Raasch's leading lady, Meira, is incredibly sassy and strong -- two of my favorite things. The tale is a hero's journey, with the heroine (a hero's journey with a female character, hallelujah!) embarking on an epic journey to reclaim the lost land of her people.
I loved this story, simply, because of the main character. She's simultaneously humble and precocious; fearful and brave; young and grown. I thought the author did a fantastic job describing the different kingdoms, as well (though that comes into play even more in the second book).
Here's a great quote from the book:
"Fear is a seed that, once planted, never stops growing."
Meira ends up in some truly terrifying settings. Unlike adult fiction (I'm thinking Game of Thrones here), the graphic elements are handled with a lighter hand, but the author doesn't shy away from dragging the reader through some nail-biting, dark scenes.
Here's the book blurb:
A striking fantasy tale of dark magic, dangerous politics, and discovering your true self—perfect for fans of Game of Thrones, An Ember in the Ashes and A Court of Thorns and Roses.
Sixteen years ago the Kingdom of Winter was conquered and its citizens enslaved, leaving them without magic or a monarch. Now the Winterians' only hope for freedom is the eight survivors who managed to escape, and who have been waiting for the opportunity to steal back Winter's magic and rebuild the kingdom ever since.
Orphaned as an infant during Winter's defeat, Meira has lived her whole life as a refugee. Training to be a warrior—and desperately in love with her best friend, Winter's future king—she would do anything to help Winter rise to power again.
So when scouts discover the location of the ancient locket that can restore Winter's magic, Meira decides to go after it herself—only to find herself thrust into a world of evil magic and dangerous politics—and ultimately comes to realize that her destiny is not, never has been, her own.