Fantasy, High Fantasy
Snow Like Ashes, Book # 1
Balzer + Bray
October 14th 2014
May 7, 2020 May 9, 2020
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, 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.
About the book
Primodia is a world divided in eight kingdoms, four are Rhythms Kingdoms and four Season Kingdoms. The two types differ by the seasons, cyclic in the rhythms kingdoms and perpetual in the season kingdoms. The first are Yakim, Ventralli, Cordell e Paisly (hope they have these names in English, too) and it is easy to understand the season kingdoms names: Spring, Summer, Fall (or Autumn? Don’t know the English version, we have only one name for fall, not two!) and Winter. The last one, 16 years ago was conquered by Spring, enslaving its population and destroying the locket, power of the Winter’s magic. A group of refugees escaped and made the Raina Plains their home, plains that no one wants, and they are searching for the two pieces of the magical locket to restore magic and free the other Winterians, enslaved in Spring and forced to work for the King.
Primodia is a magical reign, but the access to that magic disappeared and what is left are magical “objects” that each king or queen owns. Moreover, four kingdoms are actually “queendoms” because only women can use magic and four are “kingdoms” because only men can use magic. Winter is a matriarchal reign but the Queen gave birth to a boy, prince, now king, Mather so only his daughter will be able, in the future, to use magic.
The book begins with our protagonist Meira who wants to be useful to the rebellion and goes on a mission to a city in Spring where a piece of the medallion is hidden and she actually manages to bring it “home”. But she doesn’t notice that she is being followed by Spring explorers who are killed by the Winterians, except for one who runs away. They must escape, dividing into four groups and agree to reunite in the capital of the Kingdom of Cordell where King Noam will be able to help them. But when she arrives, Meira realises that her life is about to change and will finally be useful to the cause, but in which way?
I really like the author’s style. The book is not very long but it manages to explain how this fantastic world is in an exceptional way. It doesn’t give pages and pages of explanations but makes the reader understand the world invented through reading, giving explanations here and there. We discover the world as we read and I found this fact very fascinating and I must say that it is just the way I like it. And then the book is fast paced, but despite this speed, everything is clear. And she is also very good at writing battle scenes. The chapters are not very long, we follow the first person point of view and we only have one narrator: Meira.
The protagonist is Meira who is 16 years old and is an orphan. Like all Winterians, she has pale skin and white hair. At the beginning of the book she’s training to become a soldier but then her path will change. I love her. Her character is so strong that she doesn’t get overwhelmed by anything. Even when the situation looks black, she still manages to be strong and intelligent. I like that she doesn’t change during the book. She grows but her character isn’t distorted by the situations and by what happens to her.
Mather is the king of Winter, an orphan and son of Hanna, the queen killed by Angra (king of Spring). He is also training and is already a soldier since he has been trained since birth (and Meira is so envious of this). His character is not very present but I like him as Meira’s friend. Their friendship is genuine, perhaps born from the situation in which they live.
Sir (as Meira calls him) is somewhat the leader of the group, he was a warrior at Queen Hanna’s court. He is a teacher for Meira and Mather since the two kids didn’t know Winter because they were infants when King Angra invaded their “queendom”. His name is William.
The others in the group are Finn, Alysson (Sir’s wife – I will always call him Sir, too), Greer, Henn and Dendera.
Then there is King Noam who is the king of Cordell. 14 years earlier, the Winterians asked him for help and made an agreement with them that will be explained in the book, but he is a somewhat ambiguous character.
Prince Theron, Noam’s son, is also very important for the story but I cannot reveal more because I don’t want to give you all the twists present in the book. I can say that he is a nice character and very well written.
And then we come to Angra which is rarely seen in the book but who is very present in the story. He is the one who invaded Winter and killed Queen Hanna. He makes the Winterians work in the labor camps but makes them live in inhuman conditions. Even his people are not doing well and in fact the poorest people live in the slums of the capital.
What I think
I liked the book so much, too much! I believe it will go into my favourites this year. It should have more following because it is truly fantastic. The world created by the author is phenomenal, it reminds me of ACOTAR a bit, with the Courts of the Seasons but it is written much better than the Maas’ book. There are no faes or fairies, this differs, but the division into Seasons is similar (and this was written before so it is Maas who “copied” it, or is a coincidence, of course). I really like that the magic is transmitted by female line in four realms and that if a male is born he cannot use magic. I like the capitals of the various Seasons Kingdoms which to many may seem like a stupid thing but for me it’s brilliant. The capital of Winter is Jannuari (hope the capitals are the same in English but you get the gist), the Spring one is Abril and the Autumn one is Oktuber. The Summer one is not mentioned in the first book.
Also, I liked all the dialogues between Meira and Queen Hanna, all the dreams had a magical atmosphere. Yes I really liked it so much that I took so many notes! It is the first time that I have used so many post-it notes to mark pages.
I must say that the final twist was predictable, but I don’t care, in this case if I understand before reading and therefore it’s not really a twist. Despite this, the book is a must.
The only flaw is that there is no Primodia map and although it is very easy to understand how the world is formed, seeing it would make things even better.