Hello, everyone! Today I am reviewing Age of Ash by Daniel Abraham. I’ve been looking forward to reading this one, and it pulled me out of the reading slump I’ve been experiencing lately.
From New York Times bestselling and critically acclaimed author Daniel Abraham, co-author of The Expanse , comes a monumental epic fantasy trilogy that unfolds within the walls of a single great city, over the course of one tumultuous year, where every story matters, and the fate of the city is woven from them all.
“An atmospheric and fascinating tapestry, woven with skill and patience.” –Joe Abercrombie, New York Times bestselling author of A Little Hatred
Kithamar is a center of trade and wealth, an ancient city with a long, bloody history where countless thousands live and their stories unfold.
This is Alys’s.
When her brother is murdered, a petty thief from the slums of Longhill sets out to discover who killed him and why. But the more she discovers about him, the more she learns about herself, and the truths she finds are more dangerous than knives.
Swept up in an intrigue as deep as the roots of Kithamar, where the secrets of the lowest born can sometimes topple thrones, the story Alys chooses will have the power to change everything.
***Thank you to Orbit books and NetGalley for a copy of the book. My review contains my honest thoughts about my reading experience.***
This book was a work of art with multiple layers that I enjoyed peeling back as the story progressed. It was a rather slow, methodical tale, but the writing created an atmosphere that felt vivid, gritty, and haunting. The world-building devoted to the city of Kithamar was spectacular, and I loved getting to see different aspects of the city through the eyes of the various characters. All the detail made it seem as if the city itself was a character with agency. However, this approach did leave the rest of the world feeling a bit underdeveloped, but I’m hopeful that more detail about the larger world will be provided in future books.
The character work was also brilliant. The author gave the space necessary to really get to know each of the characters, especially Alys and Sammish. Alys struggled with the death of her brother, and much of this story revolved around her coping with the grief she faced in the wake of such an important loss. Abraham did such a fantastic job of exploring how grief can consume a person and change everything about them. His descriptions of Alys’ reactions and feelings were visceral and left me reeling at times with many of the same emotions. Sammish was also well-developed, and I enjoyed seeing her grow from somewhat of an invisible hanger-on to someone who made decisions for herself based on what she thought was right. The secondary characters all felt like real people almost instantly, as well, which left me feeling upset when Alys’ brother died despite only reading about him for a couple chapters.
The plot was interesting and went places I didn’t really expect. I enjoyed the murder mystery aspect of the first half of the book, and the political maneuverings of the second half were fascinating alongside the introduction of magical elements I still want to know more about. There are things I want to talk about but can’t because of spoilers, but I will say that I loved the unique commentary on the perpetuation of power and social systems. However, this book was definitely more character-focused than plot-driven. There weren’t a ton of action scenes or the major moments/battles I often associate with epic fantasy. However, everything about the characters’ moves still felt vitally important even if the scale wasn’t huge. Alys’ battle with grief was incredibly compelling, and its culmination was satisfying. So, I’m curious to see where the story goes next.
Overall, I loved this book. It wasn’t epic in the sense of clashing armies, monsters, or giant set pieces, but the struggles of the characters felt consequential on a deep level, almost as though their personal decisions and growth impacted the very soul of their city. Therefore, I rate this book 5 out of 5 stars.