I’ve heard pretty decent things about this book, but for some reason it never really was on my radar. When I did pick it up, however, I couldn’t put it down! While Frostblood was definitely reminiscent of other fantasies out there – Red Queen and Shadow and Bone are ones that immediately jump to mind – it also stands out on its own. With fairly quick pacing, a basic but nonetheless exciting fantasy world, and fun characters, Frostblood ensured that there was never a boring moment between its pages.
Told through the first person POV of Ruby, a Fireblood hiding from the world of Frostbloods, we start off with immediate action that doesn’t stop until the last page is flipped. Ruby has known of hiding all her life, and in the first chapter we see her captured by the army of the Frostblood king and sent to a prison to await execution. Fast forward five months, and she’s getting rescued by two mysterious men who also want the end of the Frost king’s reign, as she does. But the question is, can she trust them?
“I wasn’t being noble. There was nothing noble about a thirst for revenge. It was about getting what I wanted, a chance to kill the king. And no one else would have to suffer because of me.”
We gradually find out that the men are from an abbey – one is a monk who used to serve in the court, and the other is a young man who has a mysterious connection to the situation. As they slowly reveal to Ruby her role in the rebellion they’re brewing, readers also delve a little deeper into the world. In this setting, the Firebloods and Frostbloods used to live in harmony. But throughout history, their struggling alliances become tainted with prejudice as they’re pitted against each other. Eventually, the reign of the Frost king ensured that most Firebloods were either dead or in hiding. It’s relatively simple world-building, but nonetheless fun to get sucked into. According to a prophecy, Ruby may be the Fireblood meant to end the reign of the Frost king.
Okay yes, there are sooo many commonly used tropes in YA fantasy in Frostblood that I don’t even know where to start counting. (Also because they would be quite spoilery.) In any case, there is a certain vibe of predictability in this book that is somehow fulfilling at the same time. They’re the tropes that fantasy readers like myself like reading, to some extent. The kind of cliches that ensure victory or character growth. I guess I can equate it to an old favorite movie that you just love to watch over and over again. You know what’ll happen, and nothing is really a surprise anymore. There are even cringe-worthy scenes that you can’t help but watch. In the end, the movie ends in you being satisfied despite the familiar scenes. Reading all the tropes used in Frostblood was like that – a well-known overall story with a modicum of familiarity, but nonetheless extremely satisfying to read.
Ruby was a great character to be in the head of. Although she’s capricious at times and easy to get riled up, she also knows her faults. It’s easy to see her obvious character growth as she goes from distrustful stranger in the first couple pages to a confident Fireblood with strength and perhaps a bit more patience than she had before. She goes through a lot in this book, both physically and mentally, but her inner thoughts reflected the obstacles really well. From losing hope to regaining it to discovering her own strength, Ruby’s development was one that made her extremely likable and easy to empathize with.
“Things suddenly seemed so complicated, more starkly real. For everything to depend on me… it was unimaginable. I wasn’t strong. I was volatile. Undisciplined, I didn’t have the strength, the control.”
I wish the other side characters were developed a bit more – although at the same time, some didn’t have a lot of page time either. One steady character is the love interest, Arcus, who has a mysterious connection to the monks and the scheme against the king. At first glance, Arcus and Ruby infuriate each other and sparks immediately fly off the pages. He’s a Frostblood, she’s a Fireblood – they can either end up repelling each other or finding the other irresistible. Funnily enough, it’s a bit of both in the story. There’s a push-and-pull dynamic in their relationship as Arcus protects himself with many barriers that Ruby slowly thaws away. Arcus is more gruff, serious, and low-key in comparison to the energetic and volatile Ruby, whose emotions are easy to get riled up. However, they prove to be a great foil as they work side by side to develop Ruby’s powers in order to go against the Frost king.
“I’d had dreams, but this was so much better. I hadn’t known the feel of his skin against mine, the way it would make my heart leap, the joy of being wanted and being able to show him that I wanted him, too.”
Seriously, if you’re on the fence on reading this, pick it up for Arcus alone. I really really loved watching him and Ruby butt heads as tempers – and hearts – flared. Their scathing dialogue develops into fun teasing that is just so adorable to read about. Other than him, there are peeks of additional characterizations that aren’t quite as fleshed out in this book, including some of the monks and an unexpected aid at the castle.
Frostblood was vibrant, fun, and fulfilling! While there are definite tropes used that make it quite predictable, it is nonetheless a fun read that is guaranteed to whisk you into a fantastical world where fire and ice battle against each other – or work together. Told from the first person narrative of Ruby, an incredibly down-to-earth main character who learns from her mistakes and experiences, Frostblood has the perfect blend of intrigue, romance, and magic to keep readers entertained from start to finish. I was seriously considering docking a star for the sheer predictability, but the characters and their relationship dynamic saved it, as well as the exciting glimpse of things to come in the sequel. While book 1 definitely had a satisfying conclusion, Blake leaves a couple of things open for the possibility of a sequel full of new discoveries and developments. I’ll definitely be tuning in for the next one!