Only Ashes Remain

Pub Date:   |   Archive Date: 03 Sep 2019

Member Reviews

Only Ashes Remain did not suffer at all from the usual lull of the second book in a series. It was just as exciting and twisty as the first one, full of new creatures and even more betrayal. Who can Nita trust? Whose out to get her? And will she ever be able to live without looking over her shoulder again? Nita further secures herself as an anti-hero in this one and I found myself rooting for things I wasn't sure I was okay with. If you loved the first one, you won't be disappointed at all in this one. 

*I received a complimentary copy of this book from HMH Books for Young Readers through NetGalley. Opinions expressed in this review are completely my own.*
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I loved ONLY ASHES REMAIN and the world that Rebecca Schaeffer builds, where everyone knows monsters roam the cities, but no one knows what makes a monster. I can't wait to read the final installment in Nita and Kovit's story!
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At first I thought I wasn't going to like it as the first one but I was totally wrong. I not only liked this book but loved it at the point that I couln't put it down. I look forward to keep reading more of the author and see how the writing improves cause even when I loved this so much there are things that I feel need to get better but anything else was perfect!
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Rebecca Schaeffer really goes for it in Only Ashes Remain, the sequel to Not Even Bones.  She makes no excuses for the morally corrupt actions of her main characters (or her other characters).  She delves into her characters' monstrous sides and the monstrous side of humanity.  Yet, she does it without being too gory.  Yes, there is torture, death, etc.  But it is never too graphic, allowing this to stay firmly in YA.  It's a well done delicate balance.
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After burning the market of monsters, Nita is taken in by INHUP where she’s greeted by Fabricio, the boy who sold her to the market. She vows to kill him. However with a video of her using her abilities going viral on the darknet there are a lot of people out to kill her. Continuing her look at the monstrous of human nature, Schaeffer places her characters in a more “ordinary” setting, downtown Toronto. Nita meets up with Kovit, the zannie who feeds off pain she met in Not Even Bones, who also wants a fresh start. They even attempt to normal teenage romantic relationship but when you spend your childhood dissecting “unnatural” people and killing and torturing people respectively, something as mundane dating is awkward. Things don’t get too romantic as their plenty of murder and mayhem to go around. In addition to the mayhem we learn some of Korvit’s backstory. As their past and present collide, both are confronted with the question is it their biology or their actions which makes them monsters? This book is for those who like dark and twisted books with characters with questionable morality. Readers of the Young Elites and Arc of a Scythe series may find much to like about the Market of Monsters series.

Thank you Netgalley for providing an ARC for this book.
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Not Even Bones is one of my favourite books to date, so I had really high expectations for book two. The storyline of Only Ashes Remain follows Nita and Kovit’s escape from the Market of Death, but being out of the market doesn’t mean freedom for our favourite unnaturals. Instead, Nita is being hunted by a powerful company and instead of hiding away, Nita decides that the best way to keep the monsters at bay is to become an even worse one herself.

What I love about Only Ashes Remain is that it never went overly expletive with its gore. I can’t say that ever death or torture happened for a reason in this book, but rather every violent action was decidedly done by the characters. Now, for a YA book to write characters that are wholly unrelatable and despicable is a bold move. No one wants to be the girl dissecting bodies or the monster who enjoys torturing people and yet with book two the author shows us a side of the characters that speak to us like Nita’s fear of police brutality for being a brown person or Kovit’s fear of isolation. It’s a bit discomforting to read about these characters who enjoy bloodshed and still feeling a sense of pity for them because even they have a certain set of morals. Except maybe Adair who just loves to bullshit people about eating them in his basement.

The relationship between Nita and Kovit is explored more deeply in this book. Nita’s prejudice towards Kovit is called out. She expects him to be the torturer for her plan of vengeance and yet is disgusted when he becomes exactly what she wants. Kovit is biologically a zannie, a creature which feeds on people’s pain. How can she reconcile the good parts of him when he willingly chooses to inflict? Yet how different does that make Nita who chooses to acknowledge the murder victims on her dissecting table? I suppose it’s a question of what immorality are you willing to accept? If you’re born a “monster” and the world expects if of you, how do you even not be one?

Plot-wise, the book was written a bit more loosely than Not Even Bones. Book two felt like it had a lot of things going on and was going round in circles for a while. There were parts in the book that seemed to be repeating itself like Nita trying to kill Fabricio. The pace moved a bit slower than book one which was frustrating especially if you’re just fresh out of Not Even Bones.

