ARC Book Review: AGE OF ASH by Daniel Abraham

I received an ARC from the publishers in exchange for an honest review. It has not affected my opinions.

Genre: Fantasy
Age Range: Adult
Star Rating: 2.5 stars
Series: yes - first book


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.

Synopsis taken from Goodreads. Add to your shelves here.


AGE OF ASH is the first in a series of interconnected books that tell the stories of different people across the same year, so I guess this book is basically a standalone in terms of the other books not continuing this character’s story?

The world is an interesting one. It’s based in one city, which has a variety of different areas (from rich to poor), and complex social structures and traditions. I really liked the traditions around mourning and death, which were so prominent because the book was one about grief and how it affects people/changes them.

I think the reason I never managed to really sink my teeth into this book was because it didn’t feel like there were any stakes or consequences for any of the characters, and particularly not for how they interlinked.

There were a few vague mentions of being killed by the richer people for Alys and Sammish (the ones Alys got tangled up in), but there was no demonstration of the richer people’s power. That sort of took the teeth out of that threat. Plus, the book makes a lot of effort to set up the grittiness of the world, how hard a world it is for the poor, and that felt like it was more stakes/chances of death than getting mixed up with the rich. It sort of undercut the threat from them.

And then there was the lack of consequences. What was the consequence of the rich getting their way? Or not getting their way? Particularly what were the consequences for Alys? That never felt explained (and the sort-of-magic baddie always felt underdeveloped as to what they were doing, why, and why they were so dangerous.) And that undercut the tension because I had no reason to want Alys to defeat them, because I couldn’t see what it would mean if she didn’t.

The ARC is 432 pages, but the back of the ARC says the final book will be 528 pages. I’m curious what is going to add almost 100 pages to the final thing (if that’s correct.) The ARC is the same size paper, and it’s a pretty standard and non-squished formatting, so it’s not that. And it looks like all the pages for missing maps etc have been blocked out already, so I’m very confused! It didn’t feel like there were enough fantasy words to justify a glossary either.

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