Ashes of the Sun by Django Wexler
My rating: 5 of 5 stars
First Impression: The prologue gave me the strong start to a story that I have not encountered in years. Then you find an alternating POV that slowly reveals an incredible world while developing the background of the two main characters. Many of the more recent stories that I have read rely heavily on “info dumps” to jump start the world building and context for the main plot; that is not something I appreciate much. Of course, many other readers have exactly the opposite opinion, which I am sure is why such continues to be popular. If you are somebody who does not enjoy the ambiguity of a slowly revealed world, you can jump to the back and read through the glossary (where IMHO info dumps belong) and then come back to enjoy this remarkable world as it unfolds.
Final Impression: This is an exemplar of the writer’s craft. The author gives us a vivid dystopian world with just a touch of Lovecraftian horror and a built in conflict between the creative powers of elemental magic and life itself … highlighting the corruptive potential of both. Each character encounter revealed just a little bit more of this fascinating world, giving just enough detail to provide the context needed to support the character’s story. Bottomline … I believe the world building here is second to none. Now add the people. Nobody is the villain in their own story. As the author develops the conflict between siblings who suffered a painful separation as children, I find myself empathizing with both of them, which makes the conflict here all the more tragic. By the end, I could see how each of them had developed and grown until the end of their redemptive arc could be seen on the horizon (sequels)? What sets this story apart from many though, is the detail and individuality put into the supporting cast … with whom I could identify as well. All of the characters were flawed. All of the characters had some redeemable value. That all combines to make this story all the more real to me and I absolutely loved it.
The author notes in his acknowledgements that this book was subject to extensive writes and editing, with large portions of it eventually being tossed out … and all of the hard work paid off. This is one of the few books in recent memory that now sits on my favorites shelf while I anxiously await the sequel.
I was given this free advance reader copy (ARC) ebook at my request and have voluntarily left this review.
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My Ratings Explained ...
- [ ***** ] Amazing Read - Perfect story, exciting, engrossing, well developed complex characters, solid plot with few to no holes, descriptive environments and place settings, great mystery elements, realistic dialogue, believable reactions and behaviors; a favorite that I can re-read many times.
- [ **** ] Great Read - Highly entertaining and enjoyable, exciting storyline, well developed characters and settings, a few discrepancies but nothing that can’t be overlooked. Some aspect of the story was new/refreshing to me and/or intriguing. Recommended for everyone.
- [ *** ] Good Read - Solid story with a 'good' ending, or has some other redeeming feature. Limited character development and/or over reliance on tropes. Noticeable discrepancies in world building and/or dialog/behavior that were distracting. I connected enough with the characters/world to read the entire series. Most of the books I read for fun are here. Recommended for fans of the genre.
- [ ** ] Okay Read - Suitable for a brief, afternoon escape … flat or shallow characters with little to no development. Over the top character dialog and/or behavior. Poor world building with significant issues and/or mistakes indicating poor research. Excessive use of trivial detail, info dumps and/or pontification. Any issues with the story/characters are offset by some other aspect that I enjoyed. Not very memorable. May only appeal to a niche group of readers. Recommended for some (YMMV).
- [ * ] Bad Read - Awkward and/or confusing writing style. Poor world building and/or unbelievable (or unlikeable) characters. Victimization, gaslighting, blatant abuse, unnecessary violence, child endangerment, or any other highly objectionable behaviors by Main characters. I didn't connect with the story at all; significant aspects of this story irritated me enough that I struggled to finished it. Series was abandoned. Not recommended.