Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Snow Like Ashes by Sara Raasch

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

Primoria is composed of eight kingdoms; the four Rhythm and four Seasons of Winter, Spring, Summer and Autumn. The Rhythm Kingdoms blame the Seasons for losing Primoria's source of magic. The Seasons' land sits on top of the chasm where the ball of magic resides deep in the ground. Each King and Queen in Primoria possesses a portion of that magic in a conduit of some type to help their kingdoms. The Rhythm Kingdoms hate that this is all of the magic they can use since the Seasons Kingdoms have lost the entrance to the chasm over time. The Rhythm Kingdoms cycle through all four seasons in a year whereas the Seasons stay in one forever.

King Angra Manu of Spring broke Winter's conduit locket sixteen years earlier when he destroyed the kingdom. The Winter Kingdom “used to be home to more than a hundred thousand Winterians, and most of them were massacred in Spring’s invasion. The ones who weren’t now sit in work camps throughout Spring.”  Twenty-five Winterians originally escaped. Now only eight remain free, hidden in the barren, unwanted Rania Plains of Summer. Their mission is to find and rejoin the two halves of the conduit locket. The locket is needed so that Winter can regain their standing as a kingdom and find allies in the fight against Spring. Unfortunately, the conduit is female-blooded and the only Winter heir is male. It isn’t known if the magic will work when the conduit is put back together.

Mather is the future King of Winter and one of the eight refugees. William leads the small group in their attempts to reclaim the conduit halves. Having rescued Meira as an infant, William refuses to let her call him father so everything was yes, sir and no, sir. Sir stuck as the name she calls him. Everyone has a part to play in the group, even the young heir. Meira is not allowed by Sir to go on any of the group’s missions. She and Mather have literally grown up and trained together. Even though she has been in love with Mather forever, she knows that as heir, he must marry a princess in order to produce a female heir to wield Winter’s magic. When a scouting party returns to the camp with word that part of the locket is now in Lynia, Meira sees it as her opportunity to finally contribute to the group. William will have to send out fresh people. As she is getting ready to ask to go, William tells Mather and Finn that they are to leave immediately. William will not let her go because he doesn’t think she is ready. Meira has yet to beat Mather during their hand-to-hand combat training. Just then, Mather lies about an injury that Meira gave him when she beat him in their last fight. Meira is shocked that Mather would lie for her and she knows that Sir is skeptical but would never risk Mather’s life. Sir tells Meira to help him back to camp and then go get her chakram.

When Meira and Mather are alone, she squeals and gives him a hug. He keeps her close and gives her a piece of lapis lazuli that he found on their travels when they were children. He carries because he has always liked to think that it might contain a bit of magic and it helped him to feel stronger. Mather wants her to have it. She thanks him but Mather says that she deserves the right to fight for their home as anyone else. She “helps” him back into camp and cannot help but wonder what their lives could be like if they could actually be together. Meira is finally getting the chance to help the kingdom of Winter, something she has always wanted.

It takes Meira and Finn two days to reach the port city of Lynia. They split up in an attempt to enter the city undetected. Making her way past the guards at the gate by implying she is a prostitute, Meira heads towards the Keep where she is to meet up with Finn. She crawls up the side and finds Finn waiting on the balcony for her outside of the city master's office. Sir figures that the locket half will be hidden somewhere in the cellar, locked. The key will probably be kept in the office. Finn waits on the balcony while Meira riffles through the desk. She cannot find any keys when voices can be heard outside the office door. She is able to make out the words "Welcome, Herod." Meira meets Finn's eyes and she realizes that it is none other than General Herod Montego, a man that brings memories of fear, gore and horror. She sees an envelope under a paperweight and grabs it before hurrying out to the balcony where she and Finn hide when several people enter the office. The letter she found contains a report on the population of each Labor camp housing Winterians. They are both horrified to see how few of them remain. They are both brought back to reality when the city master asks that it be moved immediately before anymore Winterian scum descend upon the city. Meira and Finn realize the locket half is still in the Keep. There is a discussion about whether to move it or not when the city master notices that the letter is missing from the desk. Herod states that they are not alone.

The balcony curtain opens as Finn and Meira jump from the balcony. Herod sees that they are Winterians and orders the city locked down. Meira makes the decision to grab ahold of a window ledge instead of dropping to the ground. She pulls herself inside the window of a darkened room. She looks back out the window and sees Finn running. She doesn't wave to him in fear of drawing attention to herself. Their plan was to meet up outside of the city walls. Meira makes the decision to stay behind since she is so close to recovering the locket half. She knows that Finn will head back to the camp alone when she fails to return. Meira images what Sir will think. For now, Meira must figure out how to retrieve the locket half and remain undetected.

It's not long before Herod sounds the alarm and Meira unfortunately finds herself in the barracks. Running, she comes to a locked door and ends up kicking it in. She descends the steps and finds herself in the sewer. Meira also finds the locket half. She is unable to escape and Herod ties her up, grabs the box with the locket half and begins to take her to King Angra. With a knife hidden up her sleeve, Meira begins to cut through her ropes. It's not long before she breaks free as she grabs the locket. Her horse flies through the sewer and she is able to slip under the city gate before the soldiers close it. After riding two days, Meira finds her way back to camp. Sir, Finn and Mather are in the meeting tent and don't hear her enter. They are discussing a plan of action to rescue her. She is noticed and walks toward the table where she places the box with the locket down. Sir is speechless until he sees her covered in filth and sends her for a bath. He isn't going to be sending her on any more missions.

Meira is thinking about how she feels no connection to Winter now that she was successful in her mission. Mather comes to check on her. He knows something is wrong if she barely yelled at Sir. He looks over at her bruise and her heart skips. Mather tells her that Sir values her but he hates to see a world where she must be a soldier and not a carefree young lady. He tells her that she would have survived even if she didn't have the lapis lazuli. Meira asks if he thinks her success is tied to a rock when it hasn't helped him in the past. She sees him as a future King that Angra should fear. Meira withdraws from him when she thinks about the separate courses their lives will soon have to take if Mather is to have a female heir. The air crackles between them and Meira tries to pull away when she sees the shadows. Five Spring scouts come out of the trees. Weaponless,  Mather pulls Meira towards the camp while the scouts steal horses to ride back to Angra.

What happens now that their camp has been discovered? Who survives and where do they flee? Can Meira find the second half of the conduit locket? Will it restore magic to Winter? Why doesn't Meira feel a connection to the kingdom of Winter? Will Meira be able to put aside her feelings for Mather? Is the lapis lazuli just a rock or did Mather find a conduit of magic?

Book two in the trilogy will be published in 2015.

“Icicles Like Kindling is a glimpse into Meira’s life before the events of Snow Like Ashes that was originally going to serve as the prologue to the book. In it, you will get a taste of the kingdom of Autumn, meet some of Meira’s fellow refugees, and get an introduction to the wicked danger that will soon plague them…” It can be found at https://www.scribd.com/doc/241378416/ICICLES-LIKE-KINDLING or http://www.epicreads.com/blog/read-an-exclusive-prologue-to-snow-like-ashes/
It is not a necessary read but the two of the characters are mentioned in parts of the book.

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