This review will contain spoilers for both ‘Snow Like Ashes’ and ‘Ice Like Fire’. If you haven’t read my ‘Snow Like Ashes’ review yet, check it out here.
‘She helps her people, though she isn’t a conduit-wielder. She helps them without magic.
That’s what I want, a wish I didn’t even know I fostered – to rule Winter without needing magic at all. To be queen, to be myself, without having to depend on the unpredictable, frighteningly powerful magic that camps in my chest.’
Five dented helmets sit lopsided over five equally dented breastplates; five black suns shine, scratched yet distinct, on the silver metal.’
You might be thinking, “Didn’t the war end at the end of ‘Snow Like Ashes’?”. Well, you’d be right. We rejoin Meira in an uncharacteristically quiet moment, building enemies in the snow who she’s “fighting” to entertain the children of Winter.
At the end of ‘Snow Like Ashes’, Mather killed Angra and Winter were finally free from his control. Our Winterians went home – accompanied by the Cordellans, including King Noam and Prince Theron – and we discovered Meira’s true identity. She’s not only a Winterian warrior, she’s their queen and their conduit.
Meira’s conflicted. Her friends treat her like a queen, not like herself. She can’t tell Mather the truth about her identity as conduit. They aren’t even friends anymore, seeing as she effectively dethroned him. Meanwhile, Noam is getting restless in his search for the magic chasm, and Theron is expecting Meira to marry him ASAP.
Can’t a girl catch a break?
When they stumble across the magic chasm, Meira asks Theron not to tell his father about their discovery. Of course, he betrays her. But the chasm has keyholes. Its keys are hidden throughout Primoria. In Summer, Yakim and Ventralli, specifically. Meira leaves Sir in charge of Winter, and goes on the hunt.
But Meira isn’t searching for the keys to unleash magic into Primoria. She’s hoping to end all magic, forever.
After meeting the Summerian king – and instantly hating him – Meira finds an ally in his sister, Ceridwen. Her country has lost its greatness because of magic, and she agrees that things could be better without it. When Meira talks to Theron, though, he’s adamant that she’s wrong. He wants to give everyone magic, believing that equality will make the world a happier place.
Things go downhill rapidly. Cordell overtake Winter in Meira’s absence, leaving Mather to race across country to find her. Ceridwen decides the only way to break Summer free of her brother’s influence is to murder him. And when the gang reach Ventralli, they learn that an old enemy isn’t as dead as they thought…
Despite the fact that it had been a year and a half since I read ‘Snow Like Ashes’, Sara Raasch beautifully recaps what happened in the first installment. If you’re binge-reading the series, I don’t think it’ll be too annoying. She weaves the details subtly through the first few chapters, rather than inserting a huge chunk of exposition. I confused a couple of the background characters, but that was my only difficulty. The major plot details were quickly re-established in my mind.
This is a strong second book. I’ve complained in the past about the fact that the middle book in a trilogy normally falls short. That’s not true in this case. It builds upon all the things I loved in the first book – Meira’s strength and independence, the intricately crafted world – but also adds in wonderful new elements. It’s dual perspective, with us hearing from both Mather and Meira, but Mather’s chapters are told in third person. The contrast between them is enjoyable, and far less unsettling than you’d imagine.
The new countries are well-crafted, with Summer, Yakim and Ventralli all having extremely individual personalities. I particularly loved the introduction of Summerian princess Ceridwen, who’s an absolute firecracker. If you thought Meira was strong, just wait until you meet her! It also sounds like we might finally reach Paisly in the third novel, and I’m looking forward to learning even more about Primoria.
The only reason this didn’t get five stars is because the ending is a tad convoluted. It moves at a breakneck speed. Raelyn, queen of Ventralli, dethrones King Jesse, with Angra’s help. We discover Theron ordered Cordell’s takeover of Winter. A Paislian librarian rescues Meira, who leaves Mather in charge of rescuing the other Winterians. A lot happens, ridiculously fast. It hurt my head.
This was delightful, and further cements my suspicions that Snow Like Ashes might be my favourite trilogy of all time. I’m going to start ‘Frost Like Night’ straight away. If I waited after an ending like that I’d lose all interest!
If you haven’t already started this series, what are you still doing here? But if you haven’t, I still have time to give you a warning. Try not to care about any of the named characters. Sara Raasch isn’t afraid to tear your heart out and stomp all over it, and I almost cried at two points during this book. As soon as you read it, you’ll know which ones.