In the kingdom of Axaria, a darkness rises.
Some call it a monster, laying waste to the villagers and their homes.
Some say it is an invulnerable demon summoned from the deepest abysses of the Immortal Realm.
Many soldiers from the royal guard are sent out to hunt it down.
Not one has ever returned.
When Asterin Faelenhart, Princess of Axaria and heir to the throne, discovers that she may hold the key to defeating the mysterious demon terrorizing her kingdom, she vows not to rest until the beast is slain. With the help of her friends and the powers she wieldsthough has yet to fully understandAsterin sets out to complete a single task. The task that countless trained soldiers have failed.
To kill it.
But as they hunt for the demon, they unearth a plot to assassinate the princess herself instead. Asterin and her companions begin to wonder how much of their lives have been lies, especially when they realize that the center of the web of deceit might very well be themselves. With no one else to turn to, they are forced to decide just how much they are willing to sacrifice to protect the only world they have ever known.
That is … if the demon doesn’t get to them first.
From young author Coco Ma comes a dazzling new tale of adventure, power, and betrayal, weaving together a stunning world of magic with a killer cast in an explosive, unforgettable debut.
About the Author
Coco Ma is a Canadian author and pianist. She wrote her first novel, Shadow Frost, at the age of fifteen, and since she began playing the piano at the age of five and a half, she has performed on some of the world’s greatest concert stages and graduated with a precollege diploma in piano performance from the Juilliard School in New York City. Currently, she studies at Yale University. When she isn’t practicing piano, writing, or studying, you might find her bingeing Netflix or eating cake. Lots of cake.
Visit Coco on Twitter @chaosforcoco, on Instagram @cakeforcoco, and at coco-ma.com.
Saskia Maarleveld is an experienced voice-over actress and Earphones Award–winning narrator. Raised in New Zealand and France, she is highly skilled with accents and dialects, and many of her books have been narrated entirely in accents other than her own. In addition to audiobooks, her voice can be heard in animation, video games, and commercials.
Read an Excerpt
Asterin Faelenhart ran a brush through her hair, violently untangling the stubbornest of locks with her fingers. She cast a fierce glower at her reflection in the vanity mirror. Emerald eyes stared back, glimmering with the flames of candlelight. Her scowl deepened as she glimpsed the ugly bruise blossoming across her cheek, stark purple against ivory.
Sighing in irritation, Asterin pressed two fingers to the blemish and murmured a healing spell. A tingling sensation enveloped the tender spot, the purple leeching away. Halfway through, she hesitated, debating whether her appearance or her pride were of more value.
Biting her lip, she imagined her mother's wrath at seeing her daughter as battered as a street brawler for the third day in a row. The bruise disappeared without a trace a moment later.
After dusting fine powder over her face, she twisted her ebony hair into a tight knot atop her head. She had to rummage through a drawer to find the tiara, its rubies twinkling as boldly as if they had managed to capture the candles' embers within. She found some pins to fasten the tiara onto her head. The last thing she needed was for it to fall off — again.
A knock echoed through her empty chambers. She rose from her seat, the fabric of her gown rustling as she left her bedchamber and crossed the antechamber into the sitting parlor, the fine-spun rugs softer than clouds beneath her bare feet.
When she looked up, the almighty Council of Immortals — the nine gods and goddesses of the Immortal Realm — stared down upon her from their thrones, painted in vivid, lifelike strokes along the parlor ceiling. Vicious Lady Fena with her circlet of fire and her foxes, elusive Lord Pavon half-hidden in hazy smears of gold with a peacock mask dangling from his slender fingers, and of course, the majestic Lord Conrye with his pack of snarling wolves and sword of unbreakable ice.
The knock came again, insistent. Asterin wrenched the door open and sighed. "What do you want?"
"Princess Asterin," said her Royal Guardian. He leaned against the doorframe, ankles crossed, his perfect mouth twisted in a smirk.
"Dinner isn't until half past six, Orion," she snapped. "Go away."
His ice-chip blue eyes glinted with mischief. "Such poor manners for a princess. Your mother wouldn't be pleased." She snorted at that. When was her mother ever pleased with her? He glanced from her cheek to his knuckles and then back again, all innocence. "Glad to see your bruise healed so quickly. Looked quite nasty."
She slammed the door in his stupid face.
