At the end of Ice Like Fire, the second book of the young adult (YA) fantasy Snow Like Ashes trilogy by Sara Raasch, we are left with a cliffhanger.
The protagonist and young Queen of Winter, Meira, has just seemingly abandoned her best friend Mather and some of their people to make their own escape from the dungeons of the Donati Palace in Ventralli while she follows a relative stranger who claims to be from the mysterious kingdom of Paisley.
Meira believes that the stranger, Rares, is a member of the Order of the Lustrate and will be able to help her learn how to control her magic and locate the keys that are crucial to destroying the source of magic in the world of Primoria – but she is still riven with conflict over her decision to leave her allies behind.
YA fiction books are notorious for their teenage angst, and readers will get a double dose of this from Meira and Ceridwen, the hot-headed princess of Summer who witnesses her estranged brother and king being publicly murdered by her lover’s wife, the Queen of Ventralli, during a coup d’etat.
This inner conflict and the resulting angst lasts through much of the book, but, thankfully, there is much else going on that distracts from this slightly annoying self-inflicted emotional drama.
The book follows Meira, Mather and Ceridwen, with chapters alternating among the three characters according to the action.
While the prominence given to Ceridwen, who was introduced in Ice Like Fire as a mere supporting character, might be rather surprising, her character does provide a way to follow some of the necessary action that Meira and Mather are not directly involved in.
And there is a lot of action in this final book of the trilogy.
The Decay-consumed King of Spring, Angra, is rapidly extending his domain and the Decay – magic corrupted through bad deeds – via both proxy rulers under his control, like Meira’s former fiancé and current King of Cordell Theron, and outright conquest.
With no other viable choice before her, Meira needs to destroy the source of all magic in the world to stop both Angra and the Decay.
But she first needs to learn how to control her own magic, locate the two remaining keys that will open the door to the chasm that contains the magic of Primoria, and solve the labyrinth that lies before the chasm, all while trying to keep Angra out of her mind and out of her way, and dealing with the fact that she has to sacrifice herself to put an end to magic.
Meanwhile, both Mather and Ceridwen have to figure out how to get out of Ventralli, now controlled by its queen, Raelyn, who has been infected with the Decay by Angra, and seek out their remaining allies to prepare for the battle ahead.
And let us not forget the matter of Mather and Meira’s feelings for one another either, not to mention Ceridwen’s conflicted relationship with her lover Jesse, the former King of Ventralli.
Raasch does very well with the pacing here, considering the amount of travelling and action she squeezes into this 483-page book.
I did start to wonder if the climax would be too rushed once I got about three-quarters into the book and Meira had not even obtained the keys yet.
However, Raasch handles it quite well, making the events quite believable despite the quick pace at which they occur.
While fans of Theron will be disappointed at the lack of his presence in this book – he appears only about three times – readers do get a reasonably satisfactory conclusion to his tale in the epilogue.
Overall, a good ending to the trilogy.
For fans, this is likely to be an absorbing read – be prepared to be tempted to finish the book at one go!
Frost Like Night
Author: Sara Raasch
Publisher: Balzer + Bray/HarperCollins, YA fiction