Hello readers! Today I will be reviewing a book that was given to me by the author, Shelby K. Morrison, in exchange for a review. The book is called From The Ashes and it will be released on May 3rd. I would very much like to thank Shelby for offering me the chance to read and review her wonderful book! It was truly an honor. If you are an author with a book coming out and you're looking for ARC reviewers, feel free to contact me via my email: firstname.lastname@example.org. Anyways, onto the review.
Because this book hasn't come out yet, this will be a totally spoiler free review, so anyone can read it.
It is a young adult fantasy, and I really enjoyed it! Here's the blurb:
For eighteen years Aia Wynnald has lived a lie. Raised as a highborn in the Kingdom of Tharien, she's filled her days with tutors and archery lessons. But simmering beneath her polite surface is a dangerous gift, one which she must keep a secret. Aia is a bender. And in Tharien, Benders are feared and hunted.
When her unruly power breaks free with dire repercussions, Aia's lifelong goal of independence shatter. As she scrambles to piece her life back together while evading capture, she disturbs a vengeful force intent on destroying the kingdom.
Now, with the help of an unlikely ally, Aia will decide the fate of Tharien. To rescue those she cares about will require accepting what she is. But can she risk becoming the monster she's dreaded to save the very citizens baying for her blood?
This was such a great read. I was getting serious Throne Of Glass-esque vibes from it, which is great because I love Throne Of Glass. The book overall was really fun and I cared a lot about all of the characters. I felt like this book worked really hard with the relationships between the characters, and I loved that.
Firstly, let's talk about Aia, the main character. Aia spent most of the book working through these issues she had. I really liked that she wasn't your typical fantasy-protag-cliche. She didn't automatically accept this change in her environment and tackle it head first. She was cleverer than that, and she thought things through a lot better than most other protagonists, which was really refreshing.
I liked that her internal struggles were dealt with in such a realistic way. She was fighting her instincts that were so deeply ingrained in her, that Benders were inherently evil and that she was a danger. I feel like in fantasy a lot of the time the characters are way to adaptable and run into things headfirst, never really thinking things through. In From The Ashes, this was so much more realistic, and it made for a really interesting internal conflict with Aia.
The writing in this book was really beautiful. I loved the prose, it was classic high-fantasy and it really fit well. There was the perfect balance of descriptive, metaphorical language and actual character interaction. This was the way it reminded me of TOG most, because I feel like this book and TOG are two of the best written high fantasies with the perfect tone.
Then there were the other characters, Cole and Illicina. I really liked both of them. Cole, a young man working for the Emperor, hunts Benders... but maybe there's something more to him? Cole was a multi-dimensional character (maybe love interest?) and I was really feeling the relationship between him and Aia. I hope that in future books, their relationship might just develop into something more. Despite wanting them together, I was glad there wasn't too much romance in this book. I think Cole and Aia's relationship was growing but slowly, and somehow, that made it more real and enjoyable than if it had been rushed. And also the plot twist surrounding Cole... did not guess that one at all!
Illicina is an angry, vengeful Bender, focused on bringing retribution on those who hurt her. I liked Illicina quite a bit. At the start, I was a bit apprehensive, but as we got to know her, even though Aia's suspicious, eyes, I started to like her. She was complex and detailed, and I would really be interested in finding out more about her.
Her relationship with Aia was beautiful. Illicina, who doesn't trust anyone, starts to trust and love Aia in a way that she clearly hasn't for a while. And in return, Aia starts to love and trust Illcina as well. They had a very sister-like dynamic, and I am hoping that in the next book, we'll get to see more of Illicina and her relationship with Aia. I feel like there is plenty of potential for hilarious scenes with Aia, Cole and Illicina.
The actual story, which has a gentle pace, worked very well with the complex internal struggles of Aia and the well-developed relationships between Aia and Illicina and Aia and Cole. It follows Aia and her desperate attempts to evade capture from the Breakers, the people who hunt Benders, and trying to stop Illicina from taking out her anger on the people who want Aia convicted. I really liked the story. All the elements fit nicely together and it flowed really well. As I've already mentioned, Aia's internal conflict is a lot of the story, and I think it was done fantastically and it slotted into the plot perfectly. I'm never going to stop gushing about the relationships and Aia's internal conflict in this book, to be perfectly honest.
On occasion, the dialogue felt a bit forced and would snap me out of the story. It was also quite cheesy occasionally, which was a shame, because there was plenty of room of banter and emotive writing in the dialogue.
I also would've liked a lot more worldbuilding. I feel like there was so much potential for an amazing world, a deep and well developed society. Unfortunately, I still don't know all that much about this wonderful world the book is set in. I'm hoping that in future books, we'll see this world expanded.
My final critical point for this book was Aia's backstory. We sort of jumped straight into her life as a fugitive, and I would've liked to see some of her life before, as well, to have some contrast. I think it would've helped the audience understand the world and Aia a bit better. Although this would've been nice, it didn't really impact or detract from my enjoyment of the story.
All in all, From The Ashes is a beautifully written, well developed story that treats its fantastic characters the way they deserved to be treated. I liked it a lot, and I'd rate it a solid four out of five stars. I would recommend it to fans of The Winner's Crime, Throne Of Glass and Snow Like Ashes. So set your calendars to alert you on May 3 for the release of From The Ashes!
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Have a wonderful Easter weekend, and I'll see you next week with another post!