Asterin sucked in an exasperated breath. Although she loved Orion dearly, it was more an affection born from spending over a decade side by side. Only separated by six years of age, they squabbled on the daily, just like they had as children. A few members of the court pegged it as some sort of sibling rivalry, but Asterin could never think of Orion as a brother. He was her friend and mentor, but Guardian first and foremost. He put a sword in her hand and told her to try and beat him up, which didn't strike her as particularly brotherly.
Now she listened to the unimpressed tap tap tap of his foot outside. Oh, how she wished to bash his pretty nose in with a flick of her wrist or rip all his tailored finery to shreds with a wave of her hand — but she couldn't. The two of them had exactly one rule and one rule only — that they would never use magic against one another. Because history had proved magic could do terrible things when provoked, even accidentally — and great Immortals above, she was definitely provoked. She took another breath, forcing her pulse to slow and her mind to calm. "Please?"
The doorknob twisted into her side. She thrust her weight against the door as Orion shoved it open, his gleeful face poking at her from the crack.
"No can do, Your Highness," Orion said. "Your mother has requested your presence in her chambers." He shoved again, and her feet slid backward.
"I'm a little busy." She adjusted her stance to add pressure on the door. "Thanks to a certain someone."
"When I say requested, I'm being polite. So," he said, grunting as she gained on him, "I suggest that you go see her immediately." He suddenly withdrew, throwing her balance off and causing her to crash face-first into the wood with a thunk. She heard him stroll away, his laughter pealing through the corridor like an off-key bell.
Forehead throbbing and tiara knocked askew, Asterin hiked her silk skirts up to her knees, muttering vehement, very unprincess-like words beneath her breath as she stuffed her feet into some jeweled slippers and stormed out of her chambers.
Two guards waited outside her door, but she signaled for them to stay and bolted before they could protest. Peaked windows lined the white marble corridor, interrupted only by the occasional archway adorned with enchanted snow-laden ivy. The corridor opened into a large alcove and Asterin swerved right onto the spiraling grand stairway, just barely skirting past a cluster of tittering court ladies. Each glass step shone like ice beneath her slippers.
The top and fourth floor was reserved for the adjoined quarters of the king and queen, as well as their personal guards. Asterin passed the king's chambers. No one had occupied them for a decade.
At last, she arrived at her mother's door. Asterin drew in a deep lungful of air before rapping thrice upon the black obsidian, rubbing away the sting in her knuckles with a slight wince as the door opened. The round face of one of the maids peered out at her. Without a word, the girl curtsied and beckoned Asterin through the sitting parlor and into her mother's bedchamber.
Asterin toed off her slippers before entering, her feet sinking into the plush carpet. The teal curtains had been braided back, the last of the waning daylight bathing the walls in an amber glow. An enormous four-poster bed sprawled across the center of the room, a riot of peacock feathers fanning out over the massive headboard. A slender woman stood silhouetted by the farthest window.
Tendrils of blond hair so light they could have been mistaken for gossamer were piled in an exquisite coil atop her head. Shimmering blue silk — she only ever wore silk — cascaded from her shoulders, rippling on a phantom breeze. From the slant of her spine to the delicate tilt of her chin, her entire being seemed to exude an effortless elegance that Asterin had always struggled — and failed — to replicate.
And of course, it was impossible to miss the exquisite diamond spires encircling her head like spears of ice, crowning her as Queen Priscilla Alessandra Montcroix-Faelenhart, ruler of Axaria.
Asterin performed her best curtsy, low to the ground, her skirts pooling like syrup around her. "Mother."
The queen turned, a single brow arched. Eyes of teal swept over Asterin. "Ah, there you are, Princess. You've kept us waiting ... as usual."
Asterin flushed, averting her eyes. Only then did she spot the shadow in the corner, half-hidden by a candelabra. She plastered what could hopefully pass as a civil smile onto her face. "General Garringsford."
The general swept into an austere bow, the lines of her silver uniform sharp enough to cut flesh. "Your Highness." Her inflection sounded more command than greeting.
Carlotta Garringsford had first risen to her position as the General of Axaria when Asterin's father had been just a boy. And though illness had taken King Tristan nearly a decade ago, Garringsford still appeared not a day past forty, a few strands of silver amidst her perfect golden bun and several crinkle lines between her brows the only signs of aging. She trained right alongside the soldiers and personally kicked the recruits into shape without the slightest mercy. Rumor had it that someone once tried to stab her in the heart, but the sword had shattered instead.
