Quiet sobs of desperation over the state of YA fantasy

Snow Like Ashes (Snow Like Ashes, #1)Snow Like Ashes by Sara Raasch

Oh my.  Oh dear.  You know things are not going well when you are 1% of the way into your ARC and the protagonist is already talking about how hot yet unattainable her sparring partner/king (yes, you read that correctly) is.  ONE PERCENT.

Look.  If you like a lot of angsty romance and inner turmoil, you'll probably like this.  I made it a whopping 5% of the way through before I threw up my hands and said, "Enough!"  In case you don't know how I feel about sappy romance:

Bill Cosby no

That's not to say I don't mind a romantic book or romantic themes.  My favorite book of all time is Pride and Prejudice, and I just finished another YA book with a very nicely done romance in it.  But the whole tee-hee-he-touched-me-I-am-all-blushy-tee-hee thing just makes me want to smack people.

I also really enjoy fantasy.  High fantasy.  I thought I'd be a perfect match for this book.  However, instead of introducing this world gradually, it falls on you like a heap of snow from a rooftop (Wisconsin girl here).  The main character, Meira, is an orphan and one of eight survivors of her kingdom, Winter.  Yes.  Somehow, when Spring Kingdom invaded, only fifteen people managed to escape and only eight of them are left.  The rest of the citizens are either dead or slaves.  THANKFULLY, the escapees include the heir to the throne, Mather (like Cotton Mather).  UNFORTUNATELY, Winter is one of the kingdoms whose male heirs do not have magical powers.

Say what?

Here's some infodumping for you: "The world may seem balanced--four kingdoms of eternal seasons, four kingdoms that cycle through all seasons; four kingdoms with female-blooded conduits, four with male blooded."  I'm sorry, that doesn't at all sound "balanced" to me.  It sounds insane.  Also, I don't think that "female-blooded" and "male-blooded" make linguistic sense.  We talk about warm-blooded and cold-blooded because it describes body temperature, not gender.  Just plain "female" and "male" would have worked just fine.  Nitpicky but necessary.  What's up with the kingdoms and conduits and such?  Glad you asked!  
"Somewhere beneath the Season Kingdoms lies a giant, pulsing ball of magic; and somewhere in our Klaryn Mountains there was once an entrance to it.  Only the four Season Kingdoms' lands are affected by the chasm--in the extremity and consistency of their environments--but every king and quean in Primoria, Rhythm, and Season, possesses a portion of that magic in their conduits and can use it to help their kingdoms.  The four Rhythm Kingdoms hate us for the fact that this is all we have, magic in objects like a dagger, a necklace, a ring.  They hate us for letting the entrance get lost to age and avalanches and memory, for living directly atop the magic and not tearing our kingdoms apart to dig down to it."

I am going to attempt to parse that.  So, somewhere on this planet? continent? landmass? there is a blob of magic.  Since, you know, magic coagulates into "pulsing" blobs and all that.  It makes some areas of the land stay certain seasons all the time and other areas rotate through the seasons.  This seams rather reasonable to me.  Coming from the land of cheese, construction, bratwurst, and snow, I'd be quite happy to have real rotating seasons.  Or even to live in eternal spring or summer.  But nooooo.  Evidently these people are real whiners and can't be happy with what they've got so they start rampaging around conquering other kingdoms.

Each ruler of the magical-ish kingdoms has a "conduit"--Winter's was a locket--that let the ruler control the magic.  This is an exceedingly Bad Idea.  Anyone can just steal it or destroy it--that's what happened to Winter!

The "Rhythm" kingdoms (4 seasons) are angry that the other kingdoms didn't strip the land of its magic in order to ... do what exactly?  I DON'T KNOW.

And Meira wants to fight for her kingdom, except she really rots in hand-to-hand combat.  So Sir (that is his name, kinda) orders the crown prince to train her.  Hm.  If you were a ragtag band of survivors trying to retake your kingdom and get your prince on the throne, would you really have him spending time teaching an orphan girl how to parry a sword blow?  Really?  There is so much facepalming caused by this that I may be bruised tomorrow.

Other reviewers have said, "This is better than Throne of Glass!" which I also strongly disliked (polite terms) because the Super Assassin of that book, Celaena Sardothien, didn't do anything.  The reader was just repeatedly told, "She's the best assassin ever!"  i have a feeling Meira will end up being that character.

Now, you can rant and rave and white knight all you want because I didn't get past 5% on this.  That's fine.  Go right ahead.  But if I can find that many problems in just three chapters of a book, it is not happening.  Ever.

I received an ARC of this title from Edelweiss.

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