A Lot or a Little?
What you will—and won't—find in this book.
The magic in this world can be compared with other magical worlds, especially Middle Earth from The Lord of the Rings. Only a few monarchs wield the power and can use it to influence and improve different aspects of their kingdom. And there's dark magic, too. Readers can also think about the horrific practice of ethnic cleansing that has taken place throughout history in relation to what is happening to the Winterians in this book. They have lost their homeland and are slowly starved and worked to death in work camps.
A theme repeated the most often: Your duty to a cause larger than yourself comes before satisfying your own wishes and desires. The story also stresses the importance of culture, homeland, and a sense of national identity. The story also raises issues of discriminating by race, with the persecuted being Winterians with white hair, fair skin, and blue eyes and the bad guys blonde from the kingdom of Spring, with skin described as "a few shades darker than Winterians, but pale nonetheless."
Positive Role Models
Meira struggles with showing her usefulness to the people of Winter while remaining who she wants to be. She eventually discards some of her own desires when duty calls. Sir William acts as Meira's mentor but in a very distant way.
Violence & Scariness
Battle scenes with swords and arrows don't shy away from describing the chaos and the blood. Many die, and one person is heavily mourned by the main character, Meira. Meira inflicts much damage with her chakram, a throwing weapon. She cuts through necks and a thigh with blood spurting. Two scenes of torture include the repeated, magical breaking and healing of ribs, then an interrupted attempt at sexual assault where another is forced to watch. Two slaves, including a young boy, are whipped. A man is pushed, then falls to his death in a labor camp. Stories of slavery and mistreatment include the tearing out of organs. Slaves are all from a race of people being purposely eliminated by another kingdom.
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Sex, Romance & Nudity
Two quick kisses and a joke about prostitution.
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"Damn" a handful of times and "ass" one time.
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Drinking, Drugs & Smoking
Story of the main character stealing wine when she was younger, getting tipsy, and getting punished for it.
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Parents Need to Know
Parents need to know that Sara Raasch's Snow Like Ashes is the first book in a trilogy of the same name. It takes place 16 years after a kingdom called Winter is decimated by the kingdom of Spring. Except for a teen named Meira and seven others, all other white-haired, blue-eyed Winterians live in labor camps -- many of them worked to death or dying there. So with this heavy topic of ethnic cleansing and some other intense violence -- rather bloody battle scenes, a scene of an attempted sexual assault, magical torture where ribs are broken and healed repeatedly -- this fantasy read is definitely for the mature teen crowd. The romantic angle is much milder than the rest of the content. Meira struggles less with two potential suitors (whom she only kisses briefly) than she does with her sense of duty to her country and how she can matter to her people in a meaningful way.
Is It Any Good?
Weaving in magical realms, a race of people nearly lost, and a teen girl's struggle to matter in the fight to save them, this fantasy tale is compelling -- when it holds together. Once readers are roped into the story, they may be forgiving about the less-than-careful way it's constructed. The small problems run the gamut: some hasty explanations of both major revelations and the details on how this magical world works, some poorly set scenes where you wonder who's where and what's happening. And then there's the dropped romantic plot line. It's fine in one way -- let the romance happen in Book 2 -- but in another it reduces once-important characters to very minor ones by the end of the book.
All those smaller quibbles aside, SNOW LIKE ASHES builds a world many readers will enjoy exploring for a whole trilogy. For more romantic-minded readers, the possibility of a monarch love triangle will be all it takes. For others, the complexity of alliances between Winter and Cordell and the mystery behind the dark magic and how to vanquish it for good will pull them effortlessly into Book 2.
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Our Editors Recommend
Romantic Fantasy Books for Teens
Books with Strong Female Characters
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