Whereas Asterin had lost her father, Garringsford had once had two sons. They had both been killed while assisting a raid many years ago, not yet full-fledged soldiers — merely trainees that King Tristan had thought might benefit from the experience of tagging along with their superior officers to stamp out a very much underestimated threat.
Asterin swallowed the slightly acrid taste in her mouth and curtsied to her mother again. "What is it you need of me, Your Majesty?"
A smile, but that teal gaze was indecipherable, as always. "Why, is it such a surprise that I might desire my own daughter's company?"
"Of course not. But surely ...?"
Queen Priscilla gave a long-suffering sigh, as if Asterin had already disappointed her. "General Garringsford has brought you a gift." Her mother gestured, and the general strolled over to Asterin, producing a small chest from behind her back.
Asterin accepted it warily. A gift? From Garringsford? Now that was a surprise. She placed the chest upon the bed, the silken wood warm and rich beneath her fingertips, yearning for her touch. Even so, she hesitated, tracing the simple but beautiful metal embellishments.
The general tapped her foot, obviously trying to hide her impatience. "If you would kindly open the chest, Your Highness?" But only when her mother cleared her throat did Asterin finally flick the silver clasp and snap the lid open, ducking her head to hide her scowl.
Nine iridescent stones, which formed the outline of a triangle, nested upon a bed of viridian velvet. They glimmered despite the deepening dusk, flat and round, polished to a dark, oily sheen so glossy that she could glimpse her reflection within each surface, disrupted only by the different sigils carved into the center of each stone.
The sigils represented the nine affinities — the nine elements, each hailing from a different kingdom and bloodline. The three core affinities making up the fundamental trinity — earth, water, and fire — cornered the triangle, the other six falling in between: ice, wind, sky, air, light, and illusion. Asterin had her own set of stones in her room, fashioned of ruby and silver, but these were unlike any that she'd ever seen. Affinity stones could be made from nearly anything so long as the sigils were carved properly, ranging from actual stones to metals, and even wood, but their effectiveness depended heavily on their quality and durability.
"They're beautiful." Asterin trailed her fingers along them, hovering over the empty center where a final stone representing the tenth element might have rested, had it not been long forbidden. Shadow. It was said to be the most powerful of all, equivalent to the power of the other nine elements combined. "Thank you."
Garringsford nodded, and then after shooting a quick glance at Queen Priscilla, ever her mother's obedient pet, she said, "I understand you've been trying to unlock a third fundamental, Your Highness."
Asterin's shoulders tensed. "What of it?"
"In order for our soldiers to reach their fullest potential, they must be trained in both physical and magical combat. I fear they are lacking in the latter, but I believe that watching you practice your magic might provide crucial insight on how to better train them."
Ah, Asterin thought, letting out a soft laugh. The "gift" makes sense now. "Is it truly a gift when one asks for something in return, General?"
"An exchange, then," Garringsford said bluntly. "Call it whatever you will, Your Highness, it matters not to me."
Asterin narrowed her eyes at the general, trying to gauge a second motive behind that impassive stare, tamping down the growing unease worming through her stomach. "I've never practiced under the watch of others."
Her mother glided away from the window, crossing beneath the glittering chandelier and approaching her. Asterin did her best not to shrink from that intimidating grace, suddenly reminded of a deadly snake disguised as a swan. "Come, my child," the queen coaxed. "Just pick up the stones."
Asterin didn't want to pick up the stones. Garringsford wanted her to, and Asterin would never trust anything the general said — not since her father's death. But her desire to please her mother overpowered her reluctance.
"The fundamental trinity," Asterin began, sweeping her hand over the triangle. She picked up the top stone. It illuminated as soon as she touched it. "Water." The two women came to her side, peering over either shoulder. "Earth." The earthstone came to rest in the cup of her palm beside the waterstone, their lights intertwining. With her other hand, Asterin cradled the third core affinity stone. It stayed dark. "And fire. I've been practicing, but I can't seem to get it to cooperate."
"Two fundamentals," Garringsford said. "And an ice affinity, of course. Any others?"
Asterin nodded. "Light and wind, but those developed when I was older."