Yet the focus on the character and the moral questions that book two posed kept me reading on. I don’t care what anyone says but this book was emotionally gutting. We also have new characters like Adair and Diana who provided a more flighty side to the book. I must also mention Nita’s mother showed so much more emotional depth in Ashes that I just want more about her. Who is this woman?! I’m hoping for a prequel or even a separate standalone for Nita’s mother.

Only Ashes Remain has been an amazing read for me. The character relationship between Nita and Kovit was so interesting to read – their struggle of walking the line between being human and monster. Market of Monsters is more than just a fun read. In its entirety, it’s a book that questions humanity and how power is sometimes what controls our perceptions of monsters.
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This one was darker than the first, and there was a lot of self-reflection for the main character. She questions whether she is the bigger monster in the room at times. While she had some compunction about killing certain people in the book, she still would do it without pause. Furthermore, she messed up a lot from each kill trying to distance herself from the black market.  This book moved forward with the overall plot; however, it was a slower read.  It had the feel of a placeholder book.  I am not sure how many of the book club members, who read the first book, will want to continue with this read.
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This was a solid sequel! Not much happened plotwise, once I thought about it, but Schaeffer developed more secrets and did a great job with character development. It was even more gruesome than the first, so definitely only recommend this to teens that can handle what is nearly adult-level gore. I'm still thinking about whether I believe Nita and Kovit can be redeemed.
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Disclaimer: I voluntarily read and reviewed an advanced copy of this book. All thoughts and opinions are my own. Thank you to Netgalley, Fantastic Flying Book Club, and HMH Books for Young Readers for this free copy. All quotes in this review are taken from the Advanced Reader Copy and may change in final publication.

=Content Warnings=
Human Trafficking, Dismemberment, Torture

=Diversity Rep=
Latinx

The cover is very deceiving, and I’m so glad for it! I wasn’t expecting a paranormal aspect to this novel until I read some of the tags on Goodreads, and I was instantly intrigued. I also did not get to read the first book, so that was my bad.

I wouldn’t even say that Nita is really a good guy. She’s had to do a lot of bad things in order to stay alive. While her mother was really the one that was killing these supernatural “unnaturals” (I totally hate that term, and so does Nita, so that works), she was the one that ended up dissecting them. Well, the one time that she ends up doing a good deed ends up biting her in the ass and she ends up tortured and dismembered on the Dead Market, it makes sense that she doesn’t want to be a good girl. Oh, and she has the power to manipulate her body, which is why she’s coveted by so many in the black market.

Kovit is the zannie that ended up helping Nita escape the Dead Market, and somehow they are friends. For my gentle friends that don’t know what a zannie is – do I even know? – but they are a kind of supernatural creature that eats people’s pain, and expert torturers. I mean, if you can feed yourself like this, why wouldn’t you make sure that you’re good at it?

This novel takes place after the events of the first novel, and shit has definitely hit the fan for Nita. She somehow was able to escape her capture in the Dead Market, but then she comes face to face with the boy that she not only rescued, but was also the one that sold her to the black market.

You best believe she’s going to exact revenge on his ass. Who wouldn’t do the same?

Okay I love the fact that Nita is not a good girl. Seriously, she isn’t. And I love that she’s going to take revenge on those that wronged her, I mean even more than what she did in the first novel. She has a flashback of how she ended up burning down the Death Market, and I was totally rooting for her. Kind of wish that I ended up reading it to see just how much damage she caused, but the flashback works too.

Honestly? I’m not really sure that I disliked enough to make a list. I mean, of course I need to go back to read the first one so I can get a better understanding of what happened to Nita in the Death Market, but since this book takes place after that and she does a mini flashback of it, it didn’t stop with my flow.

Oh wait. I don’t like Nita’s mom. I don’t really think she cares about her daughter, and that just breaks my heart.

I may have to get into this world way more often! I loved the paranormal aspect of it, and I think it was refreshing that it wasn’t just all vampires and werewolves and witches (oh my!). Not that anything is wrong with that, but I love reading about other types of creatures, you know? I think a lot of you would end up liking this one for sure.
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Let me start by saying that Not Even Bones was one of my top reads of 2018, so I had fairly high expectations for Only Ashes Remain. Schaeffer doesn’t shy away from the dark and gritty aspects of our modern world (though she puts a monstrous twist on it all), and it’s something I appreciated in the first book and looked forward to in the sequel.

