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Lord of Snow and Shadows: Book One of The Tears of Artamon
Sarah Ash
Bantam, 480 pages

Stephen Youll
Lord of Snow and Shadows:  Book One of The Tears of Artamon
Sarah Ash
Sarah Ash read music at New Hall, Cambridge for four years, studying with Robin Holloway and John Rutter for her finals. Her interests in music and drama led her into teaching where she has been lucky to work with many dynamic and talented young people. Although she had co-written several musicals for young performers, she decided in 1991 to concentrate her creative energies on her other passion: writing. Having been shortlisted in the final ten of the Guardian Children's Fiction award for a -- still unpublished -- fantasy The Mabinogion Mice, her breakthrough came in 1992 with the publication in Interzone of the short story 'Moth Music'.

Sarah Ash Website
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Past Feature Reviews
A review by Cindy Lynn Speer

As a painter, Gavril Andar's greatest sorrow was his growing affection for the lovely noblewoman Astasia, for whom he has been commissioned to paint a portrait to help her secure a marriage, and therefore a peace-creating alliance with Prince Eugene. Now, the father he knows nothing about has been assassinated, and the dark gift, the demon-like Drakhaoul that runs in his own blood has come to claim him, along with his father's faithful retainers. Until his murderer is, in turn, killed, Lord Volkh's spirit will never rest, the land will become frozen in deepest winter, and the people will suffer. Gavril has seen a vision of the killer, and finds himself a reluctant leader, kidnapped from his mother's warm house and dragged to the frozen north. It's hard not to understand his reluctance. If he uses the powers inherent in his blood, the dark creature inside him will slowly take over, growing more powerful with every use, until, finally, he turns from human to dragon for good. But that is not all. When he uses his power, he becomes incredibly thirsty, and though his will manages to keep him drinking only water, he knows that blood is the true thing that will quench it. How long can he keep from using his powers when there is an enemy determined to use the most ruthless means possible to kill him and conquer his lands?

His only friend is Kiukiu, the lowliest of servants. Orphaned, she has only the rough love of her aunt and her devotion to Gavril. When she sees Lord Volkh in the mirror, he forces her to use powers she never knew she had to bring him through. She is determined to make things right, but it is not until she is betrayed and thrown out of the Kastel that she is finally set on the path to learning how. Meanwhile, his mother has left her home, determined to get her son back, but is the spymaster who helps her doing so out of kindness, or is he manipulating her for his own ends?

This darkly delicious novel takes elements from Eastern European folklore and combines them with vampirism, dragons and politics to create an unusual and rich new landscape. Lord Volkh comes across as an almost tragic hero, trying to desperately find the cure to overcoming his problem, but failing miserably, standing in the background like a romanticized (as in, much less evil) Vlad Tepes, haunting us as much as he haunts Gavril. Gavril is a hero in a very terrible position, knowing that he can't use his powers, but being forced to as he slowly accepts the responsibility he feels for the people. We have alchemists who set forth savage werewolves, a frozen waste where Volkh is not the only spirit that wanders, and all these things come together to give us a very gothic feeling story.

Another thing I liked is that people are not easy to judge -- are they the hero or the villain? Prince Eugene seems like a very nice man, he worries over his daughter but keeps away because he's afraid of losing her. Yet we can see, here and there, how his desire to succeed in the war he's declared has worn away at his edges. Our hero Gavril is painted as a monster that everyone fears, even though we know he's trying not to fulfill their expectations.

Lord of Snow and Shadows is filled with surprises and exciting twists. It is a deeply textured read that I found utterly entrancing.

Copyright © 2003 Cindy Lynn Speer

Cindy Lynn Speer loves books so much that she's designed most of her life around them, both as a librarian and a writer. Her books aren't due out anywhere soon, but she's trying. You can find her site at

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