Although she didn't remember it — she had only been a month old — the tale of her Revealing Ceremony had been one of her father's favorites to recount. Revealing Ceremonies were momentous occasions, a tradition dating back thousands of years. In honor of the first — and only — child of the new royal family, noble and royal envoys from all nine kingdoms had been invited, and hundreds of Axarians had flocked to the capital to celebrate. The ceremony itself was simple — nine drops of blood pricked from each finger but the right pinky. One drop per stone. The sigils on the stones represented not only an affinity, but also a god or goddess — for the nine affinities originated from the blood of the Immortals. That blood ran through the veins of every mortal, no matter how small the quantity.
At her ceremony, three stones had glowed — those bearing the sigils of Lord Tidus, God of Water; Lady Siore, Goddess of Earth; and Lord Conrye, God of Ice and the House of the Wolf, whose stone had shone brightest of all.
Her kingdom had rejoiced. If any other stone had shone brighter, by tradition, she would have belonged to a different House, as her mother did. Queen Priscilla belonged to the House of the Peacock in Oprehvar — for it was Lord Pavon's power of illusion running through her veins.
Asterin returned the firestone to its place. "And you, General? What are your affinities?" She knew the answer, but it was worth asking just to see Garringsford grimace.
"I was born unifinitied," came the grudging answer. "Only ice."
Almost every person inherited at least one or more affinities when they were born, and most, like Queen Priscilla and the general, would only ever be able to wield their single element. Those who could wield two elements were bifinitied. Even rarer were the trifinitied, like Orion. Asterin was multifinitied — meaning she could wield more than three elements, though at the time of her Revealing Ceremony, the stones of Lady Reyva, Goddess of Wind, and Lord Ulrik, God of Light, had remained inactive. Her wind affinity manifested when she was six, and her light affinity took three years to follow.
There were legends, too, of those who could wield all nine elements, known as the omnifinitied, their power equal to that of the tenth element — shadow, the affinity born from the powers of King Eoin, Ruler of Darkness. But the accounts of the omnifitied that Asterin had come by were few and far between, and she certainly hadn't heard of any still living today.
Asterin prepared to call forth her water affinity, laying the earthstone back in the chest. "You might want to take a step back. This can get a bit messy."
"What incantations do you use?" Garringsford asked.
Asterin chewed her lip, wondering if she could get away with lying. She went with a half-truth. "A few here and there. My tutors forced me to use them as a child, but I've found that I prefer not to confine my magic to the boundaries of a spell."
Garringsford's brow raised. "That's practically unheard of."
Asterin opened her mouth to retort, but then her mother's hand fluttered onto her shoulder and squeezed. "Perhaps you could give General Garringsford an example," the queen said.
How could she not oblige? "Fine." Asterin grimaced slightly, her tone far sharper than she had intended. The queen's hand tightened on her shoulder, and Asterin couldn't help the small part of her that wished her mother would tell the general off for once. "I suppose you could use a simple summoning spell."
Garringsford's steel eyes glinted — a challenge. "Would Your Highness be kind enough to demonstrate?"
Asterin resisted the urge to grind her teeth and took a deep breath. When her mind cleared, she lifted the waterstone. "Avslorah aveau," she recited, the language of the Immortals heavy on her tongue.(Continues…)
Excerpted from "Shadow Frost"
Copyright © 2019 Coco Ma.
Excerpted by permission of Blackstone Publishing.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
This book was received as an ARC from Blackstone Publishing in exchange for an honest review. Opinions and thoughts expressed in this review are completely my own. I really loved the imagery this book displayed throughout. Really getting to know the characters and relating to their dilemmas and passion for saving their kingdom. It's like you have been transported to Axaria yourself along for the ride as Asterin and her friends battle the demon and save Axaria once and for all. The book really comes to life if you read it in a dim room because it feels like you are more part of the action rather than reading the book outside or in a lit room. I know young readers will enjoy this book tremendously and will be anticipating the next installment sooner rather than later, at least I know I will! We will consider adding this title to our YFantasy collection at our library. That is why we give this book 5 stars.
