I’m not going to pretend like I loved Snow Like Ashes. I didn’t, but I thought it was alright. In fact, I thought that the first book ended in such a place that it really didn’t need another book. Sure, there was an open thread, but I honestly could have ended it there. I wasn’t sure where the book would go next. Where it did end up going left me feeling underwhelmed. Characters became petulant and pouty. Interesting characters from the last book faded to the background. I just felt like I was in a constant state of wanting more. The saving grace was that the story was well put together.
Let’s start with the plot. The conduits are still a big deal in this book as is the magic chasm which they find in the mines of Winter rather early in the book. The problem then became what to do with the chasm and forging alliances with the various nations. It was great getting to see the different areas, the kinds of people that lived there, and their ideals. More importantly with each step the plot progressed as Meira figured out how she could handle suddenly being queen.
Each place felt completely different. The world felt wonderfully elaborated. Each different place felt like they had their own culture. My only real problem with it was that we never really got to see the real people. We saw what a royal saw. She was in lavish places occasionally venturing off the beaten path, but not really. The real people were seen like looking out a window. It was far away and distant. I get that this isn’t about those people, but they would have made the world feel richer. We would have got a better understand of those people and how they felt rather than have it told to us.
As you may have guessed the Story is mainly told through Meira’s privileged point of view. I’m not going to pretend like I’m not a little tired of this perspective. It would have been more entertaining if her position was explored a bit more. She’s been thrust into being Queen. She should be completely out of her element and she is. The problem is she is not doing what good leaders do, rely on counsel. Instead she takes it all upon herself and honestly, she sucks at it. She has these ideals, but doesn’t know how to maneuver the landscape to accomplish what she needs. In the process she pushes away the people she cares about and ends up isolated. It was frustrating to see her not being able to thrive yet thinking she could. She doesn’t play the game well, she doesn’t even try to break it. She just goes along with what she’s forced into.
Mather got repeated chapters throughout the novel. Few and far between, but they presented a more grounded perspective. It was less with the royals and more from the point of someone who wanted to fight. It was interesting, but felt a little too sparse. More could have been done to really make me care about the Thaw.
Like I already mentioned there were a lot of great characters in the last book, but they just didn’t feel like much of anything. Characters we knew well became flat. Characters who had promise to know more never really progressed. I desperately wanted some of the other characters to develop. They just never did so when things happened, I didn’t get the emotional impact that I would have hoped. The positive is that we got Ceridwen, who was pretty awesome. Hopefully the same doesn’t happen to her in the next book.
Overall, I felt like this book just didn’t pack the punch like the last one. However it did develop the magic system in such a way that I’m interested to find out what happens next. I want to know the tragedy of the Decay and the chaos of the chasm. I just wished I cared more about the characters.