Gavril has no idea what he’s up against. In one day, he goes from being a talented, but commonly born peasant with little knowledge of his parentage painting (and falling in love with) the local nobleman’s daughter, to being kidnapped and told his father’s not only the king of a foreign country, but that he’s dead and Gavril’s the heir to a monstrous legacy. Not exactly a good day, but it gets worse from there.
Lord of Snow and Shadows is really a book about being a victim of fate; not only being a victim, either, but railing against fate and trying to make the choices that aren’t easy, even when other people would give in considering the odds against them. It’s not only Gavril that faces these incredible circumstances, but also his mother, the nobleman’s daughter, and even a serving girl in Gavril’s castle. Most of these people live up to that challenge and come out the other side stronger and better people for it, despite the fact that easy exits are provided for them along the way and they are provided with every motivation to quit.
I was really looking forward to this book for a couple of really foolish reasons – but every girl can be a little foolish once in a while without hurting anything. I really liked this cover. From the standpoint of looking at this cover, it just looked like an amazing book, and I was excited about it.
The second reason is that this book is billed as epic fantasy, and honestly, I really don’t feel like it lives up to this standard; epic fantasy tends to have elaborate plots and sweeping story arcs, but this book was far too straightforward to fit into that category. I really think it was unfair to class this as epic fantasy. If it had been categorized as regular fantasy, just a normal story, I wouldn’t have had such a sour taste in my mouth at the end of it. I also feel like the plot was a little neglected at times, considering that it could have been so much better, in favor of rushing off to do one thing or another. Considering that I also think that the characters were neglected, I sort of want to blame an overzealous editor who wanted to keep the book small. This could have been done in a much better way.
This is not to say that the book isn’t interesting. Having it in a Tsarist Russian setting was unique and gave it a flavor not unlike Paula Volsky’s A Wolf in Winter, a book I very much did enjoy and does indeed deserve to be categorized as epic fantasy, but with a writing style that is much more like Mercedes Lackey and Robin Hobb.
All in all, I’m slightly disappointed. It was a good read and I enjoyed it for that, and I definitely enjoyed Ash’s approach toward her characters and their methods of dealing with the hands they were dealt, but I wouldn’t feel like I’d broken my heart if I sold the book to a used bookstore. I will definitely not be reading the follow-up novels.