I went into this without any expectations and I am glad for that. Unfortunately, this just wasn't great and there were many things I did not like about this book. It sucks when a cover and synopsis are so promising and they let you down. I will start this off with a positive. I am always a fan of multiple point of views in a book. For me, its easier to connect with characters in that way. Sadly, I didn't like any of the characters in this book. They were all quite cliché especially the main character, Asterin. The first couple things that are mentioned about her is that she has this extra special rare gift of being able to control different elements or in their terms, affinity stones. She is also great at fighting. I strongly dislike characters like this. All of the characters dialogue felt similar especially when it came to the banter between a few. I am always up for some good banter but in this case I just wasn't a fan. As for the plot, it was very slow in the beginning and some of the scenes were painful to get through. The affinity stones/elemental magic was an interesting concept and I did appreciate that. There were many plot twists especially towards the end but it was like a jumble of so many that it just felt over the top and didn't have me enjoying them or even being surprised since this book had many clichés. I will say some of the book was very similar to others that I have read and there wasn't enough uniqueness to set it apart for me. The writing wasn't something that I liked and that also didn't help with me already not liking many aspects of this book. I also felt that there could have been more world building. Overall, I wasn't impressed and it won't be a book that I will remember. I am sure I will be in the minority and so don't let my review sway you too much. earc provided by publisher through NetGalley.
"In a world of magic ... nothing is impossible." A stunning debut with a hilarious cast of characters, rich world building, and heart-racing plot! **ARC received at BookExpo curtesy of Blackstone Publishing, all opinions are my own and the unbiased truth** REVIEW I devoured this novel in two sittings! I was hooked from the prologue and the story just kept improving from there on. I find that in some debut novels the world building can feel a little info-dumpy or the author expects you to outright understand the magic system - neither of those occurred here. Coco Ma manages to weave in her world building by using her characters to explain the magic system and kingdom politics. I never found myself confused, and while there were a few times I reread a passage to make sure I understood how the kingdoms were connected with different elemental powers, it did not hinder the pacing. The magic system is one that I instantly took to because it focused on elemental magic. As a child I always wished that I had these powers, so whenever I see them in a book I am instantly drawn in. I liked how each kingdom had a specific affinity for a certain element, and that people in this world could be proficient in more than one element. The most intriguing part of the magic was the use of magical stones to help harness and control powers. With such a complex magic system it is easy to get lost in explaining it to the reader, but instead I found myself wanting to know more! I know that there will be a few readers who find the middle of this book to be slow paced. At around the 40% mark our characters head off on their quest, but they hit a road block for the next 20%. However, I adored this time where the characters were able to grow in their relationships with one another. I am a reader who favours character development and interactions over all else, which is part of the reason why I loved this book. Furthermore, this time spent hunting the demon allows the reader to connect with the characters, which impacts how the reader feels emotionally at the end of the novel with where each of the respective characters end up. Allow me to state that I laughed out loud MULTIPLE times in this novel. Our lovely Asterin is snarky to no avail and Quinlan has no problem throwing sass back. The banter between our six main characters had me laughing to the point where I had to put the book down. Sure our group has a lot of flaws and they fight with each other, but at the end of the day they are all fiercely protective and loyal and I love them. There is romance in this book, and a lot of flirting - BUT NO LOVE TRIANGLES. While one of the relationships felt a little fast-paced in its development, the other one was beautifully drawn out and had me squealing at every moment. We also start out with Eadric and Luna already in a relationship, so the two of them are just cute from the get-go. The last thing that I want to mention is how this book focuses on the power within and trust. A lot of our characters have to come to term with their own self-doubt, and they learn a lot during their journey. I believe that Luna had the biggest character arc of all, and I loved seeing her believe in the power within herself and growing some serious confidence. I cannot wait for everyone to read it! Overall, this was a fantastic debut. I highly highly highly recommend it and will be pining away for the sequel
Strong female characters are always great, and here is one such individual. Asterin is not only a strong character, but she is, ultimately, such a flawed character. Driven and powerful, she is always eager to try to better herself to make sure that she is the ruler her people need her to be. Asterin is ready to jump into battle with her warriors rather than sit idly by. Moreover, while these are all great merits, it’s her insecurities that make her come to life. Asterin seeks the approval of her mother and attempts to control the power inside her that she doubts. She is human and relatable, and that’s what keeps her from falling into the trap of being a Mary Sue character, which she was close to becoming. She has all this power, all this skill, but she doesn’t know how to use it, her decisions are conflicted, her choices are complicated, and the outcomes do not always favor her. That’s the compelling part of her narrative, how twisted she is inside to do what’s right for herself and her people, while also challenging herself and growing through the story. However, the story goes beyond Asterin, expanding to her band of friends. Each character has a unique voice, making them stand out, but, much like with Asterin, they each have insecurities that make them relatable, and ultimately, they balance each other out wonderfully. They each have their strengths and weaknesses, but they love each other leading them to fight for one another in fantastic ways, even while they battle their misgivings and insecurities. There is something to be said about the pacing of the novel. It does a decent job of world-building, and the opening sequence is dark and tantalizing. However, from then on, the pace is slower, it takes a while to pick up the pace and then in the middle it slows down again. It is clear that the intent is to showcase the characters, to focus on their dynamics and growth, and at least Ma does an excellent job of summarizing the passage of time in a remarkable way, but while that is happening it almost feels as if the main story is being put on hold to do this. It makes the pacing feel choppy even though it picks back up and speeds towards an action-packed ending. Shadow Frost is, ultimately, a riveting debut that has such a fascinating story of magic and gripping character development. It breaks apart by giving all the characters their chance to shine and grow, while also introducing tension throughout the layers of the story, making it an excellent read.
