Prisoner of Ice and Snow
By Ruth Lauren
288 pages – ages 9+
Published by on April 4, 2017
Synopsis from Publisher- “She’ll do anything to break her sister out of prison–even get arrested on purpose.
When thirteen-year-old Valor is sent to jail, she couldn’t be happier. Demidova’s prison for criminal children is exactly where she wants to be. Valor’s twin sister, Sasha, is serving a life sentence for stealing from the royal family, and Valor is going to help her escape . . . from the inside.
Never mind that no one has escaped the prison in centuries. Valor has a master plan and resources most people could only dream about. But she didn’t count on having to outsmart both the guards and her fellow prisoners. If Valor’s plan is to succeed, she’ll need to make some unlikely allies. And if the plan fails, she and Sasha could end up with fates worse than prison.”
What I Thought- This is probably one of the best debuts I’ve read in a while! The world is beautifully crafted, and there is a fascinating culture created. I am a fan of how the country appears as a nod to ancient Russian culture, and how the characters adapt to that. Which is another thing I loved – the characters are clever and they can think their way out of a problem. The ever present love for Sasha keeping Valor going is a nice touch as well – you would think it’d get annoying sometimes, but it never does. Lauren knows how to spin words in a way that keeps you on the edge of your seat – I read this entire book in one day. It’s not often that a debut author can do that. I cannot wait to see more books from Lauren!
I give this book five out of five bookworms!
Now for an exclusive interview with author Ruth Lauren!
1. Congratulations on your debut novel! I really enjoyed the action in it! How long have you been writing? Is this your first book ever written?
Thank you so much! I’m thrilled you enjoyed it. I’ve been writing for just about seven years now. PRISONER OF ICE AND SNOW wasn’t the first book I’ve ever written, or even the second, or third. But it was my first fantasy book and the first with action/adventure in it. I had more fun and did less worrying (and actually less planning) than I’d done before.
2. How did you get the unique plan to have the main character be very talented, but who wants to go to a prison no one has escaped from?
I was actually watching the TV show Prison Break (which starts with a man robbing a bank in order to get arrested) with my son and I wondered what that sort of story would be like if it was about two young sisters instead. The Russia inspired fantasy land part of the idea came soon after as I thought about where I could place the sisters to make their escape even more challenging.
3. As I was reading the book, I kept thinking of Russian traditions and aspects – or at least that is the imagery that popped into my head – even though I know the world you created is not that. I am wondering if you did any research for the fabulous world building you did in this book? If you did, how did you decide to differentiate between fact-based and artistic liberty when creating your setting: place, culture, etc.?
There is definitely a Russian feel to the book, although I did take a huge amount of artistic liberty. I never intended any of the aspects to be fact-based, but I did look at maps as inspiration for the made up place names I used. I also used mainly Russian names for characters—although I took liberties with changing their use of patronymics to matronymics (surnames based on the character’s mother’s name) to match with the matriarchal world where power is handed down from mother to daughter.
I imagined a very cold and unforgiving climate and terrain for the setting and when I looked at images on Pinterest, a lot of Russian landscape came up. I make boards for every idea that I have and I find it really helps me to visualize the world and individual scenes if can link them to a picture. For this book, I wanted a very cold, snowy, frozen world where the elements themselves could cause problems for the characters and bleed through into every part of the planning Valor has to do to try to break her sister out of prison.
4. One of the things I liked was that there is no magic prevalent in the story. I often think magic is an easy fall-back for authors when they get stuck. Instead you create quick thinking and daring characters that move the plot along. Did you enjoy the challenge of creating a world where magic is not a deus ex machina?
I enjoyed writing this book and figuring out a fast moving plot immensely, but I actually think including magic might have made it more difficult to write rather than easier. I find the idea of inventing a magic system that makes sense quite daunting!
5. Your heroine, Valor, is a wonderful character that I think both boys and girls will relate to. How did you come up with Valor? Is she based on anyone?
Thank you! And I do hope so.
Valor was the first character I really thought about within the story, with her apprenticeship to her huntswoman mother as the reason she’s so adept with her bow and with so many other physical challenges. Her character built from her skills and her interest in being outdoors, reacting quickly to situations and therefore maybe not always thinking first—especially when it comes to saying the right thing. She’s fiercely loyal and determined but that sometimes prevents her from understanding other people’s points of view when she’s launching headlong into action. She’s not really based on anyone, but there are aspects of me in her (not the brave parts) and aspects of me in Sasha too.
6. Was there something I should have asked you but didn’t?
I don’t think so. But I would like to say thank you very much for having me!
7. Is there anything in the works you would like to tell the readers about?
I’m excited to say that there is! There’ll be a sequel to PRISONER OF ICE AND SNOW. It’s called SEEKER OF THE CROWN, coming from Bloomsbury in April 2018. No spoilers, but I can’t wait to go back to Demidova with Valor and Sasha for more adventures. I’m also currently outlining a middle grade sci-fi standalone set on another planet, which I hope you’ll get to read one day.
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