Special thanks to NetGalley and Blackstone Publishing for providing an ARC in exchange for an honest review.
Goodreads: Shadow Frost (Shadow Frost #1)
Publisher: Blackstone Publishing
Publish Date: 01 October 2019
Genre: Young Adult Fantasy
IN THE KINGDOM OF AXARIA, a darkness rises.
Some call it a monster, laying waste to the villagers and their homes.
Some say it is an invulnerable demon summoned from the deepest abysses of the Immortal Realm.
Many soldiers from the royal guard are sent out to hunt it down.
Not one has ever returned.
When Asterin Faelenhart, Princess of Axaria and heir to the throne, discovers that she may hold the key to defeating the mysterious demon terrorizing her kingdom, she vows not to rest until the beast is slain. With the help of her friends and the powers she wields — though has yet to fully understand — Asterin sets out to complete a single task. The task that countless, trained soldiers have failed.
To kill it.
But as they hunt for the demon, they unearth a plot to assassinate the Princess herself instead. Asterin and her companions begin to wonder how much of their lives have been lies, especially when they realize that the center of the web of deceit might very well be themselves. With no one else to turn to, they are forced to decide just how much they are willing to sacrifice to protect the only world they have ever known.
That is, of course… if the demon doesn’t get to them first.
BUY A COPY:
TL;DR: Shadow Frost is a book that younger me would’ve devoured and unquestionably loved but older me is feeling quite conflicted about it. Coco Ma has created a vast world with interesting deity lore, an elemental magic system and a huge cast of characters. That said, the world building was haphazard, the pacing was choppy, and the characters were fairly one-dimensional. I think this book suffered from trying to do too much at one time and it uses a lot of very typical YA tropes about royal families, their bodyguards and friends. There’s a nice found family element which I always love but ultimately, this didn’t work out so well for me.
Before kicking off my review, I have to say that I am impressed by the fact that Coco Ma wrote this when she was 15! I can’t fathom writing something like this now let alone when I was a teenager, so major props to her for creating this intriguing world of magic!
I’m quite conflicted about this book because while I think there were interesting elements as well as characters that I did like, I felt that the story was bogged down by trying to include too much at once. It seemed like the author was trying to cram in as much as possible to cover a lot of bases and unfortunately, it just didn’t work for me. The story itself was also nothing new to the genre and didn’t bring anything so unique for it to stand out from the crowd.
Coco Ma presents a vast world with many neighbouring nations, intriguing lore of the gods/goddesses, and an elemental magic system involving the use of stones to channel the magic that resides within a person. People also belonged under certain houses that correlated with patron gods/goddesses but I can’t say exactly how it works because it was unclear to me. The world-building is patchy at best with lots of info-dumping across the story. There were inconsistencies in descriptions, items and language, that made me question whether this was set in a modern or historical period and I’m still not quite sure which it is. This made it difficult for me to picture the settings and sadly, it also affected how I pictured the characters in that, aside from one or two that had their appearance literally shoved in your face, the rest were kind of non-descript.
The writing itself wasn’t bad rather it was the inconsistent pacing that made it hard for me to focus and made this, quite honestly, a bit of a slog to read… The beginning is slow until about 30% and then they’re (very) suddenly off on a quest to find the demon and the pace builds up, only for it to slow down again for a large portion of the story until the action starts up at the end. There’s really not a lot that happens here and I had to push myself to not DNF this.
The characters were all quite typical of YA fantasies that follow the ruling royals, their bodyguards and friends. They’re not 100% cookie-cutter but they are quite one-dimensional and I didn’t form strong attachments to (m)any of them. That said, there is a pretty large cast and surprisingly, we also get almost all of their POVs and it was… A lot! I didn’t expect there to be so many viewpoints and those POVs often changed within chapters, which got pretty confusing at times, especially when there was little to distinguish them from each other. They were fairly angsty teenagers who focused on baffling things during inappropriate times and often made illogical and rash decisions with weak justifications. I didn’t particularly like Asterin, our ‘chosen one’ princess who was good at everything and who everyone loved. She was spoiled, self-absorbed, selfish and quite frankly, a bad friend. The characters who intrigued me the most were Rose and Harry, and though we got their POVs, I would’ve definitely loved to see more from them compared to the others. Again, I feel like if there were fewer POVs, there would’ve been room to give the characters more depth and space for us to care more about them. There are also several romantic pairings and because I didn’t really care for the characters, I wasn’t invested in any of the ships and found some of them to be cringeworthy (no matter how accurate, I don’t think using ‘brat’ as a term of endearment for the person you “love” is attractive, especially when you’re the person it’s being said to).
With all that said, I did become more intrigued by the end. The plot does become intensely dramatic and over the top but I wanted answers and I have more questions than I did at the start. There is also a certain character arc that surprised me and I’m curious to see how the new dynamic affects the friendships and the story. Will I pick up the next book though? I know this is something that younger me would’ve devoured without questions and would’ve (most probably) absolutely adored! But while I am curious now, I’m not sure it’s enough for me to want to read on.
Have you read Shadow Frost or is it on your TBR?