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Frostblood by Elly Blake

Writing.ie | Book Reviews | Speculative Fiction | Young Adult

By Estefania Lemus

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Elly Blake’s novel Frostblood, transports readers to a world of ice, fire, and individuals who can control both elements. The audience follows Ruby through her journey of obsessive revenge after the murder of her mother, in a world ruled by a callous king. His only wish? To escape pain through the power of darkness. As one of the few, if not the only, individuals left in Tempesia who’s able to conjure fire from nothing, her powers make her the most wanted fireblood in the kingdom. The rebels need her, the king wants her, and every frostblood hates her.

Blake was born in Windsor, Canada. She embarked on her journey of publication in 2011, and was able to fulfill her passion for writing in 2017, when Frostblood was published. Today, she holds a BA in English and her area of concentration lies in fantasy and young adult works. The Frostblood series has been her first saga, earning its place on the NYT Bestseller. She’s currently working on her third book, Nightblood which is meant to be released June of 2018. Blake is a rising YA fiction novelist, with a fair amount of promise on the deliverance of exciting fantasy fiction.

Frostblood kickstarts Ruby’s story with the merciless death of her mother at the hand of frostblood guards. On a seemingly quiet night, her village is attacked by the king’s men to capture and execute Ruby for her magic. Despite her best efforts, she’s captured and taken to Blackcreek prison. After a few weeks of tortured imprisonment, Ruby is visited by rebel frostbloods Arcus and Brother Thistle. They propose to free her, and ultimately save her from death, if she joins them in killing their king. Wanting nothing more than to avenge her mother, Ruby agrees, and they escape into the night. A few days ride leads them to Forwind Abbey, the home of an order of monks. Ruby spends the next couple of months healing, and learning to control her powers with the help of Brother Thistle’s training. At the same time, Arcus—an irresistible, ice-like, ally—strengthens Ruby with sword work. Ruby’s training progresses, but not enough to have her execute the plan the rebels have in mind. Before they get a chance to carry out their revolution, the abbey is stormed with frostblood soldiers, and Ruby is taken captive.

In the second half of the book, Ruby is presented to Rasmus, king of Tempesia. To test her for his own use, he throws Ruby into his arena of champions, where individuals fight to the death. In each fight, Ruby is possessed by a demon called the Minax, and kills her opponents with its help. The king is also tormented and controlled by the Minax, however without Ruby, Rasmus is unable to fully control the demon. In the final chapters of the book Ruby fights the king and the Minax. At this point Arcus, the true frost king of Tempesia, and his followers, have stormed the castle and started their revolution. Together, Ruby and Arcus kill Rasmus, but liberate the Minax, leaving readers with a sinister cliffhanger.

Blake’s novel finds its greatest strength in the dark overtones of wrongful desire and distorted pleasures. One could use the phrase “playing with fire” and it would be entirely appropriate. From the very beginning, with Ruby and Arcus’ forbidden attraction, to Ruby’s acceptance of the Minax, Frostblood is a string of small ambivalent contradictions. By the end of the novel, the reader is ravenous to see how Ruby will battle the darkness she’s struggling to keep at bay. Toward the end of the book, the Minax succeeds in merging itself with Ruby’s power. It’s interesting to see the strength of the protagonist fail, and tap into the darkness heroes are supposed to vanquish. Her authentic displays of emotion keep readers invested in Ruby’s character, and seeing her stay strong, is a pleasure readers absorb hungrily.

Despite the authenticity of Ruby’s character, and the captivating paradox of good and evil, Frostblood’s weakness lies in the plot and pacing of the story. Blake’s novel followed a very typical fantasy arc. Up to and including the familiar image of a strong female lead driven by tragedy, who gets acquainted with rebels of a tormented kingdom, becomes infatuated with a lover who’s opposite of everything she is, thrown into the heart of danger, and then hurtles all obstacles except one. The sequence of events is predictable, and teeters along the edge of unoriginal. Many find themselves drawing parallels between this story and Sarah Maas’ series of A Court of Thorns and Roses. The difference? Blake rushes through the events of the book in a mere few pages. Readers are unable to absorb what’s happening, and invest themselves in Ruby’s story. At his point, the book structure feels old as well as distant.

Frostblood juggles war, revolution, love, and conflicting personal identity. The potential for a world like Ruby’s is extensive, able to capture an audience and weave a tale of ancient magic. Blake’s idea of her characters accepting, and even embracing darkness, is uncomfortable for readers. It’s brilliant and alluring. However, the potential is only slightly tapped. With a fast-paced storyline and minimal amounts of detail, readers miss out on an adventure bigger than the one that has been given.

(c) Estefania Lemus

Order your copy online here.

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