Series: Frostblood Saga, #1
on January 10th 2017
Genres: Fantasy, Young Adult Fiction
FTC Disclosure: I received this book for free from Netgalley in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.
Seventeen-year-old Ruby is a fireblood who must hide her powers of heat and flame from the cruel frostblood ruling class that wants to destroy all that are left of her kind. So when her mother is killed for protecting her and rebel frostbloods demand her help to kill their rampaging king, she agrees. But Ruby’s powers are unpredictable, and she’s not sure she’s willing to let the rebels and an infuriating (yet irresistible) young man called Arcus use her as their weapon.
All she wants is revenge, but before they can take action, Ruby is captured and forced to take part in the king’s tournaments that pit fireblood prisoners against frostblood champions. Now she has only one chance to destroy the maniacal ruler who has taken everything from her and from the icy young man she has come to love.
Fast-paced and compelling, Frostblood is the first in a page-turning new young adult three-book series about a world where flame and ice are mortal enemies—but together create a power that could change everything.
Elly Blake’s exciting debut novel Frostblood tells the story of a young woman named Ruby Otrera. Ruby is what is known as a Fireblood, which means that she possesses unique magical abilities that center on fire and heat. Rather than celebrate her powers and use them as she would wish to, however, Ruby has been raised to conceal and suppress her fire. Why? Because the land Ruby lives in is ruled by Frostbloods. Frostbloods possess similar magical abilities to Firebloods; their powers are just ice rather than flame-based. The Frostbloods also have a king who has a fierce hatred of Firebloods and wants to see them all destroyed. Thus it is for Ruby’s own protection and survival that her family has never encouraged her to use her magic.
That all changes, however, when the Frost King sends men to Ruby’s village because they suspect a Fireblood is living there. When someone betrays Ruby and reveals her to be the Fireblood, the King’s men end up killing Ruby’s mother when she stands in their way to protect her daughter. In her anguish, Ruby unleashes her fire power on those who murdered her mother and ends up arrested and taken to prison. Her stay in prison, however, is short-lived because a band of rebel Frostbloods come and break her out on the condition that she join them on their mission to kill the ruthless Frost King. They believe that she alone, with her unique fire powers, can successfully complete this mission. Because she desperately wants revenge against the man whose orders got her mother killed, Ruby agrees to be their assassin. The rest of the novel follows Ruby as she first learns to master her powers in preparation for her mission and then later as she finds herself captured and imprisoned by the Frost King and forced to participate in his deadly tournaments, all the while biding her time and hoping for an opportunity to destroy him before he destroys her.
What I Loved about Frostblood:
One of the favorite parts of Frostblood was the use of Fire vs Ice. Fire and ice imagery has always appealed to me so as soon as I saw that the magic in Frostblood was based on these elements, I knew I had to read the book.
As soon as I started reading and watching the Frostbloods and Ruby the Fireblood wield their magic, I was immediately captivated. The magic Elly Blake has created in her Frostblood world is not only mesmerizing and darkly beautiful, but it also vividly brings to mind one of my all-time favorite poems (quoted below for those who haven’t read it):
“Some say the world will end in fire, Some say in ice.
From what I’ve tasted of desire. I hold with those who favor fire.
But if it had to perish twice, I think I know enough of hate.
To say that for destruction ice. Is also great.
And would suffice.”
–“Fire and Ice” by Robert Frost
Aside from the incredible use of the fire and ice imagery, I also loved the epic fight scenes that Blake gives us when the Frost King captures Ruby and forces her to participate in his tournaments. The competitions are truly badass. They are basically death matches between Firebloods and Frostbloods, but really can be between anyone or anything the King sees fit to pit against each other for his own amusement because at various times, we see him pit champions against ferocious animals and other assorted beasts. The fights are sick and often pretty graphic, but they are also a pure adrenaline rush to read. When I read them, especially the fights where Ruby was a participant, I kept envisioning gladiators fighting in the Colosseum in Ancient Rome.
Where I was Conflicted:
As much as I enjoyed these elements of Frostblood, there were still a few areas where I was conflicted. Surprisingly enough, the main character Ruby is one of them. I really did like Ruby. She’s spunky and shows great determination against seemingly impossible odds, and I also had tremendous sympathy for her since her mother was murdered right in front of her. As much as I liked her though, I did think she was a little cliché at times. The feistiness and fiery temper seemed a somewhat predictable description for someone who basically has fire running through their veins.
I also found her frustrating. She’s supposed to be mastering her powers and admittedly isn’t making great progress with her training, but yet she keeps letting herself get distracted by the mysterious Frostblood named Arcus. I won’t go so far as to call it love at first sight since they seem to hate each other when they first meet, but considering what she is preparing to risk her life to go do, there is definitely way too much flirtation going on. In that sense, she reminded me of Mare from Red Queen, who I also wanted to throttle for being more focused on her potential love interest than on her mission.
Speaking of Arcus, in some ways I actually found him to be a more compelling and less predictable character than Ruby. Although he starts out as seemingly cliché with his frosty and arrogant manner, we soon learn (and so does Ruby) there’s a lot more to Arcus than initially meets the eye. He’s much more human and vulnerable than the rest of his Frostblood counterparts seem to be. I don’t want to give too much away about Arcus since he does play a major part in the novel’s climax, but I will say that as much as I disliked the flirting at inopportune moments early in the novel, the more I got to know more about Arcus, the more I liked him and the more supportive I felt toward his budding relationship with Ruby. The gratuitous flirting definitely still irritated me, but overall I was very intrigued by the idea of the two of them together, especially since he’s a Frostblood and she’s a Fireblood and they should be mortal enemies.
I think where I was actually most conflicted about this book is that while I thoroughly enjoyed it, I still wished it had been more of a unique read. Maybe I’ve just read way too many YA fantasy novels recently, but throughout my reading of Frostblood, I kept thinking “Wait, didn’t Mare in Red Queen go through that too? Wait, this reminds me of Britta in Ever the Hunted who is scorned because of her magical powers”, etc. It’s still a great read that I would recommend to pretty much any YA fantasy lover; I just wish Ruby had been more of a standout from all of the other YA heroines. To Blake’s credit though, she does start to introduce a more unique element towards the end of the novel – the fact that Ruby does seem to have a bit of darkness within her. We start to see it early on in Frostblood in her intense need for revenge against those who killed her mother, but that darkness takes on an entirely different dimension in the closing chapters of the story. I thought it was fascinating to see a heroine grapple with such an inner darkness and I’m really hoping that Blake will continue to explore this aspect in the second novel of the series. I think that’s the more unique angle that would really take this series to the next level for me.
Who Would I Recommend Frostblood to?
I’d recommend Frostblood to anyone who likes a fast-paced YA fantasy read. Frostblood was a quick and easy read for me. I was able to knock it out in just a couple of days and, even though, I wished for a little more originality at times, I was still entertained by the story the entire time. I think readers who are newer to the genre would especially enjoy it, especially if you enjoyed books like Red Queen or Ever the Hunted.
Rating: 3.5 stars