You Are What You Read

Reviews of books as I read them. This is basically a (web)log of books I've read.

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Location: Lawrenceville, Georgia, United States

I am a DBA/database analyst by day, full time father on evenings and weekends.

Monday, June 15, 2009

Lord of Snow and Shadows

Sarah Ash's fantasy novel Lord of Snow and Shadows starts with Gavril Andar being kidnapped and taken to his ancestral home in Azhkendir, a cold and barren country. Gavril discovers that he is the only son of the murdered king of Azhkendir. He is heir not only to the kingdom but also the curse of the Drakhaoul, a demon/dragon that gives him power but also drives him to feed on young women.

Ash develops this familiar fantasy device by providing another young person with newly discovered powers. Kiukiu is a young woman who is a servant in Kastel Drakhaon, Gavril's new home. She is singled out and picked on by the other servants and eventually forced out by the lies of Lilias. Lilias is a woman who is carrying a child who may be Gavril's half-brother, or may be the child of Gavril's nemesis Jaromir. Gavril's father killed Jaromir's family, so Jaromir is the natural suspect for being the assassin who killed Gavril's father. There are different connections between different characters, and nobody is really just as they seem.

Kiukiu leaves the kastel and serendipitously encounters a woman who turns out to be her grandmother. Malusha tells her about her special powers, which involve singing to ghosts. Kiukiu is in love with Gavril and wants to protect him.

One surprise in the story is Gavril's mother. Rather than accept that her son has been whisked away to fulfill the destiny that she tried to avoid, she goes to great lengths to try to secure her son's safety. I did find it strange that she didn't realize that he had been taken away by the man who arrived to tell him of his inheritance, whom she knew as her husband's right hand man. Her pursuits seem a little far fetched. She gets involved with a diplomat and chief spy of the neighboring country Muscobar, Count Velemir, and through him meets Prince Eugene, the leader of Tielen. Eugene is aggressively pursuing a war to reunite the countries under a single emperor. Of all the major characters, Eugene is the most simplistic. There's very little depth to him and he seems a simple stereotype. In fact most of the characters are pretty one-dimensional. Gavril is the most well developed, but even his character comes across as a bit empty. Jaromir has potential as the rival, but his relationship with Gavril develops in an unexpected and hard to believe fashion. Gavril's mother shows some surprising strength, yet she still comes across as simple-minded, and easily deceived.

The plot has a few twists, but mostly it's pretty straightforward. One thing I couldn't understand was why Eugene was so fond of Jaromir. I wondered whether he was Jaromir's true father, or if they were sexually involved, but it's never answered. Having a mystery like that can work for a story, but I felt it needed more foundation.

The biggest letdown of the story was that the prose seemed dry and plain. Only a few places did I see any hint of interesting diction. The land of Azhkendir is conveyed as cold and stark. Yet the characters are equally cold and somewhat lifeless. C+


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