I think what struck me first was the shift in story type. We’ve already seen the protagonist, Nita, do some questionable things in order to regain her freedom. Framing it as doing what it takes to escape makes her actions ALMOST acceptable in this world. Almost.

But in Only Ashes Remain, even though Nita and Kovit are on the run, it’s different. Nita is different. Her actions are no longer about freedom so much as vengeance and she’s walking down a dark road that there may be no return from. She acknowledges her love of dissecting humanoid monsters. She murders and encourages murder and pain without a second thought. Nita is well on her way to serial killer status if she hasn’t already achieved it. And yet I loved her?

I feel like that makes my choice in characters a bit questionable, but there you go.

Only Ashes Remain ventures out of morally gray territory straight into chaos. There is no mortality to speak of, at least where Nita is concerned. You know it’s bad when the person who calls himself a monster and feeds on other’s pain (a.k.a. Kovit) is acting as the moral compass in your life. Though as a reader, I appreciated that flip in roles. 

And speaking of Kovit, WOW did I ship these two hard. Monster love at it’s finest, folks. Mostly, though, it was the balance they struck as friends and potentially something more. Nita could look past Kovit’s past (at least sometimes) and he reined her in when she started tipping off the deep end. I loved how integral he was in this book and the development of his character beyond the pain and the escape. Schaeffer humanized him in a way that contrasted with the story but fit all at once.

Since we’re talking characters here, I definitely have to mention the addition of some new side characters that were quite interesting (and now I want a side novella with their story??). I won’t reveal what types of monsters these new characters are (because that’s part of the fun!) but I will say I appreciated the snark, and the fact that these characters aren’t squeaky clean either, but still serve to show Nita that perhaps she’s gone a bit too far (which really just sums up this entire book).

Where I struggled with Only Ashes Remain was the plot. There’s plenty of action and fighting and killing and torturing. But it lagged a bit. Despite the quick pace, I felt like I was still only reading a build-up to something yet to come.

It was a good sequel, a solid book, but I didn’t think it was great and definitely not on the level of the first book (which I re-read beforehand and loved as much as the first time through).
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Oh my. Where do I even begin with this fantastically gory and dark YA Fantasy. This book picks up right where Not Even Bones left off and just gets more and more intense. If you have a weak stomach I wouldn’t recommend this read but if you like all things dark and dangerous than you’ll love this book!

Nita is such an interesting character. She’s been raised by a mother who relied on her dissection skills and was completely non-emotional. Now that she’s escaped the Black Market and ended up in the protection of INHUP, she’s on a path of revenge and vengeance. She’s so scary at times and does not always think through her plans before she takes them out. You will definitely question her morals throughout the book but by the end she’s finally figuring out what she needs to do to get what she wants, a notoriety that’ll make people leave her along.

Kovit. I love him. He’s a “monster” in every sense of the word but he also has rules that he doesn’t like to break. Riding this crazy train with Nita has caused him to question himself and often doubts whether Nita can be a true friend to him despite how scary he can be. The two of them have a chemistry that I love and it was so fun seeing them grow together from book one to book two.

This book is so dark from the first page to the last. It’s gory and fun. The creatures that you meet will make you question whether or not monsters can be trusted. I enjoyed every minute of it!
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When I read Not Even Bones last year, I was impressed by how unique it was. I loved the vibe, the many different monsters, the black market setting, the morally gray characters. Going into the sequel, Only Ashes Remain, I was expecting to love more of the same. And while yes, I did love it for a couple of the same reasons, I also felt like it was a very different book that offered new aspects to be enjoyed.

Let's start with characters. Nita is still a fantastic lead, always staying true to character, making tough decisions that maybe aren't always right, but they're exactly the decisions I would expect her to make. She really held this book from beginning to end, and I can't wait to see where she goes in the next one. The side characters were enjoyable too. I was really intrigued with Kovit in the first book, and loved getting to see more of him and his story in this one. There were a few other supporting characters that were really fun to read, although less monsters overall than I was hoping for. I really hope that in the next book Schaeffer introduces even more unique, interesting, and monstrous characters.

The plot for this one I thought was good, but not great. I definitely will remember less about it than the first book a year from now, but I don't think I'll mind doing a reread. The beginning started out fast, picking up right were the first left off, which I loved. It slowed down a lot in the middle, with a few moments of high intensity action surrounded by a bit of meandering plot-wise. It made the pacing feel a bit off, and I would find myself putting the book aside, getting easily distracted because it wasn't holding my attention as much as I'd hoped. I did think the ending was great though, with some really fun-to-read turns in the story. By the time I got to the last twenty-or-so percent I knew I wasn't putting it down until I'd finished.

