Series: The Tears of Artamon
Published by Spectra on 2004-06-29
Length: 574 pages
Reviewing Hardcover from Library
Combining the best of fantasy traditions with her own unique vision, Sarah Ash brings to dazzling life a new saga filled with epic adventure and unforgettable characters. Far-reaching in scope and imagination, Lord of Snow and Shadows embarks on a journey like no other—into a shape-shifting world teeming with political intrigue, astonishing magic, and passions both dark and light.
Raised by his protective mother in the sunny clime of the south, Gavril Andar knows nothing of his father—or the ominous legacy that awaits him. But his innocence is about to be shattered. The man who ruled the wintry kingdom of Azhkendir, a man infused with the burning blood of the dragon-warrior known as Drakhaoul, has been murdered by his enemies. It is his fiery, chameleonlike blood that pulses through Gavril’s veins. The news is Gavril’s first taste of death—but it will not be his last. For blood is the liquid that seals his fate.
Expected by clan warriors from the north to avenge his father’s murder—and still his unquiet ghost—Gavril is kidnapped. He soon learns that becoming Drakhaon means not only ascending to the throne of Azhkendir but changing, in subtle ways at first, into a being of extraordinary power and might. A being that must be replenished with the blood of innocents in order to survive. Ensconced in Kastel Drakhaon with no means of escape from the icebound kingdom, and carefully watched by neighboring rulers waiting to move against him, the untested Gavril must fight to retain his human heart and soul in the face of impending war—and the dark instincts that threaten to overpower him.
Man and beast, spymaster and insurgent, nature and the netherworld--all collide in phenomenal twists and turns. A masterwork of adventure fantasy, Lord of Snow and Shadows will leave you stunned—and longing for more.
So the library close to my house, I now know, has a very small YA section. It’s literally one aisle. DOESN’T THAT MAKE YOU SAD. If I had known that, I might not have tried to find a fantasy book in the fiction section. But I found myself browsing the shelves, looking for the sticker on the spine for “fantasies” (which is a purple unicorn sticker). I saw this one with a snowy owl on the cover and thought “It’s really hot outside, I’d like to ‘escape’ to somewhere snowy.” And I did. And now I’m cold just thinking about it.
The Lord of Snow and Shadows is set in a magical land, full of strange magic and political intrigues. It isn’t unlike ASOIAF, but instead of a medieval theme, we see something a little different. And I’m here for it. Sarah Ash uses an Eastern European slant to her settings, characters, mythology and themes and it WORKS, man. I love it. It’s full of darkness mystery.
Our protagonist, Gavril Andar has inherited his estranged father’s title of Drakhaon, and whisked away from his home in warm, sunny Smarna to the icy moors of Azhkendir. He also inherited another trait of his father, a curse. A curse that which transforms him, gradually and violently, body and soul into a Drakhaoul, a fierce demon dragon. His new home is in danger from attack on all sides, but Gavril has no desire to be involved and longs for escape. But he cannot escape the Drakhaoul, for it is in his soul. And what powers this violent transformation? Human blood. (Queue creepy organ music.)
Meanwhile, a lowly orphaned servant with barely any family left becomes his saving grace on multiple occasions. Kiukurilya (Kiukiu, as she is called) is naive of her parentage and doesn’t realize the power she has. She is in possession of an ancient and singular power, inherited from the kastel’s opposing tribe, the Arkhel’s. As a Guslyar, she possesses a power of song, whereby she can summon the spirits of dead Arkhel warriors to inhabit the bodies of war-trained snow owls. (Can we just take a moment to recognise the badassery of warrior snow owls??…I’ll wait………….thank you and amen.)
While all of THIS is going on, Gavril’s mother is making her way across the continent to attempt to help her son escape his fate as Drakhaon and save him from the corruption of the Drakhaoul.
There were so many moments in reading this book that I had to stop, catch my breath, and look around to make sure I hadn’t just stepped through to the lonely ice-covered moors of Azhkendir. You will be absolutely sucked into this series. There are so many other things I didn’t cover, like the Bogatyr, the druzhina, Tielen, the actual Tears of Artamon, the Tielen warriors that transform into wolves, all the alchemy and magic you’re exposed to…ya’ll. Please go read this book so we can geek out about it together! If you enjoy classic, fark Grimm-fairytale-style mythology and all kinds of political intrigue (not to mention fantastic settings and characters), then there is no reason NOT to pick this one up and give it a shot.