The City of Snow & Stars (New Degree Press, 2020)
Cities of Wintenaeth Book One
By S.D. Howard
“There is no such thing as coincidence.”
This book grabbed me in the first chapter and reeled me in. The author’s expert use of fantasy and imagination undergirds a serious message that’s both subtle and powerful. Sturdy writing, a solid plot combined with well-crafted characters and prodigious world-building skills round out the theme.
Trinia: A young woman on the run, fleeing her abusive father – who’s also king. Her Gift is the ability to duplicate herself. But her father wants to exploit her Gift to create an army for his own nefarious purposes.
King Caderyn of Rionnagan (The City of Snow and Stars and capitol of the old Airgid Empire): Trinia’s abusive father. This guy’s been nipping at the Delusions of Grandeur sherry and is willing to sell his soul, his daughter, and his people for ultimate power as he seeks to rebuild the Airgid Empire that fell a thousand years ago.
Jayden: A prince with a dark past, a life-debt, and a lot of questions.
Mandar: A giant wolf with a golden eye who can also take human form. Was he really sent by the goddess Vyrni to protect Trinia, or by Someone else? And why?
Udar, aka: Green Cloak: Both hunter and hunted, he’s mourning the loss of his wife and daughter who were killed by Caderyn. Do Not Mess with Green Cloak guy.
An Uneasy Alliance
Trinia, Jayden, Mandar and Udar form an uneasy alliance as they battle evil within and without. Trinia has made a pact with Udar, promising to deliver her father to Udar’s sword if he helps her rouse the other kingdoms to destroy her father and his plans.
Along the way, they find:
Why you so don’t want to tarry in the Forest of Nex. Especially in the dark. Without the Light.
“How does a fire burn and not consume?” “Follow the light. Fight!” “Language, lad.” A red circle with a white flame. “It’s not fair.” A glimmer of kindness. “Love thy neighbor.” Treachery. Despair. Rescue. A chance at redemption.
“He’s real. He’s really real.”
The subject matter includes sexual abuse and human trafficking. It comes with a Content Warning but handles the subject in a sensitive manner appropriate for YA audiences. Nothing gratuitous or graphic. No mindless “click bait” here.
Indeed, balancing action and dialogue, mystery and magic with fantasy and fable is quite an undertaking. But Howard pulls it off quite capably. Page after page. It’s clever. Nimble. Quick-witted and fresh. Neatly side-stepping trite cliches and worn out bromides, the story tackles a difficult subject with authenticity and grace.
As with The Chronicles of Narnia and The Lord of the Rings, The City of Snow and Stars can be read on more than one level. It wrestles with Why does God let bad things happen? while gently showing readers how a relationship with God means you’re never alone – even through the bad.
We were hesitant to take on this book. We just finished a difficult read. We weren’t really interested in another. But the author was up front and honest about the subject matter. And gently persistent. So we decided to greenlight it.
A Niagara Falls of Hope
We’re glad we did. Because this is a serious story with a serious message, brimming with a Niagara Falls of Hope. We finished it in one day.
If you enjoyed The Chronicles of Narnia, The Shack, or This Present Darkness, you’ll enjoy The City of Snow and Stars. It’d make a good movie. Can’t wait for the next book!
Find out more about The City of Snow and Stars and author S.D. Howard at:
Book on Amazon: The City of Snow & Stars
Website: S.D. Howard, Author
Facebook: The Editing Bard