Rebecca Schaeffer's writing style is so good. These books are unique in that they both come off as dark and violent and gritty, but in an almost clinical way that works so well with the characters and settings. The writing really stands out among other fantasy books. I'm honestly ready to see how that translates in other stories Schaeffer will write, because it really makes this story stand out for me.

Overall, I think Only Ashes Remain was a pretty solid sequel. I liked the first book a little more, but this one did a great job of furthering the story and fleshing out it's lead characters more. I really loved reading more of Nita's story and can't wait to see where it goes in future installments.
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Quickly after starting Only Ashes Remain I remembered how much I loved Not Even Bones and all the characters. This series has some of the best morally grey characters that I have ever read. I was so psyched to not only get a copy of the sequel, but to get a physical copy. Only Ashes Remain was one of my most anticipated releases of the second half of the year and I had forgotten just how much I liked the first installment. Even though the sequel moved away from the black market plot, I actually wound up enjoying it even more than the first book.

The characters are what made this book so great for me. Nita and Kovit are morally grey characters, but at times they were on the darker side in this book. Even though Kovit is a supernatural creature who feeds off of human pain, it wound up being Nita who had a hard time keeping her morals in check this time. I also don’t think I had mentioned this in my review of Not Even Bones, but Rebecca Schaeffer did a great job showing the reader Nita’s experience with OCD. When Nita gets anxious she struggles with compulsions to dissect bodies. While we did see more of her struggle with OCD in the first installment, because it focused on the Supernatural Black Market for body parts, we still saw how Nita struggled with these compulsions and her anxiety in this book. While Rebecca Schaeffer put a dark twist on OCD I do think that she represented it pretty accurately, but think that an own voices reader could tell you that better than I could.

The plot moved so fast and had me devouring this book in no time at all. I just tore right through this book, I had finished it in less than two days even though I was working those days.  Rebecca Schaeffer balanced well written characters with the plot like a trapeze artist. Just when I started to think I might be able to set down the book for a second something else would happen and I found myself unable to set it back down for many more chapters. While I really enjoyed the first installment I feel like this book moved much faster and sunk its hooks into me much deeper. Maybe I had just forgotten how much I truly loved this series because this sequel was so much better than I had anticipated even though I was really excited for it.

Only Ashes Remain exceeded my expectations. I think that since it had been a while since I read the first installment I forgot how much I really did enjoy it, but I was reminded within the first few pages how much I love these characters. If you enjoy morally grey characters I highly recommend that you check out this series because these characters are some of my favorite morally grey characters that I have ever read. If you enjoyed Not Even Bones you will probably enjoy Only Ashes Remain even more. I also recommend this series if you are looking for something fast paced in between long reads or are trying to get out of a reading slump. I am so glad that this series is continuing because I am not ready to say goodbye to these characters just yet.
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I was highly anticipating this sequel, but as much as I enjoyed revisiting these characters, the story itself went nowhere. Nothing of consequence happened and Nita just made bad decision after bad decision. I still would like to know how her story comes to a close, but I wish this book had done more with its over 400 pages.
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We left off in book #1 on a huge cliffhanger. Our main character Nita is coming face-to-face with the guy who she set free and then turned around and sold her to the black market. Or did he? I’m not convinced. But Nita is. She is reunited with her mother, only to truly see how slimy and irritating she truly is. Nita says no more and sets off on her own. But she reunites with our favorite Zannie–Kovit–soon and, of course, the dark adventures and terrors begin.
I wish I could truly tell you about this book, but I don’t want to spoil anything. You really have to experience it for yourself. I loved that the cast of characters expands in this book, and more than anything, I love seeing more of Kovit in this book! Give me a dark, moody book boyfriend any day! Although. Here’s the catch. This relationship reminded me of the…I don’t know what to call it…Edward and Bella…where she is the only female who is immune to his powers and is therefore more attractive to him. More or less. All of that being said, I don’t care, because I loved their fragility both together and separate. It made for such a dynamic book! There is the violence and the action and the chase…but then there is this questioning and moral greyness, and there is actual time spent to dissect it. Love it!
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To be posted 9/14/19.

