YA high fantasy
I am a huge fan of fantasy, it doesn’t matter if it’s adult fantasy or YA or MG, it is absolutely my favorite genre as a reader (and writer) and I will eagerly read any category it is in. That said, I have had trouble finding good fantasy as of late, and YA fantasy in particular is filled with the same tropes, themes, plot points, and conflicts, to the point where it starts to get repetitive and one book blends into the other.
“Frostblood”, by Elly Blake, is not entirely excluded from this phenomena. There is a chosen one; a boy which starts off as a rival of sorts but ends up morphing into a romantic love interest; an arena of gladiators which is sort of reminiscent to “The Hunger Games” where only one comes out alive; and a far-off land divided into different factions that are branded by their abilities.
But even though this book is not entirely fresh, it doesn’t mean it’s not good. The best part of the story, for me, was right in the middle, when the romance actually starts to develop, which I found touching and well-done. The character of the boy was fleshed out to perfection, and even though the protagonist, Ruby, was oblivious to his family roots, it’s something that an attentive reader can predict basically almost after the first third of the book is over. Which is why the climactic moment of the book doesn’t feel so climactic in the end, but rather predictable, and Ruby seems naïve for not having figured it out.
Ruby not seeing this big revelation coming is something that can be traced to her age. Characters in YA novels are so immersed in their own feelings and thoughts that they are hardly attentive to other character’s intentions/backgrounds/feelings, which makes most of them seem either naïve, self-absorbed, bad observers, or a combination of the three. Ruby also suffers from this.
Even though I mentioned that the boy’s character was fleshed out to perfection, I have to add that he undergoes such a change towards the end of this book that it’s hard not to think of it as character assassination up to a point. He goes from being this reserved, controlled, icy warrior to a boy completely subdued by his romantic feelings for the main character. Of course we can attribute this to true love, but it would have been nice if some of the “frosty” elements of his character wouldn’t have been completely wiped out by the end of the novel.
Another point I had trouble with was the introduction of new characters in the middle of the novel. Having met them later on in the story, it’s hard for me as a reader to connect with them or even care whether they live or die. Some characters also felt boxy and stereotypical, while others were so unpredictable to the point of being incomprehensible to me. When one of these characters dies and another is devastated by it, I failed to connect with the character’s feelings of devastation, because there was no build-up in this relationship for me to care about him losing a person so close to his heart.
This is a good story, and I commend Blake for having completed it so successfully and tying up all the loose ends. The mythological aspects of it are also interesting, what with the gods and demons which turn out to be more real than Ruby, or I, ever expected them to be, which I’m okay with. This is a fantasy after all. However, this book could have stood alone. There is a sequel coming out, and I understand the whole story is a series, when it could have ended perfectly there and then (with a few minor tweaks and perhaps a chapter or two more to wrap up the story), making it a legit stand-alone fantasy book without the need of any continuation.