Sara Ash's Lord of Snow and Shadows
is the promising opener to the Tears of Artamon series. The novel sets the stage in grand fashion as Ash deftly introduces the principal players in her well-realized fantasy realm. She begins with Gavril, a carefree portrait painter basking in the sunny climes of an irrelevant island republic. He soon discovers he is heir to a great and terrible legacy in the snowy wasteland of Azhkendir. Kidnapped by his murdered fathers personal guard, he is both captive and the Drakhoan--ruler of Azhkendir. His inheritance turns out to be more than just a crown, however. A dark force of immeasurable power is growing inside him while he finds his realm under siege from within and without.
Ash masterfully avoids most of the usual fantasy memes--except, of course, the reluctant hero, Gavril--and imports a vast menagerie of technologies and culturally resonant magics into her world. Her conflicting armies wield magic, muskets, and heavy cannon alongside darker forces that are too delicious to mention here. Apart from a few niggling inconsistencies (Gavril's transformation from foppish artist to deft statesman, for one), Ash's novel is a frosty infusion of new air into a genre overrun with the usual maidens-with-broadswords clichés. -Jeremy Pugh
From Publishers Weekly
In this excellent start to a new fantasy series from British author Ash (Moths to a Flame), Gavril Andar, an idealistic young artist, falls for the nobly born Astasia Orlova, whose portrait he's been hired to paint. Luckily, he's attractive enough for Astasia to return the favor. He doesn't know he's also Gavril Nagarian, son of the recently assassinated ruler of the wintry kingdom of Azhkendir, and that fate is about to deal him a dreadful blow. Like his father before him, Gavril becomes soul-bound to the Drakhaoul, a creature that grants awesome power at a terrible price. Kidnapped, Gavril finds himself trapped in Kastel Drakhaon, reluctant to draw on his new magical abilities, as their use only makes him more beast-like and less human. But with Prince Eugene of Tielin threatening to reconquer all of the Rossiyan Empire, he may have no choice. Fascinating and unpredictable, Gavril's tale gains richness from the grand scope of Ash's narrative, with its echoes of Russian history under the czars. Enhanced by supporting characters who are living, breathing individuals, this book will leave readers drooling to get their hands on the sequel from the moment they turn its final page.
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