Finally! A YA fantasy series opener that I actually enjoyed and would recommend to others!
I may faint.
But for now, let there be rejoicing instead!
I confess that reading the author's bio and seeing that she is a library assistant may have swayed me in favor of Frostblood, but in truth, it is quite competently written with the potential to move forward without the usual cliffhanger ending. There are certain things that I would change--the main character's name being first and foremost--but overall, this was quite a lot of fun.
The pantheon of the world of Frostblood is a curious mix of Norse and Greek mythologies, but it's seamlessly blended. Long ago, Fors, god of the North, gave a gift to the northern tribes: he infused their veins with frost, giving them the power to wield ice as magic. His counterpart, Sud, did the same for her people in the south, only she gave them a lava transfusion, allowing them to wield fire. Naturally, the East Wind god, Eurus, wanted to get in on this creation shindig, so he infused people with darkness. This ... was not a good idea. Pure darkness is lethal. Eventually, the darkness became roaming shadows, called a Minax, that would slip into your soul and corrupt you.
Eurus' sister, Cirrus, gathered as many Minax as she could and imprisoned them under the Earth. She put light in the wrist of a wise woman named Sage, who stands watch over the Minax prison and will not die until the last one is destroyed.
But fire and frost have broken the truce that held the lands in harmony, and now the Frost King rampages throughout the land of Tempesia, hunting down Firebloods. Ruby Otrera has tried to hide her power over fire for as long as possible, but using it is tempting. Who wants to use flint to light a fire when a thought will set it aflame instead? But she is betrayed, and the Frost King's soldiers raid her village, kill her mother, and take Ruby captive. While in the King's prison, she is repeatedly subjected to baths of ice water. Since her natural element is fire, being submerged in the cold is extremely painful.
One day, she receives two mysterious visitors: very powerful Frostbloods. They make her an offer: they will break her out of prison, and in return she will kill the Frost King. Sounds like a win-win situation right? Ruby knows that it's probably too good to be true, but she'd do anything to escape torture and execution, so she flees with them to an abbey.
Her rescuers are revealed to be Brother Thistle and Arcus, a fearsome warrior who keeps his face hidden. After many false starts, Arcus and Thistle begin to train Ruby to harness her Fireblood magic. No one at the abbey trusts her, save Thistle and Brother Gamut, the healer. Plus, it is exceedingly difficult to learn from someone as conceited and closed-off as Arcus, whose personality is as cold as the element he wields.
I was surprised by how naturally Arcus and Ruby fell in love, and how little I minded. Just when things started getting steamy, Ruby is recaptured by the King's soldiers and brought into the presence of the Frost King. She becomes a contestant in the arena, fighting the King's Champions. Marella, a noblewoman, provides unexpected support, but while fighting in the arena, Ruby receives aid of a different sort. A darkness comes over her, amplifying her powers but also taking away her free will. It's intoxicating ... and terrifying. Can she make the right decision to save the kingdom and herself?
While many of the elements of this story have been used before, Elly Blake puts them together in a compelling fashion in Frostblood. Arcus was like an ice-wielding Mr. Darcy, so of course I fell for him. I don't blame Ruby for falling for him either! The secondary characters were well-fleshed out and I wanted to know more about them, especially Brother Thistle. The arena scenes were particularly well done, with echoes of Blood Red Road.
Oddly, Ruby's name bothered me the most! It's such a small thing, I know, but having her be named after a gem the same color as her element, fire, felt contrived and a bit silly. Plus, she just didn't sound like a Ruby, if that makes any sense.
Frostblood is a fun read and a great addition to any collection popular with fantasy lovers. I'm looking forward to the next book in the series.
And now excuse me while I go look in the mirror to make sure I am still me, and not some alternate Bizarro-universe version of myself who enjoys romance in her fantasy books.