Jen reviews Kings of Ash, the second book in the Ash and Sand series by Richard Nell.
This review may contain spoilers for those who didn’t read the first book, Kings of Paradise.
|Series: Ash and Sand #2||Genre: Fantasy, Grimdark|
|Date of Publishing: January 17th 2019||Publisher: Self-Published|
Follow the long, bloody journey of Ruka, son of Beyla through the islands of Pyu and the frozen wastes of the Ascom; see the return home of Ratama Kale Alaku, the ‘Sorcerer-Prince’, and the terrifying rise of his ‘miracles’. Before the end, a shocking history will unravel, ancient connections unfold, and all will learn the cost of unleashing the Kings of Ash…
“Altan, son of Brandt,” he spoke in his most prophetic voice, modeled after Egil and honed with use. The farmer blinked and met his eyes, and Ruka summoned the weapon from air and fire as the rain of sparks lit them both. “I told you Noss has marked you. You have been called, Midlander.”
Altan gaped with an open mouth, yanked back from his horror by the brightness and sound of creation. He swallowed and lifted a trembling hand to the steel, as if unbelieving it could exist.
I am Noss’ prophet,” Ruka said as he held the weapon firm, until both their hands closed around it. He met the man’s stare, knowing his monstrous bright eyes would glow in the still-falling flames. “Tonight, you become one of His.”
The Darkest Part by Red
This was one hell of a book. It’s taken me weeks to gather my thoughts which are still all over the place, meaning this is more me just talking it out than an actual review. And truthfully, I really didn’t have anything new to add to all the great reviews that are out there anyway.
Kings of Ash picks up directly after the first book and the heart of this story is, of course, Ruka. It’s been a couple of years since I read Kings of Paradise and I was glad to see a “what came before” included, though I found I didn’t need it as much as I thought I would because Ruka does tend to leave an impression.
In all my reading life, I have never felt so divided on a character as I was of Ruka. I loved him. I hated him. I freaking could not stop reading about him.
Ruka falls in that muddy well, with characters like Jekyll/Hyde or Odetta/Detta, that walk on that razor edge for the audience (or at least this audience) of good and bad, redeemable or not?
His Bukaya identity can be brutal and remorseless. He craves the violence and destruction like I crave popcorn and I would never be able to root for a character like him, without the humanity that Ruka’s side of the personality brings to him.
I am not sure what it is that makes me want him to succeed in his goals. Bukaya certainly doesn’t deserve it and I’m not sure even that Ruka does. Maybe, it’s the obvious remorse, that we see through the dead in Ruka’s grove. Proof he does regret and remember each and every soul that has sacrificed for his goals?
Or, maybe, it’s because his goals are mostly altruistic and outside of a little deserved revenge for his mother. Ruka, genuinely wants things to change for the better of society and with that success, we can hope he keeps Bukaya squashed down and I can feel “good” wins over “evil” making up for all the horrible things that were done to get there?
I don’t know the answers but whatever it was, it worked for me because here I sat, engrossed and rooting for this genius serial-killer character, wanting someone to love him and fix his hurt soul, all the while wondering where the hell did my values go?
I am just going to touch on a few other things that I liked, and a couple, I didn’t. I don’t want to get into too many spoilers (being this is a second book be wary – there may be a few) it’s hard to stay out of them, with a character like Ruka, who is so much of the driving force behind the plot.
- I loved how the Grove does double-duty as a kind of magic source, as well as keeping us in touch with the kinder side of Ruka. The grove also weirdly works as a way to remind us of past events like having a visual glossary (maybe that’s a triple duty then?).
- Loved all the scenes where Ruka pulls items, armor, weapons, etc. through from the grove. They were incredible (check out the quote, if you’re reading on the blog). I am a visual reader and these scenes lit up my mind!
- If I couldn’t have Kale (whom I missed a lot) for a good portion of this book, I have to say, I was happy with the trade-off for King Farahi, who quickly became one of my favorites. Especially his friendship? Alliance? Two men, who admire each other but don’t trust each other? Not sure what to call the relationship that grew between Farahi and Ruka, but I loved every minute of it.
- I did have some “feet finding” issues at the beginning of the book. I caught on fairly quickly I think, especially after I double-checked with few other bloggers (thank you Mihir, Lukasz, Swiff) that I was on the right track with what I was thinking.
Mostly though the “feet finding” had to do more with expectations. I had some serious theories on how the story would run its course (some of those may still come about) and I expected things to go a certain way because this was a direct follow-up. This didn’t go in any predictable way, so, I kind of struggled for a while trying to place events, and people, not expecting to look back, before going forward.
It was a rather genius move in storytelling actually, and I get to eat my words for the second time this year about something that I said in an earlier review about a writing choice, that I wasn’t fond of and the author came back and proved to me, I don’t know what the hell I am talking about.
On that note; I do think this story could have used some trimming but I tend to think that about almost everything I read these days especially the door stoppers. For me, things start feeling repetitive and I catch myself skimming or putting the book down quite often even when I am interested.
In closing – Kings of Ash was a very strong follow-up to Kings of Paradise. I am really looking forward to completing this series with Kings of Heaven which came out a couple of weeks ago.