Ugh. ONLY ASHES REMAIN is so gray and so morally confusing and I love it. I don't think you really see this a whole lot in YA and it's rather refreshing to read. Usually it's a character making one bad decision and then ruminating on it for the rest of the book. But Nita's moral compass is a bit broken so she makes decision after decision based in part on rational thinking (in irrational situations) and in part on her EQ being rather low thanks to her mom keeping her segregated from humanity.

The big thing for me was the relationship between Nita and Kovit. Oh how extraordinarily gray and slimy that is. By gray I mean part of me was rooting for them to get together. The rest of me was having a boxing match about all the things wrong with the situation and all the things that matched with the situation, and all the things that made sense despite all these other bad things over here. Nita and Kovit do make a good couple. Except Kovit tortures people for fun in order to eat, otherwise he'll die. He doesn't actually have to torture people to eat, but he chooses to. He says its his own choice, but is it really based on the way he was raised? Meanwhile Nita's killing dozens of people without blinking an eye and has no problem going on a vengeful murder spree and the only reason she really holds herself back is because she needs to work out whether all of this will actually be better for her or not. By "this" I mean all this murdering. So they're two not great people made, in large part, from the nurturing they received as children. Does it make it okay? Does it make them a match for each other? I don't know. Yes? No? Maybe.

I just love how that situation alone made my brain whir and in a good way. But I also found myself trying to justify what I was thinking in this situation because I had such opposite thoughts for a couple like Juliette and Warner from the Shatter Me series. But ONLY ASHES REMAIN kind of addresses that, because we get to see a little bit of Kovit's former life with Henry. Henry who's very human and genuinely enjoys torturing people using Kovit as the implement of torture. Nita mentioned how much more disturbing that is, a human with no real reason to do what he's doing yet still does it and enjoys it. That's Warner. He won't die if he stops doing it and he does it just because he likes it. That's just a serial killer.

And with Nita, while Kovit is basically her first friend ever, and she's formed some pretty tight bonds with him, she still has her head on her shoulders despite a low EQ and she's constantly questioning her attachment to Kovit. She recognizes that she's basically ignoring his awful parts in order to just see his good parts (which Kovit hates) and she acknowledges that he terrifies her. But he hasn't tried to actually kill her. And Nita is not Juliette. So maybe I'm just trying to rationalize why Nita/Kovit is a better, more acceptable match than Juliette/Warner. I'm okay with it.

ONLY ASHES REMAIN made me THINK. A lot. It definitely has a racial subtext to it and not just because Nita's skin is brown. The concept of the Dangerous Unnaturals List, once that's really fleshed out, is eye-opening and horrifying all at the same time. The kelpie who helps them (whose name escapes me at the moment) really opens Nita's eyes (and mine) to what's really going on in their little world and the things pitched to protect people are really there to only serve a few (and to have those few profit from it). How apropos.

Such a great book. Such a great series. Politically poignant with some morally gray characters that really make you think without even trying. Unfortunately now I have to wait at least a year to get the next book. Damn it.

5
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The sequel to Not Even Bones completely lived up to its predecessor. Following bad people who do bad things, this series is set in a world where paranormal creatures (think: vampires, ghouls, unicorns) are known to the public. Consumption of certain creatures’ body parts gives the eater some power, so it’s a considerably dark series. Nita, our main character, dissects the corpses of supernatural creatures and her mother sells their parts on the black market for a profit – she’s not a murderer, she tells herself. Just a scientist. But Nita is also able to heal herself and her power is incredibly valuable… so when things start going awry, she finds herself in a heap of trouble.

I absolutely loved the first book and this sequel was incredible, too. Schaeffer is such a bold author, in that she makes her protagonists do some horrific things that you cannot excuse or overlook – yet you still care about them. I love how Schaeffer interweaves fast-paced action with slower, character-work moments and sociopolitical commentary. I’ve said it before but this series is truly diverse and its world-building expansive. The first book is set in Peru, yet we’re aware of how the world exists on a global level. We know which regions of the Earth certain supernatural creatures come from (vampires from eastern Europe, ghouls from the Middle East, etc.) as well as how they’re treated in different countries (because, you know, western culture doesn’t dictate the rest of the world ☺️).

Only Ashes Remain excels in this too, but what I found most fascinating about this sequel was its character depth. I can’t say much because spoilers for the first book, but Nita’s struggle with morality was definitely the driving force of the novel, and I think you can pinpoint this aspect of her arc very clearly from start to finish.

