Published: October 14th, 2014 by Balzer + Bray
Source: Gifted from a lovely lovely friend!
A heartbroken girl. A fierce warrior. A hero in the making.
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, and serving her kingdom 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.
I guess we all have to be the black sheep sometimes.
I know people love Snow Like Ashes. It's still got an average GR rating of above 4 stars, I see everyone raving about it all the time, it's got a beautiful cover. But I personally had a massive problem with it that I couldn't get over, and its name is Meira.
I think Meira and Snow Like Ashes send a horrible message - that you're selfish if you want to matter in your own way. Make your own decisions about your life. Want what you want. SELFISH IF YOU'RE ANGRY ABOUT BEING FORCED INTO A MARRIAGE. It made me sick. I thought maybe it would progress to a revelation eventually, that Meira would realize she wasn't being selfish. But it never happened.
As a side-note, I know that arranged marriages are a very real thing, that they can work out. But my issue comes with the fact that Meira is considered selfish simply for thinking that she doesn't want this or shouldn't have to do this. Sir has made her feel like absolute shit her entire life. And now she's expected to do this, just because he tells her to? A plan for which she wasn't consulted on AT ALL?
"I probably did come off as a little selfish. That's what I've been all along, isn't it? Not wanting to be a marriage pawn, even if Winter needed the ally."
Kill me now. Then I will never have to think about this again.
There is NOTHING selfish about not wanting to be forced into a marriage you don't want by two men who have ruled over your entire life, your every move. NOTHING.
And it didn't end there. Meira - and everyone around her, apparently - considers it selfish that she wants to go on missions just because Mather is a better fighter than her. She thinks it's selfish that she doesn't want to do exactly as Sir tells her. I wanted to punch a wall.
"I've been so selfish, haven't I? Selfish and narrow-minded and wrong, because I wanted to matter to Winter, but in my own way. Within my own set of parameters that would also fit who I wanted to be."
Okay, I get it. It's supposed to be about sacrifice. But it isn't. Not to me. Reading these quotes and typing them up again honestly make me want to cry. I've spent years thinking I need to fit into a box. I can't contribute to society the ways I want to because I'm not good at it. I'm selfish for constantly saying no when someone asks if I want to do something because I'm worried I'll say something wrong or they'll judge me while we're hanging out, and because I'm plain exhausted of being around people by the end of the day. I'm selfish for wanting to travel when I finish undergrad and grad school instead of settling down with a husband and children. I have to keep my mouth shut about the fact that I truly believe I will personally never want children and maybe not even a marriage because other people don't agree or it makes them uncomfortable even though it has absolutely nothing to do with them and I've never judged them for their decisions in this aspect. This is not something I want to read in a novel being portrayed as a good thing, a selfless thing.
Meira is a pawn. She wants out? No, wait - that's selfish. Because two boring dudes have to control EVERY IMPORTANT THING IN HER LIFE.
"I fought so long and hard to be me, to be Meira in all of this, to help Winter in my own unique way. But this isn't about what I want, it's about what Winter needs. It's always been about what Winter needs."
And I get it. Maybe you think I'm taking this too personally, being too harsh. You probably had a totally different interpretation of it, and that's fine. I'm sure it was supposed to be about what you have to sacrifice to gain a kingdom back. But I couldn't see it that way. This is point-blank what I saw: You are selfish if you want anything for yourself. You are selfish if you want to make your own choices.
On top of that, I literally did not care about a single character in this book. Not a single one. And that love triangle - guess what? Didn't care about that either. When your choices are someone who has spent years making you subtly feel as horrible as yourself as Mather does to Meira or some boring prince and the girl in the middle of it all is even more boring? Yeah. Really don't care.
I'll admit that the twist about Meira near the end was definitely a bit of a shock to me, but once I read it, I said to myself, Are you kidding me? Is this a joke? So while it might have been a plot twist for me, it was not one I enjoyed.
I'm sorry?? But no?? Listen. After hundreds or thousands of years or however long it's been, SOMEONE WOULD HAVE FUCKING NOTICED. And after all those years, there is bound to have been at least one person who talked. If Angra had constantly moved? Maybe I'd believe it. But he is a KING. I don't know. Maybe I totally missed something here. But Angra was about the most boring villain I've ever had the displeasure of reading about. Sure, he's a little violent, but I never really felt the danger or his rage.
"It would be all too easy to hide this power, this immortality, from the world."
And when we see the work camps that the Winters are forced into? This is obviously not an unfamiliar concept. But I never felt the desolation, the true horribleness of it all. The writing in Snow Like Ashes just didn't do anything for me. I think I only have one writing style I like when it comes to fantasy, and it's definitely not this.
Overall: I'm glad I got to read this. Otherwise, I would have spent months wondering and wishing. Plenty of people like Snow Like Ashes. I am not one of them. This is an incredibly light fantasy with characters that I either couldn't stand or ones that bored me to tears. And don't even get me started on the names of the cities and kingdoms. But overall, what really sets the rating for this book is the way I interpreted its overarching theme - that you must sacrifice anything and everything to please others. That your own wants and needs don't matter. 1.5 stars, and the half star is only because I finished it and I like the cover.