Release Date: 22nd September 2015
Genre: Fantasy, Young Adult
Seventeen-year-old Smitha's wealth, status, and beauty make her the envy of her town—until she rejects a strange man’s marriage proposal and disastrous consequences follow. Smitha becomes cursed, and frost begins to encompass everything she touches. Banished to the hills, hunted by villagers, and chilled to the very core of her soul, she finds companionship with Death, who longs to coax her into his isolated world. But Smitha's desire for life proves stronger than despair, and a newfound purpose gives her hope. Will regrets over the past and an unexpected desire for a man she cannot touch be enough to warm Smitha’s heart, or will Death forever still it?
I enjoyed Holmberg’s Paper Magician trilogy so obviously decided to request a copy of this when browsing NetGalley. I knew nothing about this book beyond the short blurb and the fact that an author who had written another series I enjoyed had written this one. I am glad I requested, this book was the perfect blind read, it does not require a lengthy description, it is just an enjoyable book. It feels magical, has fantastic character growth and features an excellent story once it gets on its feet.
The actual storyline of this book is quite simple, Smitha, a girl who is quite selfish and self centred, finds herself being cursed to be as cold as her heart. After being cursed she finds her skin being freezing to the touch and she is followed by a snowstorm with everything she touches slowly freezing. She is driven from her small village as those she lives with begin to suffer the effects of being continually cold and with a snowstorm beginning around her constantly they simply can’t survive as they cannot grow crops and cannot afford to keep themselves warm. After Smitha is driven from her village she finds herself travelling from place to place as she does not know what else to do. She is occasionally visited by death who wishes for her to join him in his own realm but she is determined to live, even if she doesn’t know how to.
I think the characters are what made this book for me, especially the character growth undergone by Smitha. It was expected that Smitha was going to grow as a person, especially as she was cursed because of her own selfishness, it was obvious she would have to grow as a person. What made it more fascinating is Smitha’s growth was slow and very genuine, she experienced highs and lows from her curse and it was her own determination to not give in to someone else’s control and wishes for her, instead she followed her own path. I enjoyed the diverse cast of characters as well, I don’t want to spoil who they all are, but there are a variety of characters who help shape Smitha and teach her things about herself.
The pacing of this book is a bit off to begin with. It begins slowly and takes a long time to really get into the heart of the story, I felt as lost as Smitha did at the beginning of the book. After she is banished from her village she spends several years wondering the mountains and attempting to avoid contact with people as they fear her and her curse, after a few pages that got a bit dull. I understand the need for set up, and I enjoyed how you got to see her desperation from prolonged time alone, but I did wish for it to pass faster. Thankfully, this part of the book did end and the true meat of the story began. I won’t spoil it for anyone, but Smitha was presented with an opportunity to spend time with people who weren’t death and attempt to help others. It was the second part of the book where she got some human interaction where I truly connected with the story. The pacing may have been off, but the story itself was fantastic, and I cannot fault it for that.
In the end, this was a fantastic read, despite any small complaints I may have. It is a book you have to work to get to the meat of it, but it is worth that for the enjoyable read you get. It was a great standalone fantasy book with strong characters and a diverse cast of people who feature in this intriguing story. It has magical elements to it, but it is the character themselves who make this what it is and I can easily recommend it to you if you’re looking for an enjoyable standalone fantasy read.
Anyone else read this book or anything else by Holmberg? I would love to hear your thoughts on her books. And, I am always on the look out for good standalone books, because sometimes you don’t want to commit to a series, so your recommendations would be welcome.