Seventeen-year-old Smitha’s wealth, status, and beauty make her the envy of her town—until she rejects a strange man’s marriage proposal and disastrous consequences follow. Smitha becomes cursed, and frost begins to encompass everything she touches. Banished to the hills, hunted by villagers, and chilled to the very core of her soul, she finds companionship with Death, who longs to coax her into his isolated world. But Smitha’s desire for life proves stronger than despair, and a newfound purpose gives her hope. Will regrets over the past and an unexpected desire for a man she cannot touch be enough to warm Smitha’s heart, or will Death forever still it?
Source: ARC from 47North (Amazon Publishing) via NetGalley
There are several things that happen in the opening chapter of this book that irritated me immensely and tempted me to put it down. Firstly, though this is written in first person POV, it’s also clearly narrated by Smitha, so there are occasional “prophetic” comments, usually with a dark undertone, about how this was the last time this happened, or if she’d known this she would have acted differently. This annoys me because it can take the tension or the surprise out of things. It does lessen as the book goes on, but I thought it worth mentioning.
The second thing that got to me was Smitha. She’s awful. A vain, selfish brat. I know this is to leave her lots of room to grow and change after her curse, but really, did she have to be quite so awful?
Which made my third issue a bit of a surprise. The curse itself – or rather, how it comes about. A man falls in love with a young, selfish, spoiled girl. The girl does nothing to encourage him, despite his frequent attempts to gain her attention. He decides to propose anyway, she avoids him, then when she can’t do that anymore, laughs rather unkindly – but not unexpectedly considering her behaviour towards him to date. So he curses her to be forever cold and followed by winter and death for the rest of her life. Overreaction, much?
No, Smitha is not a nice person, however, if she’d encouraged Mordan before slapping him down, I could understand him getting angry (though would still think he goes too far, because he essentially wants her to lose everything and die), but really, he only has himself to blame. What in the world was there about her to make him fall for her in the first place? Except her great beauty, of course, in which case he’s every bit as shallow as she is. Just because she’s a brat doesn’t mean she deserves this curse. Which made me feel more vengeful towards Mordan, and actually sympathetic towards Smitha, little though she does to encourage such feelings. Which also annoyed me, because I wanted to feel bad for her but she thinks such horribly selfish things.
So, yes, safe to say the first chapter wasn’t a great success for me, but I stuck with it. And I’m so glad I did. Because as objectionable as Smitha is at first, as annoyed as I was about how the curse came about and despite occasional irritations from the narration, this story is good. Smitha’s time in the wilderness is suitably difficult and bleak, her curse really does ruin her life and at times it looks like she has no hope. Especially when her only companion is Death himself.
Any more plot information would lead to spoilers. However, this story has a strong fairytale feel, with elements of people cursed for their selfish behaviour and the need to be isolated away from the world to learn life lessons – the most important one being do as you would be done by. There’s also learning to look beyond the surface and how being selfless can occasionally bring great rewards. Smitha has a long hard road to travel, but this story does an excellent job of taking the reader along for the ride.
Thoughtful and compelling, and making the most of the power of winter, I really enjoyed this tale of self-discovery, romance and Death. True, I would have liked more closure on certain aspects and the whole magic and wizards side of things definitely felt like a missed opportunity, but on the whole this was an interesting, enjoyable read. If you like fairytales but are growing a little tired of the same old ones being retold again and again, give this a try. The end point of everything might be as expected, but the route to reach it is often filled with the most intriguing surprises. If you can get past the first chapter without throwing something anyway…
Followed by Frost is Out Now!
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