A compelling YA fantasy novel about a world where people are divided into types, Frost Blood by Elly Blake, published in 2017, engages readers and suggests themes on important issues like racism, mental health, and prejudice. The protagonist, Ruby, a seventeen-year-old who struggles to find her identity and her purpose, meets followers of a prophecy who claim she is a Fireblood–in fact, the most powerful, and one of the only few left. A Fireblood is supposedly destined to destroy the Frost King who rules the kingdom and is possessed by an evil spirit. Ruby begins to train for the inevitable confrontation and, along the way, falls in love with a mysterious character named Arcus.
Arcus is one of the many characters in the book give an interesting development to the story and a flare that excites readers. He is first introduced as a cold, isolated person. As the book progresses, so does his ability to open up and show more emotion. Observing and anticipating his slow development makes the book more engaging and fun to read.
I found myself zooming through this book. I was so hooked into it, I lost track of time and read the entire thing within a span of two days. The transitions between each short chapter are much easier to follow rather than having longer chapters piled up with multiple events. Instead each focuses on one main idea. This layout of chapters gives the opportunity for readers to an enjoy a fast read, and stay eager to continue with the following book in the series.
While reading the first few chapters, I was instantly reminded of Katniss Everdeen in The Hunger Games: Catching Fire by Suzanne Collins. There are a lot of parallels between them For starters, in Catching Fire, Katniss was known as “the girl on fire” and in Frost Blood, Ruby is a character who literally is the girl on fire because fire is her power, and it doesn’t burn her at all. The antagonists of both books take a keen interest in the lead character and share that interest by hosting a dinner that shows them a more lavish experience than what they’re used to. Ruby lives in a small poor village, and Katniss lives in a very poor district. As well, both of their mothers are healers. Further into the book, I also found a similarity with Divergent by Veronica Roth, where that main character, Tris, is changing the society by destroying the government system first. In Frost Blood, Ruby, in order to achieve change in the country, has to dethrone the king somehow. Catching Fire, Divergent and Frost Blood, all have powerful female protagonists who rebel against a system that divides the population and favours one group over another, resulting in hate and violence. The leading, ambitious female protagonist is trending more in books published within the past decade. I wouldn’t be surprised if the author of this book had gotten inspiration from these famous young adult novels. In one way, I like that the author is incorporating these trend of ideas because it gives a good message but, I wish certain ideas such as the typical creepy male antagonist were differently portrayed.
Frost Blood can be read partially as an allegory of the holocaust. For instance, the Frost Blood King wants to eliminate all Firebloods in his Kingdom which relates to the mass murder perpetrated by the Nazis. In the book, Ruby and her mom were kept hidden deep in the mountains in a small village so the King’s soldiers won’t find her. This reminds me of Anne Frank and her family when they were hiding in someone’s house so they wouldn’t be killed. Both Anne, and Ruby experienced harsh conditions and had to witness the violent repression of their people. Which was a clever way representing a real-world situation in a fantasy dimension.
The author also conveys the important theme that looks don’t matter, and it’s what’s inside that counts. Arcus shields himself from the public eye by always wearing a black hood that covers his whole face. He is insecure about his appearance and doesn’t believe he will find anyone who will accept him. When his hood drops down one day and accidentally reveals his face to Ruby, he feels disappointment and fury. Arcus became even more ashamed after seeing the shock on her face, and assumed she thought of him as a monster. However, that wasn’t the case. She loves him even more. In the end, the author finds a clever way to reveal that, in fact, his insecurities made him stronger.
So many kids and teens are insecure of themselves whether it be regarding their appearance or their identity. The novel points out that instead of hiding, if we embrace ourselves for who we are, we will find strength and acceptance. What matters is who you are and when you find the right person, you should love them as a whole, not just a part. Even though it’s a clichéd message, it’s nonetheless important, no matter the age.
The novel also address the problems of physical abuse and the recovery process. Ruby is a complex character who endures the death of her only living relative; and Ruby, who was 16 and in a poor mental state, was also abused physically. Inside the jail she was tortured by the jail guards who would throw freezing water on her while she is covered in only a long tunic and fed her very little–almost not at all. This situation is physical abuse, and I’m glad the author incorporated a scenario such as this to bring more awareness to the topic. For the past many years women in our society have felt scared and intimidated by abusive men. But now, women are becoming more confident and powerful, and adding a situation such as the one Ruby experiences, gives women motivation to speak up instantly when abuse occurs. The recovery of the character wasn’t fast either. Ruby suffered and wanted to give up, which I think is accurate for victims of abuse. I do not claim to fully understand the recovery process, but I believe it is important to surround yourself with people who will motivate you and treat you with respect. With that in mind, Ruby continued with the recovery with the support of others. Towards the end of the book, Ruby was not only more powerful because of her powers, but embraced her experience that only gave her more ambition to become the hero the prophecy foretold.
Overall, I am pleased with Frost Blood. I recommend this book if you’re interested in a thrilling adventure. It has a good balance of adventure, mystery, power and romantic drama. It may not be very original as ideas like fighting against a powerful authority is fairly common, but those ideas are very well developed. Not only does it express important themes about prejudice and recovery from abuse, but it is also a fast and engaging read.
Elly Blake has published a follow up book called Fire Blood, and her upcoming last book of the trilogy will be set for release in 2018.