‘I am mistakes and victories and death and life. I am competent and powerful and strong, and whatever this war brings my way – even death – I will face it like the queen I am.’
‘This is wrong.’
A short, sharp opening sentence, which throws us straight back into the action. No time has passed at all since the end of ‘Ice Like Fire’. We rejoin Meira as she flees the dungeons in Ventralli, following Rares, the Paislian librarian.
Meira zooms off to Paisly, where she finally learns how to control her magic. Rares fills her in on a lot of information regarding the forming of the chasm and the royal conduits, clearing up most of the questions buzzing in my head at the end of ‘Ice Like Fire’. We learn that Paisly broke their royal conduit years ago and their queen sacrificed herself, meaning all Paislians have magic. This magic makes them age ridiculously slowly, and also makes them infertile: both aspects about herself that Meira wasn’t aware of.
Mather frees the Winterians, with the help of the mother of Ventralli’s dethroned king. She forces the Winterians to take her grandchildren and her son to safety, sacrificing herself to crazy Queen Raelyn. Jesse breaks his mask in front of Raelyn, ending their marriage before fleeing in an attempt to save Ceridwen.
Of course, the Yakimians already saved Ceridwen. Turns out the “slaves” that Yakim have been selling Summer are mostly spies. Queen Giselle has been planning to take over their kingdom for years. Sadly, Angra’s come along and ruined her plan, so she gives Ceridwen permission to use her soldiers against him. Jesse comes to the rescue, but because Ceridwen’s already free it’s a tad embarrassing. Whoops.
There’s a LOT of sleeping and travelling:
Angra captures Mather and Phil, and he tortures them until they leak Meira’s location. He then sends them to Paisly with her chakram and Cordell’s conduit, hoping to show her how powerful he is. But Meira’s good at magic now, so she’s not fussed. She heals Phil and Mather, and they roll out to the edge of Summer. There the Winterians have joined Ceridwen’s refugee camp – along with the Autumnians who were strong enough to resist Angra’s influence. They’re already preparing for war.
Ceridwen and Jesse get married. Aww.
Then Meira and Mather decide to consummate their relationship… Yep, the one that officially began and hour before they decided to consummate it. No time for hesitation.
But those heartwarming moments are only there to lull you into a false sense of security. Turns out, Phil was FAR more affected by Angra’s magic than anyone thought. He sneaks Angra’s army past the patrolling guards, attacking the refugee camp. Nessa dies. (This breaks my heart.) Her brother, Conall, then puts Phil down. Nice!
It’s time for the final battle. Meira teleports Mather and Sir with her into Jannuari, where she grabs the chasm keys from Theron. We discover that Angra killed Finn, but Meira manages to save Greer from the Decay. (He then disappears off somewhere… I can’t remember where). Meira, Mather and Sir head to the magic chasm to face the labyrinth and finally end magic for good.
Meanwhile, the battle features far less named character deaths than you’d expect. Henn goes down, but it’s a completely underwhelming moment. Ceridwen kills Raelyn, which is the most badass sequence that occurs in the entire trilogy. This would be far better if we followed Ceridwen more frequently.
It’s time for the dramatic conclusion…:
But it’s not really dramatic at all. Sir dies (and if you didn’t see that coming from book one, I’ll be surprised). Meira survives, because Angra gave Mather Cordell’s conduit so they sacrifice that to the chasm instead. (That doesn’t stop Angra from being incinerated, though.) Yay, happy ending!
I’m giving this three stars because Sara Raasch’s writing moved me to tears at multiple points. If she hadn’t played with my heartstrings so frequently, it would have received two stars.
This is such a disappointing conclusion. When you’re told a quarter of the way through the second book in a trilogy that your protagonist will die? You expect that to happen. I’m a fan of a happy ending, but not when it feels like cheating. I don’t think Sara was brave enough to kill Meira off, for fear of the backlash that would have received, but it would have been REMARKABLE. Instead, it’s far too easy.
Yes, the named character deaths are brutal. I didn’t expect Nessa to die. Henn’s death filled me with rage: he deserved so much better. Ceridwen killing Raelyn was the single best moment of anything EVER, but Meira’s non-death made all of it far less impactful. If you kill most of your ensemble cast and then kill your protagonist, THAT’S impressive.
I liked the Autumnian traditions and the history of Paisly, but I also felt as though the world-building took a backseat after the first section. Rares explanation – a huge chunk of exposition – answered all the unanswered questions, so there wasn’t really any mystery in the rest of the novel.
In fact, I saw most of the ‘twists’ coming. As soon as Angra gave Mather Cordell’s conduit, I thought, “Oh, he’s totally going to use that to save Meira.” It just doesn’t make any sense. Would Angra REALLY allow Mather to hold on to something that powerful? I think not. Yes, he’s arrogant, but he’s not stupid.
I don’t regret reading the Snow Like Ashes trilogy, because I adored the first two books. I’ve fallen in love with Sara Raasch’s writing style, and am excited for her next book – ‘These Rebel Waves’, coming July 3rd – despite the fact that this installment disappointed me. I had my hopes far too high, and I should have known better (I did predict all of the happenings, but I thought I’d be wrong and it would be less cliched!).
If you like a happy ending despite all odds, this book is for you. I’d highly recommend this for fans of Erika Johansen’s Queen of the Tearling trilogy (another series that greatly disappointed me in its final book). But if you like your fantasy to be a bit more realistic, and with a more mature handling of death, you might want to skip this one.