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 shatters. 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? (goodreads.com)
It’s a good premise, and the writing was compelling enough, but ultimately Morrison is in her characters’ heads WAY too much and it kept pulling me out of the story. Certainly not a bad book, but I think it could have been significantly better if more was focused on keeping the plot moving instead of constant internal monologues from the characters. Way too many questions asked within their heads as a means of substituting tension where, considering the plot, there was tension enough going on around them.
I liked the basic story and I think the premise itself was compelling. People born with this magical ability are hunted out of society for being dangerous and demonic. They’re called Shells, basically just flesh sacks for demons to take over. What they have to look forward to is a Cleansing, which will kill them, or a Draining, which is effectively a magical lobotomy that leaves them a numb husk of a person.
The story is told from two points of view, Cole’s and Aia’s (who’s also called Maia, but I don’t know why she drops the M). One is a Bender hiding in plain sight and the other is a Bender being hunted. Both end up working together to topple a theocratic regime more bent on ruling by fear than by reason.
Cole doesn’t experience a whole lot of character development throughout the story. Not really. Aia has somewhat of a lurching shift in character when she finds out about a characteristic of another character she’s supposed to be spying on. She then becomes infuriatingly passive to the point where it’s almost illogical when I just wanted her to crack some skulls. But that’s just me.
But the biggest issue I had with FROM THE ASHES, and why I’m probably not going to read further into the series, is that the characters kept getting in their own way. There was just way too much internal pontificating and in many cases it was a substitute for tension, but it just became glaring and annoying the more I read of it. It really slowed down the plot for me to the point where I was getting jarred out of it every time we got sucked into a character’s head to see how they were going to work something out. It’s one thing to be privy to the internal workings of a character when in first person point of view. It’s another thing when a scene pauses so the character can ask themselves questions about what’s coming up next. I can only handle so much of that.
Ultimately one of the better self pubs I’ve read. It’s not a bad book, by any stretch of the word. I think the world is compelling and Morrison has something good going here. I just wish the characters got out of the way more.
I received a copy of this book from the author in exchange for an honest review.