As was the case with Brandon Sanderson's Elantris, I've had my eyes on Sarah Ash's The Tears of Artamon trilogy for quite some time. Every time I'd enter a bookstore, inevitably I would be drawn to those novels. Hence, I was very happy when Transworld offered to send me review copies of all three volumes. Lord of Snow and Shadows is the first book in the trilogy.
Having never read anything by Ash, I didn't know what to expect from this novel. And I'm pleased to report that it's a good read. Not a work that stands out, but a nice read nonetheless.
The worldbuilding is interesting. Honestly, it's probably the best aspect of the book. The setting appears to be somewhat similar to Eastern Europe. But it's not set in the traditional medieval environment. Technology has evolved and plays a role in this tale. Which means that Lord of Snow and Shadows is no sword & sorcery tale. Magical arts and alchemy are also part of the story, but not quite openly. Indeed, mystery shrouds anything even remotely associated with magic. The imagery is at times fascinating, especially with everything that has to do with the technologically advanced kingdom of Tielen.
The narrative is smooth enough to make this book an easy read. Having said that, there are a number of scenes where things drag. And by the same token, there are a few scenes in which I thought that things had been rushed. But overall, the pace flows relatively well.
In my opinion, this novel's weakness lies in the characterizations. One facet of this story which may put off readers is the fact that the main character, Gavril, is a wimp. I understand that Ash wanted to create an anti-hero, and she certainly did. But I fear that she may have taken it a bit too far. Fortunately, in the end, Gavril comes around -- although not in a manner that may be satisfactory, especially to male readers. Also, there are a number of clichés with this cast of characters. But show me a fantasy story that doesn't have any. In any event, a number of clumsy characterizations doesn't take too much away from the quality of this book.
Even if you can see particular plot twists coming from a mile away, Sarah Ash comes up with a few storylines that offer unexpected surprises. I was quite pleased by the fact that the author brings this novel to a close with a satisfying ending.
Moreover, Ash demonstrates that underneath what might appear to be a simple enough fantasy tale, this series could well be something that hides more depth than what is visible at face value.
Lord of Snow and Shadows could well be the starting point of a promising trilogy.
The final verdict: 7/10