But this series is criminally underrated. If you don’t mind dark (and sometimes disturbing) books that dissect morality and human corrosion, pleeeeease read this series. It’s so good.
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This series is such fun! Delightfully messed up, wildly entertaining fun. I was super excited to get back into the world of Market of Monsters (such a clever series name, by the by) after loving  Not Even Bones , and this one definitely didn't disappoint!

What I Loved: 

• How does the author make me adore such an antihero? By all accounts, we should positively loathe this character who preforms autopsies for funsies, who kills ruthlessly when need be. But I can't help but feel for Nita, even cheer for her, in some of the strangest possible ways. "I really hope Nita can find someone to dissect soon, girl needs some self-care and a scalpel, stat!" and "wow I really need Nita to fall in love with this other serial killer". I mean, it's weird stuff, and yet here we are. 

• I said it before but it bears repeating: Holy gray morality. Actually, I don't even know if that's fair. Maybe there is no morality whatsoever. Nita is going to do literally anything to survive. Is that right? How many people is too many to kill to save yourself? I don't know, that's kind of the whole question. There are some very interesting distinctions that come up in the book, which I will be purposely vague about. Because I think these thought-provoking ideas are best answered on your own as you read the story. It's half the fun! 

• It's full of excitement and high stakes! Okay there is not a dull moment in this one. I kept kind of hoping for Nina (and Kovit, I love Kovit more than I should probably) to get more down time, but alas. They were always either being hunted, or preemptively trying to eliminate threats. Nita had no idea who she could trust, if anyone, which makes sense because I don't think anyone in this world has a gold medal in loyalty. And half the fun is trying to figure out who we, the reader, thinks she can trust. 

•New (and existing) side characters brought a ton to the story. I ship Nita and Kovit, hard. Kovit won me over in the previous book, and he continues to do so here. There are new characters full of moral ambiguity as well, some of whom I really enjoyed. And there's the elusive Fabricio, who I cannot figure out at all. Which is obviously highly entertaining! Is he the villain Nita thinks he is? Is he just trying to save himself too? Somewhere in the middle? I'm sure we'll get those answers! 

What I Didn't: 

The only thing I didn't love is that it does kind of feel like a middle book. And look, I don't mean that in a bad way even, obviously we need there to be some setup for the end, and the author does that incredibly well here. But I'd have liked perhaps a few resolutions? Regardless, it has made me quite eager for the next installment!

Bottom Line: Monsters, indeed! But whether the monsters are human, "other", or all of the above is the real question. Tons of action and fabulous characters, I will be anxiously waiting to find out how the story will end!
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Special thanks to NetGalley for providing me with an eARC and the opportunity to read and review this book before its release date. This, however, does not reflect the opinions in my review. 

First of all, let me just say… wow. 

I read Schaeffer’s debut novel, Not Even Bones, on a whim from my library. The concept seemed interesting enough, but I didn’t go into the book thinking it would be my next favorite book that I would be shoving into my friends’ faces and begging them to read. For the most part, I was right. The plot was engaging, but the pacing of the novel felt off in places and I didn’t really connect with the two main characters, Nita and Kovit. But it was a solid read, so I gave it three stars. When the opportunity came to request the eARC, I shrugged and thought, “What the heck. It’ll be interesting, if nothing else, since book one left on a cliffhanger.” 

I’m here to tell you that Schaeffer has DEFINITELY upped her game with her sophomore novel and sequel, Only Ashes Remain. From what I understand, she had quite a time writing it, having to basically scratch the entire first draft, save a few chapters, and completely rewrite it. Had I not read as much in the acknowledgments, I wouldn’t have been able to surmise as much. The book is THAT solid. Many of the qualms I had with the first book, such as the pacing, have been ironed out and are practically nonexistent now. The atmosphere is nice and gritty and her descriptions keep the reader engaged. I can definitely tell that she’s grown as a writer from book one to two – and wonderfully, at that. 

What impressed me most about Only Ashes Remain, though, were the characters. In book one, I found Nita to be very confusing. It was hard to relate to her, as she was flip-flopping between her morals. One moment she was doing something empathetic and nice, the next she was gutting someone for the hell of it. It was just really distracting and, moreover, the relationship that Schaeffer was trying to set up with the male character, Kovit, seemed very forced – literally, since they were forced to work together or face death. I didn’t feel any sort of emotional attachment between them and so it made me not really care for whatever sort of relationship they might have. 