Shadow Frost by Coco Ma was the kind of book I dreamed about reading. It had a rebellious and determined mc that kept me smiling, an unexpected love interest that warmed my heart, and an inspiring and diverse group of people with the same purpose: find and kill the demon responsible for all the mysterious deaths. The story begins with a cryptic message. One where a dark and deadly creature is being released to wreak havoc upon the lands. There's villainous work at play that needs to be extinguished and there's one stubborn female who's more than willing to take on the task: Princess Asterin Faelenhart. She's been trained in combat her entire life with the help of her dear friend and protector, Orion. She also knows that her magic can help her people. When she asks the queen to allow her to leave and find the demon, the queen insists that she gathers a group of people to assist on her mission. Soon, a lady-in-waiting, a royal guardian, an expert guardsman, and two new additions to the princess's protection detail are on their way to fight against the darkness. Secrets are uncovered. Truths are revealed. Relationships become strained. The thing I enjoyed the most about this book was the relationships built between the characters. They all have their weaknesses and they're not afraid to show and except them. It takes some characters longer than other to accept their true selves, but it doesn't take long. There was plenty of 'awe!' moments, along with plenty of 'ugh!' moments, but that was what made this book so realistic and enjoyable! A big thanks to NetGalley, the publisher, and the author, for the ARC in exchange for an honest review!
I really want to give this book more than three stars... but I can't really in good conscience give it more when it's not as good as the books I give four stars too. Asterin is a magically-talented princess in her realm. When reports of a demon spread throughout the realm, she feels the need to go after it. Her best friend and a few of her guards go with her. While they're out tracking down the demon, they realize that the princess is in danger... and there are several twists. The plot was interesting. There's a demon stalking the realms! What can be cooler than that? A group of friends are working together to track it down! It reminds me in some ways of the Dragonlance books, which I loved. But... there are things that kept me from loving this book. The first thing that I find odd is that Asterin's mother presents her with two guards from another country, out of the blue, and she's supposed to just be okay with that? It seemed odd to me. Is there some foreign exchange program going on? No. Despite this odd occurrence, Asterin accepts this as normal. Some of the relationships in this book develop a little too quickly to be realistic, and even then, for most of the book, the chemistry doesn't seem that believable. I think that's my biggest problem with this book: it doesn't seem believable. The characters don't behave like I'd expect them to. That being said, the magic was pretty cool, and I didn't dislike the book. There are just many other books that are much better. This is the author's debut, and she did write this book when she was fifteen years old, so I would definitely consider giving her future books another chance. I don't know whether I will continue with this series (there are a lot of books out there competing for my attention) but I am interested in seeing other books from her.
I honestly loved this book. It was one of those books that you pick up and can't put down. This book reminded me of a Snow White retelling with some major twists. The whole book kept you guessing as to what would happen next. It was filled with emotional highs and lows, like any good book. My favorite part had to be the ending. The ending set the book up perfectly for the sequel. Then came the epilogue. Everything you thought you knew changes. Overall, this is a fantastic book. I sped through it and I am sure to reread it as well as pick up the sequel when it comes out. You should definitely check it out!
