Title: Frostblood (Frostblood Saga #1)
Author: Elly Blake
Genre: Fantasy, Young Adult Fantasy, 21st Century Young Adult Literature
Source: Publisher in exchange for a review
Publisher: Little Brown
Release Date: January 10, 2017
Format: Hardcover; 978-0-31627-325-1; $17.99
Rating: ♥ ♥ ♥ ♡ ♡
Summary: Ruby is a Fireblood–she can summon and wield fire at will–and is likely the last of her kind. Having lost her mother in a fight with soldiers of the Frost King’s army as they hunt her and her kind down, Ruby is rescued from jail by a kindly monk and his mysterious hooded companion. They take her to an abbey where she begins to heal from her wounds, her past, and where she learns to control her wild powers. Soon, she discovers just how strong she is and that she may be the long-awaited Child of Light destined to be her country’s only hope of overthrowing the king and restoring peace, freedom, and safety to the land. Yet, Ruby must confront the reality of what such a fight may cost her.
Review: Frostblood is Elly Blake’s debut novel, and it is a solid way to kick off what I’m sure will be a great career. I definitely enjoyed reading Frostblood, and did so for a few of reasons. First, the plot is quite fast-paced and energized. Things to to hell in a hand basket from the start and don’t relent as the action keeps churning like a storm. With a quick and engaging plot that doesn’t relent, readers definitely won’t be bored with the story. I found myself hooked just to see what would happen next, and because I enjoyed the adrenaline rush Blake infuses into her story.
Second, though a bit “tropey” I enjoyed how the book developed the magic in its world, how it works, its history, and the consequences the possession and usage of such power as brought on people and the world in this novel. The power is as much a prison as it is a path to freedom, and I like how that is outlined. Some novels give a heroine or hero a power and there is this “instant superhero–rawr–awesome!” element that gets tiring. Not so here. I like how Ruby and Arcus have to learn to deal with the limitations of their powers and how that power can divide them when they don’t want it to. This added a nice bit of raw reality to the characters and the world.
However, Frostblood has some weak points that really hinder this book from its full potential and from being new and fresh. As mentioned above, the book relies too heavily on tried and true tropes common in the YA fantasy genre. The girl who suddenly discovers her power, is marked as “the one”; she must hone that power; troubles ensue; enter the guy that help her along the way and whom she will instantly grow to love; etc, etc.
The book is clearly plot driven, and this comes at the expense of the world within–the world-building necessary for a fully developed story just isn’t there. Names of people, places, and things seem like they were drawn out of a hat–there’s no commonalities to link a language there. It’s just odd and I feel a developed language even if just in names, adds to the development and realness of a world. I can’t even remember the names for places in the book; there’s no sense of time and place, no idea of where and from whence characters are coming and going. This is something authors like Sarah J. Maas do masterfully–not only do we get this small detail with her books, but she crafts a deep sense of direction in her novels, of the lay of the land–we know what lies east, west, south, and north; each area is developed thoroughly to reflect terrain, races, languages, customs, and so on. This is absent from Frostblood–things to make the world a “living world”. I don’t even have a sense for where Brother Thistle’s abbey is. The only sense I have of the “common folk” is that they live in huts and life sucks. What are their customs? How do they sound when the speak? What do they believe? What drives them to keep fighting? What does the area look like? What clothes do they wear? What do their huts or homes look like? What differentiates northern folk from southern? Eastern from Western? And so on…so many questions.
I also found the characters’ dialogue and interactions stilted and dry at times, where I just didn’t believe them. I can’t explain how or even why I felt this way. There’s just something about the dialogue that is “off” to me. A disconnect between characters when they speak. I felt this way a lot when dialogue happened between Arcus and Ruby, Ruby and Brother Thistle, and when the three of them were together. It just felt…unnatural…maybe that’s the right word. This also compounded the apparent lack in character development in the book. For similar reasons as in my comments regarding world-building, I didn’t get a true sense of who these characters were, why I should care, or that any of it was believable. Ruby=revenge, anger, and obstinate attitude for the sake of it all. She either ran hot or cold with no reasoning or development. Arcus is “cold” all the time except when he and Ruby decide to lock lips. But Arcus was more developed than Ruby, at least from my perspective. I found his mystery and characterization intriguing; he was more real than the rest of the cast and he’s not the hero. I also like the moments when Ruby confronts her enemies; I believe her anger and her internal turmoil, but there’s still room for development.
Finally, the romance arc is unbelievable. It comes out of nowhere and when Ruby and Arcus finally reach first base, that ball comes so out of left field I got whiplash. They don’t develop as allies or even friends first, which should happen before they even think of becoming lovers. None of that development or build-up was there. Most of the time they’re too angry and hostile at each other to provide any hint of mutual affinity of any kind. Are we supposed to glean from all of this that it’s simply a case of “he pulls my hair because he likes me” BS? Sigh. I didn’t really anticipate them being lovers. It didn’t make sense.
But overall, Frostblood was fun to read, and it was a thoroughly enjoyable fantasy romp. I understand it is a debut, and there IS a lot of potential here for a fantastic series. I’m hoping that the second volume will develop what I wish this installment would have. There is definitely room for this to grow, and I expect it will. I will definitely read the second book in this series, and I still recommend readers taking a chance on this series–particularly if you love Leigh Bardugo’s The Grisha Trilogy, Victoria Aveyard’s The Red Queen series, or Suzanne Collins’ The Hunger Games.