In Only Ashes Remain, though, the stakes have changed and Nita and Kovit are free to act with a little more freedom. It was interesting to see how they behaved when they weren’t prisoners or in immediate danger of death. Would they finally see that killing is bad, not a necessary evil? Would the tentative friendship manifest into something else, now that they weren’t under direct threat of death? In some ways, they reminded me of the same characters as before – unsure and insecure. In other ways, they surprised me and showed a remarkable amount of growth – especially for teen/young adult characters. It’s hard to know who you are, as a person, when you are so young. It’s hard to stick to your convictions when your back is against the wall. 

I feel the main theme of the book is both Nita and Kovit trying to determine what makes them human – or what makes them a monster. As well as coming to terms with and feeling comfortable with their own morals and that of each other’s. They each have moral lines they won’t cross and Nita, especially, is constantly redrawing these lines until she accepts that she might even be more of a monster than Kovit, who has literally only been used and branded as a monster his whole life. Both of these characters are QUITE LITERALLY the definition of morally gray and, if you’re a fan of such characters, you’ll eat this book up. 

Further, Schaeffer’s descriptions, the amount of emotion she can invoke in a character by just describing their actions and not their dialogue, is astounding. Many of the characters in the book leave you questioning if you can trust them. Schaeffer uses this to her advantage and constantly leaves the reader questioning what will happen next – if this character is a friend or foe. The amount of mental gymnastics that went into even the minor characters is astounding and speaks volumes about her ability as a storyteller. 

Overall, this book was vastly improved from her debut and, now that I know Nita and Kovit a little better, I’m eager to see where their journey takes them. I’ll definitely be on the lookout for book three! If you’re a fan of mysteries, monsters, morally gray characters, dark stories or just want something different than the usual YA, this is definitely for you.
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Trigger warnings: blood, murder, torture, emotional abuse, a kiss between a 17 year old and a 20 year old, loss of a loved one

***I was granted an ARC of this by the publisher for the blog tour, put together by FFBC. All opinions are uninfluenced.***

NOTE: THIS REVIEW WILL CONTAIN MINOR SPOILERS FOR THE FIRST BOOK
Is it the middle of the night? Yes. Am I sick as a dog? Definitely. Did I stay up until this ungodly hour struggling through coughing fits because this book was just that addictive? You bet your sweet ass I did.

Only Ashes Remain picks up literally right where Not Even Bones ends (like, literally with the final line of the first book being the opening line of the second book). Nita has escaped el Mercado de la Muerte (Death Market) and is safe in the custody of INHUP, the international organization that regulates, hunts and even protects unnaturals. But who else is in the INHUP’s protection? Fabricio, who sold Nita to el Mercado in the first place. Plus, everyone is on the hunt for Nita and her special healing abilities. With nowhere else to go, Nita will have to team back up with the torture-loving Kovit to take down Fabricio and everyone who wants her dead. If you can’t beat ’em, be better than ’em.

This series is absolutely incredible, guys. I won’t lie, the plot is a bit slow and not as fast paced or intense as the first book, which took place in el Mercado, but the character arcs are what keep you reading here.

Nita and Kovit are both such hecking interesting characters. Nita did what she had to do in el Mercado to survive but now that she’s out and seeking revenge, how far is too far? Even Fabricio, Nita’s mother, and the mob family Kovit used to work for are filled with contradictions and moral complications. Schaeffer does an impeccable job of making you fall in love with monsters and people who do monstrous things, and I cannot commend her enough for tackling such serious topics with such a delicate and nuanced hand.

Like I mentioned, the plot of this one is slower and less tense than the first book. We’re out of el Mercado and on the run (in Canada of all places lol), and ngl, a lot of hanging out and musing over what Nita has done to get to this point and the moral ramifications of that will be in your future if you pick up this book. And I usually hate slow-moving books. If shit isn’t happening, why are we here, ya know? BUT, let’s be real, we all got hooked on this series for the characters anyway, right? The world Schaeffer has built is incredible and the plot of the first book was killer, but we all remember the characters most of all. Our destructive, evil bbs are what stay with us and keep us coming back for more.

If you enjoyed Not Even Bones, you are going to fucking LOVE Only Ashes Remain. And if you read this whole review without having read Not Even Bones, sorry for the spoilers but you should still go read the series because it’s absolutely incredible. Definitely an all-time favorite and I cannot WAIT for the final book!!
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