First off, I gotta praise the author. She wrote this at 15 years old! 15!!!!! Such incredible writing and plotting for someone so young. She deserves a lot of kudos. Shadow Frost was magical, fierce and a vibrant story. Wholly original. I loved the comradery between the main characters and how exciting all the twists were. I loved that all the female characters were so strong, fierce and independent, both good and bad. My big issue with this book had to do with the main love interest, Quinlan. I couldn’t stand him. He was so disrespectful to Asterin, putting her down every five seconds. And I didn’t really find his pet name as “brat” for her as endearing as I did find it weird and corny. While I love a good enemies to lovers trope and good banter between love interests, I felt like most of what Quinlan says to Asterin is very disrespectful. Good guys don’t call their girls stupid or an idiot. That’s verbal abuse to me. So that’s why I gave it 4/5 stars. Other than that, the plot was well rounded, and I can’t wait to see what comes from Coco Ma in the future!
You’re no hero, he reminded himself. A hero protects the good people. A hunter does anything to survive.” This book was gorgeous, original, fresh, snarky, badass, action-packed... all the superlatives. Out of all the books I’ve read recently, Shadow Frost was one of the only books that seriously met and surpassed my expectations. The dazzling world building, the enchanting descriptions and details, the CHARACTERS. Gotta stop here and tell you about this JEWEL OF A CAST. There are a lot of storylines, and that’s a fact. But Ma stunningly interwove them to create a truly beautiful and complex tapestry. I loved every single character SO MUCH. Like, equally. Which is so rare. Each of them are unique gems on their own and a priceless treasure put together. I really drank up all of the details of their storyline without feeling weighed down or that the plot was ever dragging. In terms of the plot itself, there were so many unexpected twists and turns. Like for example, the ENDING?! Not gonna spoil anything, but damn. Definitely was not expecting that!! Ma set up the surprises so fantastically. Sure, I had suspicions. But those suspicions changed throughout the novel. And then they changed again. Sometimes I was totally wrong and once I was totally right but astonished nonetheless. One of the coolest elements of the writing was that I felt totally immersed in every scene, as though I was actually there, following the action right alongside the characters (which is the biggest reason why my suspicions changed so many times. You’ll understand when you read it!! *winks*). UGH! I CANNOT WAIT UNTIL THE SEQUEL AND THIS ONE DOESN’T EVEN RELEASE FOR ANOTHER SIX MONTHS!!!!! Thank you so much for the opportunity to read this!! 11/10 recommend. AND ALSO PSA THIS GIRL IS AN ICON. SHE IS A SCARILY YOUNG ADULT WRITING FOR YOUNG ADULT. Not that you can tell at all that she is young! If that isn’t reader voice goals, I don’t know what is. Such an inspiration!!!
SHADOW FROST has a really exciting premise, but for me, fell a little short. I was expecting a darker YA fantasy and this felt more like a middle grade fantasy. The beginning is really exciting with a new beast/monster being risen and controlled. Asterin is the princess of Axaria, and she has been training in combat against her mother (the queen)'s wishes. She is also developing her magic powers, a little at a time. That is, until a neighboring kingdom sends two guards for the princess who give her a stone, which explodes her magical abilities. Then, Asterin decides to go after this beast/monster that is killing so many soldiers, accompanied by her friends. The dialogue was a little too descriptive (characters saying what they would do and then the text describing it further), and there is a lot of sparring and such that delays other parts of the plot. On top of that, there was a lot that did not make sense to me, such as why the queen was so disapproving of her daughter and why she cared so very little for her welfare (e.g. assigning two guards from a mysterious other kingdom to her service). It was unclear if this was the way things had always been or why or what Asterin thought about it. The text felt really disjointed to me, and it was a bit flat. To be fair, things do pick up later. If I had thought this was middle grade vs YA, I think I could have gotten into it more, but it was a little too simplistic and understated for a YA fantasy, in my opinion. For instance, the new guards give her a stone which makes her pass out- without consequences and no one is terribly concerned. There are also a lot of characters at first whose perspectives we get and this also makes the story seem spread a little thin. Overall, I really hard time getting into this one, but the premise is fascinating. I think I would have liked it shortened and made into a middle grade more. Please note that I received an ARC from the publisher through netgalley. All opinions are my own.