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.
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.
Where do I start with Coco Ma’s stunning new fantasy debut, Shadow Frost? Because there is so much to talk about.
Let’s start with my favorite thing about this book: the people in it. Within the first half of this book I had already decided that I would read the rest in the series, simply because I grew so attached to the characters that the story centers around.
Our main character, Asterin, Princess of Axaria, could so easily have fallen into the “Mary Sue” or “Chosen Princess” stereotypical character role and not been much else. But Asterin is no pushover Princess who’s going to follow the “rules” of whatever this “genre” thing is. Her world is complicated, dangerous and dark and she has no time to be anyone but herself. Asterin is fierce, headstrong, and more than anything else- relatable. Flawed and imperfect, all she wants is to live up to her mother’s legacy and be the Queen her people deserve. Like most of us though, she doesn’t know exactly how to do that and makes choices and mistakes that lead her down a winding and completely unforeseen journey instead. This felt so true to life for me, watching Asterin try and find her footing amidst so much uncertainty and danger and, of course, dark magic.
The supporting cast are nothing to scoff at either. If you’re a fan of characters that make you feel so soft you want to just scoop them up and put them safely away in your pocket, Shadow Frost has got you covered. I was so worried for these sweet lil cinnamon buns!! From down-to-earth, to dark and brooding, to refreshingly frank, there is no aspect of personality left unexplored in these characters and I enjoyed that immensely. The banter and the way they play to each other’s strength and weaknesses was so well blended in with the story that it felt natural, at ease, and so effortlessly compelling.
I was also very pleasantly surprised at how fast-paced and twisty this book was! I wasn’t expecting so many plot twists (which was awesome) or what they ended up being (which was even more awesome), and this happened more than once. It was pure enjoyment to constantly be wondering if the status quo will be maintained or upended once more and because it moves so quickly, it gives the story this feeling as if it’s pulling you along instead of waiting for you to read.
Finally, I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention how absolutely astounding it is that Coco Ma wrote the first draft of this novel at age 15. While some of the characters have aspects or make choices that highlight this fact occasionally, I was blown away by the luxurious complexity, intricate world-building, and twisted plot surprises in this book. This was an absolutely impressive read, but more than that- it was pure entertainment.
If you’re looking for a rich new world in a series that is only just beginning, this book is for you. If you’re looking for whole and emotional character building or a magic system with a refreshing breath of new life inside it, this book is for you. If you’re just bored and want to try something new and a little surprising and creative, definitely for you.
Hope you enjoy it as much as I did. — A
Coco Ma is a Canadian-Chinese author and pianist. She wrote her first novel, Shadow Frost, at the age of 15. Since she began playing the piano at the age of five and a half, she has also performed on some of the world’s greatest concert stages and graduated with a pre-college 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.
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