms’ cultures, especially Autumn’s. They sounded almost elvish. I hope to see more of them in book 2.

The characters also shine in this book. Though part warrior/soldier, Meira was also funny and compassionate. She didn’t come off as whiny, and she really learned how to put the needs of others before her own wants. I also really liked Mather and Theron. Though there is a bit of a love triangle, romance took the backseat in this story. There were parts where I almost felt there could’ve been a bit more romance, but I’m guessing it will be more prominent in book 2. Meira’s two love interests don’t fall into the typical “bad boy/good boy” trope, and honestly…I can’t really choose between them. Well, maybe I’m leaning slightly towards Theron. He’s an artist/poet/writer at heart, but is also a prince. He was intelligent, artistic, and overall selfless. He was awesome. The villain, Angra, could’ve been a bit more developed, but hopefully we’ll get more background on him in book 2. I find it funny that his name is one letter away from being Angry…On the subject of names, Sir’s name tripped me up. I thought it was some weird fantasy name that should be pronounced “sear” as in searing a steak. But actually it’s just sir like as in Sir Launcelot. Huh.

The plot was overall good; there were certain aspects I saw coming, but it was cleverly done. And the magic was interesting; it was explained enough to make sense, but not too much bore me. The romance and language were clean; violence and gore weren’t bad either.

So yeah…I kind of really loved this book. What about you? Have you read Snow Like Ashes? And what is your favorite season? Do you like snow?

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Book Review: The Underland Chronicles

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I got the first book of this series for free after doing my library’s summer reading program; I didn’t want any of the other books on the free book cart, and my sister said, “Oh, that’s by Suzanne Collins. I’ve heard it’s pretty good.” I read the back cover and expected a stereotypical adventure of a chosen-one type character, evil rats and good mice, and an annoying, rebellious warrior princess to boot.

Overall, it didn’t sound to great.

But I was so wrong! From the opening page, I found this book very engaging. The first book did have it’s stereotypical moments, and Luxa did start off as a rebellious warrior princess, but over the course of the series she matured greatly. By the end, I loved her character. Gregor was an awesome main character; shy, humble, conscientious. He had to face tough moral choices and accept responsibilities he didn’t want.
But one of the characters that really shined was Ripred, the rat. He was alternately irrating, funny, tragic, and just pure snark. Ares the bat become one of my favorite characters by book 2; and Gregor’s little sister Boots was adorable. I could ramble on and on about the characters. 😛

What about the plot? Very good. There are lots of misinterpreted prophecies and plot twists. Some characters totally flipped around and I was like, “what?!?”

You can tell that Suzanne Collins was already leaning towards the dystopian genre, especially in the third book, Gregor and the Curse of the Warmbloods. As for iffy content, there’s no swearing/inappropriate romance (this is middle grade, folks). Yay! However, the books were a leetle dark and gory at times, especially considering the target age range. If I were a mom, I wouldn’t want my twelve year-old kids reading this.
These books handled deep stuff: killing, death, disease, right and wrong, and war. They made me think and I appreciated that. If you’re looking for a light, fluffy middle grade, this isn’t a good series for you. It’s not as depressing as the Hunger Games, but it has it’s moments. And that ending…well, Suzanne Collins wrote as happy an ending as she could manage.
So if you’re a Hunger Games fan, or you want a clean, thought-provoking fantasy series to read, you might want to try the Underland Chronicles.