I was really intrigued when I saw this title on NetGalley but grew discouraged when I read some negative reviews on Goodreads that pointed out some book tropes that I really hate. Still, I committed to reading and reviewing it so I jumped into the book with a negative bias. I need to learn to stop reading the negative reviews before I read an ARC because I could have delved into this really cool story earlier if I hadn’t have let those negative reviews stop me.
Big thanks to NetGalley for the eARC in exchange for an honest review!
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 wields — though has yet to fully understand — Asterin 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, of course… if the demon doesn’t get to them first.
This book combines magic, friendship, romance, and adventure into one very imaginative story. Coco Ma delves into so many different conflicts surrounding self-identity, trust, grief, jealousy, and betrayal that weave themselves into the larger plot to make a compelling story of friendship and family.
I sometimes get too distracted when a book covers too many characters, especially when the story alternates between their POVs. However, the characters in Shadow Frost were all likeable and the POV changes typically added something to the story rather than acting as filler, so I actually enjoyed them.
Asterin was overall a likeable protagonist. I liked that she was mischievous and playful in ways that didn’t undermine her strength or the respect people had for her. Quinlan definitely fits into the Broody Guy with Tragic Backstory trope but I’m not going to lie, he wore that title well 😉 Orion’s own sad backstory didn’t stop him from being comic relief and a supportive character for Asterin. Eadric’s backstory, once we learned about it, was interesting and if written right could be its own book. Rose was pretty badass and I hope the next book has more of her. Luna’s character took me by surprise and I liked her understated strength.
There was a lot going on in this book. We had the larger “there’s a monster killing tons of people on the loose in the kingdom” plot and then the juicier sub-plots and conflicts peppered throughout the book that tied into this plot and made it that much more twisted.
The relationships in this book developed quickly but not always in the directions I anticipated. Asterin and Quinlan’s romantic interest in each other was obvious from the beginning and it was easy to see where that was headed. Asterin and Orion’s relationship was more muddled but I love the direction the author went with Orion’s story and the impact it had on other parts of the book. Eadric and Luna were together from the beginning of the book and their dynamic was very sweet. Beyond romantic relationships, there were really strong friendships that developed throughout the book. No book is complete without some form of betrayal or jealousy though, so some of these bonds formed proved to have unforeseen consequences for the characters that often to other conflicts or points of interest.
The magic itself was described very vividly and frequently. Some of the types of magic were heavily developed (ice and fire) while others didn’t get much page time (light and air). I’m hoping the next book has more of these other elements so I can get a better understanding of the magic system as a whole rather than just parts of it. In addition, a deeper dive into the story of the Immortals is welcome for book two.
The biggest thing stopping me from giving this book five stars is the pacing. There were a lot of interesting things to cover in this book but I definitely think a lot of it could have been pared down and still have had the same overall effect. I could have done without some of the POV changes that covered the same event, expanded on some inconsequential point, or added unnecessary information. I can’t imagine the second book having as much intrigue and adventure as Shadow Frost simply because so much was covered in book one that any other major conflicts in a sequel might feel too forced.
Still, despite the couple of things that irritated me I overall really enjoyed Shadow Frost. The characters were fun, the plot was always twisting itself into a new direction, the magic was very intriguing, and the book as a whole was well-written. There are enough elements of fantasy, mystery, romance, and adventure to keep fans of all genres interested.
Have you read Shadow Frost? What were your thoughts?