Title: Ice Like Fire
Author: Sara Raasch
Series? Yes. 2 of 3.
I received a copy of this book from HarperCollins Australia in exchange for an honest review.
Contains spoilers for Snow Like Ashes!
This was one of my most anticipated release for the latter half of 2015, as I absolutely loved Snow Like Ashes. Unfortunately, Ice Like Fire suffers from a fierce case of Middle Book Slump, it has little of the spark that initially ignited my love for Meira and the Winterians. Today, I’ll look at why middle books often do not work for me, and how Ice Like Fire fell trap to all these factors.
The Worldbuilding Lacks Depth
One of the reasons that keeps me reading a fantasy series is the world, and the expansion of the world with every instalment. For example, Harry Potter, I could stay on board every step of the way as there was always new corners of the wizarding world to explore. Whether it be the hidden Room of Requirement or an international Quidditch tournament.
Cordell, with its green and gold and fields of lavender; Yakim, with its brown and brass and gears; Ventralli, with its eclectic styles and colourful buildings..
With Ice Like Fire, we did get to explore numerous new kingdoms: Summer, Yakim and Ventralli. Unfortunately, while we got to see multiple new places, none of the new location had any depth to them. The kingdoms are differentiated by very superficial factors. Summer ruled by an indulgent king, only interested in parties and debauchery. There’s the strict and bookish world of Yakim, seemingly modelled after England during the Industrialisation period. Finally, there’s the dramatic, treasonous Ventralli, whose intentions are hidden behind elegant masks. These separate kingdoms are walking stereotypes, and Meira never gets to learn more about the culture of these places. My understanding of Primoria did not expand, despite the numerous pages we spent extolling on the qualities of Summer’s wine and Yakim’s knowledge.
Character Developments Are Stalled, Or Take An Unpleasant Direction
In trilogies, many middle books are spent on setting up the stage for the epic finale. This understandbly leads author to avoid confrontations and climactic moments like the plague. To me: middle books are ‘feelings book’, where the characters analyse and question their motivation – rather than tackling the issue head on. I know it’s somewhat required to prepare for a fantastic conclusion, but I can’t help be be annoyed by the repetitive and almost manufactured nature of the conflicts.
You don’t need [the chakram] anymore. You are queen. You protect us in other ways
I know. But why can’t I be both?
While I know many people found Meira too stubborn and wilful in Snow Like Ashes, I would take her older, spunkier self any day to this shell of a character. I understand that we’re seeing Meira at her most uncertain and vulnerable in this book. She has rescued an entire kingdom, and while she excelled at playing The Hero – she truly struggles to be Queen. The book wavers between her insecurity and an endless cycle of self-pity. There were some moments when we got to see glimpses of the old Meira: vulnerable but resolute. Unfortunately, most of the page time is devoted to her feeling of inadequacy and her conflict with Theron. Meira’s absolutely lost in this book, both with regards to her identity and the direction she wants to take her kingdom. The monotonous nature of her emotional conflict was difficult to read, and I found my attention wavering.
He wasn’t king anymore. He wasn’t an orphan anymore. He wasn’t in Meira’s life anymore.
None of this was the freedom he thought he’d wanted.”
The other main characters did not fare much better. Mather, in his good intentions, attempts to find solidarity amongst the younger Winterians, dubbed ‘Children of the Thaw’. His chapters felt jarring, not only because they were written in a different tense and from third person – but also because it had no relation to the main plot. While I understand that without these chapters, Mather would have disappeared from the storyline altogether – I could not engage in them.
“That’s how relationships work – when one person is blind, the other must see for them. When one person struggles, the other must remain strong.”
Finally, it comes to no surprise that Theron was one of my highlights in Snow Like Ashes, and the development that took place in Ice Like Fire is too painful for me to bear. Is this how the Chaol fans felt in Queen of Shadows? There needs to be some sort of support group for this stuff. My favourite aspect of Theron’s characterisation was his transparency and no-nonsense positivity. I adored him and Meira because they used to build one another up, they also had an instinctual understanding of one another’s fears and values. In this book, the discovery of a magic chasm in Primoria places a huge wall between the two characters. The lack of communication and trust drove me insane, as did the resurfacing of a love triangle I thought was long dead.
Nothing Is Accomplished
“No one should be forced to be something they aren’t.”
I know, I know, we’re saving it all for the grand finale. However, I can’t help but think if you don’t have enough material to make three books, why would you bother with a trilogy. Meira did a lot of traveling and country hopping in this book in an attempt to prevent Noam’s greedy ambitions and Angra’s return. This all sounds very exciting, yet there is very little advancement in the 450+ pages. The majority of the exposition occured in the last thirty pages, while the rest of the book felt like filler. Sure, we got to meet Ceridwen, who’s pretty awesome – but the rest of the book? Utterly unmemorable.
At least the last 30 pages almost made this plodding read worth it. There’s plenty of betrayals and blood to go around, and it has the qualities that made me love Snow Like Ashes. The finale was heartstopping with all of the action and brutality, so I still have high hopes for Book 3. Crossing my fingers that the series returns to its former glory.
What do you think makes a successful sequel? Have you read Ice Life Fire, what were your thoughts?