Earlier this week, I reviewed DAUGHTER OF THE FLAMES, a book that precedes FROSTFIRE in the world of Ruan. However, you don't need to read the books in any particular order. It's perfectly fine to read FROSTFIRE first. While some characters are mentioned, the two books don't rely on one another in order to make sense. In this sense, the two books remind me of companion novels MISTWOOD and NIGHTSPELL by Leah Cypess, where the books are linked in small ways, but independent of one another. A more popular example would be to compare the companion novels GRACELING and FIRE by Kristin Cashore, except there's not a major character sharing the two books the way there is in this example, so it's not a perfect match. Zoë Marriott has also written the amazing, nuanced SHADOWS ON THE MOON, which is both a fairy tale and original fantasy at the same time, as well as fairy tale retelling THE SWAN KINGDOM. The Ruan books her first original fantasy novels not reliant on retellings.
Like with all of my other recent brushes with a Zoë Marriott novel, I am once again at a loss when trying to convey how wonderful her writing is to the uninitiated. If you're a fan of intricate fantasy, you must pick up a novel by her at once. At first, I wasn't sure what to think when I read the synopsis for FROSTFIRE. It mentioned wolves in a way that made me fear Marriott was taking a paranormal turn and was going to be springing werewolves at us. That's not the case at all, so I'm glad I blind-bought this one. Marriott is quickly becoming one of my favorite YA fantasy writers, and I'm sad I have nothing new left by her to read.
In my eyes, FROSTFIRE might be Marriott's most complex novel yet in terms of character development. While I'll warn you that there is a love triangle at play, Marriott handles it in a better way than most YA writers. Oftentimes I groan and roll my eyes when there's a triangle because it's become such a cliche. Plus, the author always leans toward one guy over the other and you know the outcome early on. Not so with Marriott. She builds relationships between all of the characters in unexpected ways, and I wound up loving all of the characters. I would be hard-pressed to choose what I expected at the novel's end because I kept changing my mind. Interestingly, Marriott herself has said that she didn't always know the outcome of this one. Marriott also builds on the unique mythology she infused into the world of Ruan during DAUGHTER OF THE FLAMES, as well as continues creating new lore, an element that never ceases to amaze me when I pick up a new Marriott novel. I also like the way she deals with the repercussions of what Ruan went through in her previous novel, showing the way progress is made, fought for, and won over time. Marriott refuses to hide from hard situations and brings all kinds of gritty real-life elements to her novels. Characters don't have it easy and must struggle like the rest of us, and this makes them all the more endearing.
One of the things that continues to impress me about Marriott's writing is her way with words and phrases. For example:
"It's as if people -- normal people -- are made of silver. Shiny to start with, but tarnished by time, by ill-treatment. Luca... Luca is gold. Nothing in the world could ever make him shine less brightly."
(page 296, UK paperback first edition)
"You're like a landslide when you get started, you know. First the tiny stones, then the pebbles & rocks, then the boulders, raining down on you until you're squashed flat & all you can do is give up."
(page 285, UK paperback first edition)
She has phrases like this throughout her novels, unique ways of describing things that make sense in unexpected ways. Her descriptions her spot-on, too, and great at bringing my imagination to life. I still remember certain elements she brought to SHADOWS ON THE MOON in this way.
I also like the way Marriott opens each book with a remark on what inspired her to write that particular novel. It gives me insight into her process and makes the book feel closer and more tangible. She goes even further on the book's web page, sharing all kinds of dirty little secrets. For example, did you know that she originally planned for the main character to be a hero, not a heroine, and that the two love interests would therefore be female instead of male? What a difference a gender change makes! I loved reading all of these tidbits and wish more authors shared such "behind the scenes" goodies with us.
While the book won't officially release in the US until Candlewick brings it Stateside in 2013, Book Depository offers the paperback at a great deal (with free international shipping!), so if you're like me, you don't have to wait! If you're a fan of fantasy or a great story, I highly recommend checking out the talented Zoë Marriott.