A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this book.
What 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.
- Parents say
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What's the story?
Meira wants to help save the kingdom of Winter more than anything. She's been hiding out with seven others, including their future king, Mather, for 16 years. They are the only Winterians not enslaved by Spring's evil King Angra and the only ones who have a chance to reclaim a magical amulet Angra stole and split in two pieces. When they finally have a lead on where one half of this source of Winter's lost power may be, Meira's mentor Sir William intends to send someone else to sneak into Spring and retrieve it. Meira begs to go and Sir William eventually allows her to prove herself. After a run-in with Angra's captain of the guard, she runs away with the magical prize. But there's no time to celebrate her success. Meira has been followed back to their secret camp. Before reinforcements come, they split off and make for the kingdom of Cordell seeking help in their fight against Spring. In Cordell they find their support of the Winterians comes at a hefty price, one that Meira is not sure she's willing to pay.
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.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about the start to the series. Are you drawn in to read the rest of the trilogy? Why, or why not? What do you think will happen in Book 2?
A whole race of people -- with white hair and blue eyes -- is persecuted in this book, and it's the aim of the conquering kingdom to wipe all these people out. When has this happened in real human history?
When an author is dealing with themes of race, even when it's a made-up one, do you think there's a judgment the reader makes about how it relates to themes of race in our world?
- Author: Sara Raasch
- Genre: Fantasy
- Topics: Magic and Fantasy, Princesses, Fairies, Mermaids, and More, Misfits and Underdogs
- Book type: Fiction
- Publisher: Balzer + Bray
- Publication date: October 14, 2014
- Publisher's recommended age(s): 14 - 18
- Number of pages: 432
- Available on: Paperback, Nook, Audiobook (unabridged), Hardback, iBooks, Kindle
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