Web of Frost by Lindsay Smith (Saints of Russalka #1)

Genre: Fantasy, YA

Publisher: Eventide Press on February 13, 2018

Source: Publisher

My thanks to the publisher for providing me with a digital review copy. No compensation was provided for this review, and all opinions are my own.

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Lindsay Smith’s WEB OF FROST is the first in a new YA fantasy series inspired by the events of the Russian Revolution. Fans of character-driven stories, take note!

Russalka is a nation of harsh climes and even harsher royal dictates: the Silovs, the tsar and his family, rule with an iron fist and the otherworldly powers granted to them by the saints. After the death of the heir-apparent, young tsarechka Katza is next in line for the throne…but she has neither been raised to rule nor does she have the saints’ favour. With the threat of war looming and open rebellion brewing in Russalka, Katza must quickly learn to harness the saints’ power if she is to save her country, and herself.

Perhaps the greatest strength – and weakness – of WEB OF FROST is Katza herself, for she’s equal parts compelling and infuriating. Raised in a society that condescends to women, shut out of the politics of her own country, and constantly told that she’s not strong enough to wield the saints’ gifts, it’s little wonder that Katza has low self-esteem. She’s easily manipulated and taken advantage of by those around her, easy prey for a handsome, charismatic young prophet named Ravin. While somewhat painful to see, it was realistic and I understood why Katza responded well to Ravin’s flattery and influence; Katza’s poor decision making was actually pretty compelling, I just wish that she had made more proactive decisions herself rather than responding to circumstances only when forces to by necessity.

Katza’s reluctance to make a choice about the kind of ruler she wants to be is made more pronounced by the plodding pace of the story. WEB OF FROST suffers from uneven pacing and a serious case of “set up book” syndrome, wherein most of the plot seems to be devoted to setting up events that won’t unfold until later on in the series. I suspect that the secondary characters will also play a greater role in the sequel, particularly Nadika, a solemn and duty-bound warrior who acts as Katza’s personal guard. She was my favourite character, so fingers crossed she gets more page time in the sequel!

While I enjoyed the characters, I was somewhat underwhelmed by the world building in WEB OF FROST. The magical powers accessed via the saints of Russalka are powerful and interesting, with each ability being associated with a specific saint; but the actual mechanics of that magic is never explained. Katza spends a considerable amount of time developing her connection to the saints and exploring her powers, but I still couldn’t tell you exactly what she changed to make them start working for her after a lifetime of uncooperative magics. That said, the conclusion of WEB OF FROST implies that the magic system will be further developed in the sequel.

Overall, Lindsay Smith’s WEB OF FROST is a solid YA fantasy that will please historical fiction readers and those looking for a character-driven read. If you’re hoping for complex world building, you may want to look elsewhere.

Do you plan to read WEB OF FROST? What’s your favourite book set in Russia or a similarly wintery country? Let me know in the comments!

Comments(24)

  1. That cover is so pretty! It sounds like all the elements to make for a good read, but it doesn’t sound like it was executed all that well. I feel like I would be frustrated by Katza’s character as well. I hope the sequel will have better world building!
    Great review!

    1. Isn’t it lovey? Especially for an indie fantasy novel, which tend to have some hot-mess covers. Katza was definitely frustrating at points, and I kept waiting for things to gel with the story but they never really did. Womp, womp. Thanks Nick!

  2. I have to admit I cringe every time I see your “special” box in front of a review! I’ve actually never heard of this, but I like the idea. But I enjoy indepth world building so I’ll probably give this a miss.

    1. LOL, well mission accomplished then. 😉 I was very taken by the concept of this one too, but the execution wasn’t quite there sadly.

  3. Not completely feeling this one… but I am in love with the title: WEB OF FROST. Also sounds like it could be the name of a great horror/thriller story too.

    1. It is a great title, and it works for the story too. But you’re right, it’d work very well for a thriller as well!

  4. I totally feel you about the “set-up” books. I can’t stand when I read a book, and it starts like 20 different plotlines while resolving only one. IMO it’s way better when each book has a strong sense of closure, and you’re left with only the lingering feeling of wanting more from that world (or the characters).

    1. Yes, thank you! There was a lot going on in this one and it felt like most of it barely even got started before the book was over. Ah well, maybe the sequel will be stronger than the series debut!

  5. That is inspired by the Russian revolution I thought sounded compelling, but being a set-up book is frustrating! I just went through one like this and despite its goodness that sort of took over the book and I couldn’t get in to it entirely

    1. Such a cool idea for a fantasy novel, right? But I agree, despite a solid foundation the lack of plot and general set up feel to the story kept it from being a great read. Womp, womp!

  6. I actually spied this the other day and almost picked it up but for somewhat meh reviews. I love the sound of its premise and magic, too bad the world building of it was underwhelming because of the attention spent on “set-up” mode. Great review!

    1. Agreed, this one has a stellar premise — and a really pretty cover! The world building didn’t deliver for me, but some readers might enjoy the history side of the story more than I did. Thanks, Kim. 🙂

  7. I have never seen a fantasy book inspired by the Russian Revolution, so that’s interesting! I can see what you’re saying about the MC though. Her naivety and easiness to manipulate does sound realistic, but I can see how it’d still be frustrating to read. And yes, books that do more setting up for the next book can be hit-or-miss. Sounds like there’s some potential though!

    1. I thought so too, and I do love Russian history, so it was lots of fun to read that aspect. Katza is meant to be unlikeable — and I don’t mind an unlikeable heroine — but I definitely wanted her to wise up faster than she did. You’re right though, there’s still potential here for sure!

    • Karen

    • 4 years ago

    I struggle with fantasy in general so probably not for me but I like the idea of it being based on the Russian Revolution. That’s a unique premise.

    Karen @ For What It’s Worth

    1. Right? I feel like the Russian Revolution angle is a really good hook, regardless of genre!

  8. Hmm, this sounds really interesting. I hate pacing issues and books that have difficulty setting up, but the Russian setting may be worth it to me. I may be interested in reading this one sometime. Great review and hopefully book 2 will be even better! 😀

    1. I’ve got high hopes for book 2, and I’ll be sure to let you know what I think! In the meantime, if you’re looking for a really amazing fantasy story set in Russia, I recommend The Bear and the Nightingale. It’s slower paced but very evenly done, like an old-school fairy tale.

  9. This one isn’t actually on my TBR but it’s got a great premise and cover. I liked your review and sadly, I feel like this one might be underwhelming for me. Who knows though? I won’t write it off just yet.

    1. It was a bit underwhelming for me too, honestly. But the pretty cover caught me eye and the premise (plus the Russian setting) sucked me in for real. Thanks, Di!

  10. Dunno really, I do not feel like a Russian inspired fairytale, I mean revolution, it was not a nice one and shit followed

    1. That’s definitely true! It was a pretty bad time. Thankfully things are toned down quite a bit in this book!

  11. Set up book is definitely an accurate description for first books in a series. So frequently they suffer because of it. I like the sound of the setting, though, and it does sound like it has potential there is nothing else.

    1. Couldn’t agree more. It’s becoming more and more of an issue with YA fantasy, sadly. The potential’s there for sure though!

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