Only Ashes Remain

Pub Date:   |   Archive Date: 03 Sep 2019

Member Reviews

After the close of book one I wasn’t sure where this would take us...
Having escaped the Black Market and decided to try and rely on Kovit’s help, Nita is determined to try and avenge what happened to her.
Not quite sure who to trust, Nita ends up having to make some tough decisions. She wants her life back, but with certain people desperate to treat her as a victim, she needs to do something drastic to rectify the situation. 
This book has Nita hiding out in Canada, trying to establish who she can trust and to what extent. There’s hints of murky business regarding her father and the Zebra who killed him. Her mother reappears, but the substantial part of the story focuses on both Nita and Kovit trying to reconcile their personal interests with their belief they could be friends.
I wasn’t wholly surprised by the revelation about Fabricio. However, there was definitely unexpected tension brought into the story towards the end. I liked the fact that Nita could be challenged in this story and I am very very keen to learn how this will all slot into place in part three.
Huge thanks to NetGalley for letting me read this prior to publication in exchange for my thoughts.
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Oh my, this was such a fantastic read!! It's dark and bloody and doesn't really pull any punches at all . . . and that's the BEST thing about it. I cannot believe I would find such a well-crafted plot about monsters along with some of the best portrayals of the struggles real people face. This truly feels like a masterpiece series, and this sequel was not a disappointment. No slumps here! I also loved all the character interactions along with the gradual development of feelings between Nita and Kovit, which also opened up great dialogues into morals and psychological patterns. So overall, I am still reeling from the power of this book and I cannot wait for the finale of this ridiculously amazing series.
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A perfect continuation of Not Even Bones. What does it take to become a monster? What happens when you become the monster you thought you were fighting? Nita has escaped Death Market, but her face is out there and she is being hunted. She not only has to find a way to escape being caught again, she has to find out who is hunting her and why. What has her mother done that has brought her family into peril? Can she stop it?
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If you’ve been following the blog (or my bookstagram) for any length of time, you already know of my deep love for Rebecca Schaeffer’s debut Not Even Bones.  It’s the dark, twisted, gory, relevant urban fantasy that my black little heart had been craving.  I devoured it in two days—an impressive feat for me—and I immediately wanted more.  My wait was cut in half when I got my greedy little hands on an arc of Only Ashes Remain, the second in the Market of Monsters trilogy, at the end of May…and devoured it in just a few days.  Any trepidation I had about the sequel was proven to be fully unfounded.  With Ashes, Schaeffer has done the near impossible by creating a sequel that honors the original while building on it and allowing both the characters and the story to grow.  Oh, and it’s just as twisted, bloody, and unapologetically dark as the first.

Let’s get down to some specifics.  First up, our anti-hero and morally screwed up MC, Nita.  I very much enjoyed getting to dive deeper into Nita’s psyche and to see how she acts in a new and larger environment than the Black Market where we spent nearly all of our time in book one.  Where Nita’s sole focus in Not Even Bones was escape and survival, in Ashes we see Nita shift to that deliciously gray area of vengeance.  Getting to explore Nita’s single-minded focus and the slippery slope of her justifications was just delightful and, in my humble opinion, very real and relatable.  In fact, Nita remains one of the most relatable female characters in YA, which is something of a feat itself considering she’s a dissection happy “unnatural” bent on revenge.  She’s strong, but she has moments of intense fear and weakness, and she makes catastrophic mistakes that she often doesn’t learn from as much as she should.  She takes charge of her life and owns her mistakes, and I just love her for it.  

Speaking of love, lets talk a little bit about my creepy book boyfriend, Kovitz.  Schaeffer takes a deep dive into Kovitz’s past and builds him up so much more as a fully fleshed out character.  He is still super creepy and unsettling to be sure, but he’s also sympathetic.  I love how he fully owns his decisions and refuses to let his hideous childhood make them for him.  His actions are his and his alone for good and for bad.  It’s impressive to have a character as viscerally unsettling as Kovitz be so sympathetic and scary all at the same time.  Oh, and I fully ship Nita and Kovitz, and I refuse to apologize for it.

The world building is even better in Ashes than it was in Bones, partly due to the fact that we get to explore a larger swath of society.  Schaeffer expertly layers in details about the political situations impacting our characters, as well as adding to and expanding the lore surrounding the various types of unnaturals.  The unicorns, for instance, are especially stomach churning, and I don’t think I can ever look at them the same way again.  I think I could read an entire book of nothing but the various myths and realities surrounding all of the different unnaturals, and every time another of them was explored it was a wonderful treat.  The new characters as well as fantastic and add some much needed variety to the story.  Adair and Diana are just as layered, dark, and unsettling as everyone else in this story, and I sincerely hope we get more of them in book three.  

Finally, Schaeffer continues to weave her story around relevant social justice issues with a finesse and dagger sharp prose.  I especially enjoyed every mention of the incredible gun violence and police brutality that are some of the hallmarks of United States culture.  What is a monster, what makes a monster, what defines us, and what do our choices say about us are theme constant from Bones into Ashes, and I hope they continue into book three.  Not many authors, especially YA fantasy authors are brave enough to dive into those types of problems, and Schaeffer looks them dead in the eye, making the story not only relevant, but stark, and a different type of unsettling.

I think it goes without saying at this point, but I adore this book.  The pacing, plot, character development, and character arcs all shine without ever outdoing each other.  It’s compelling, dark, morally messy, and unapologetically bloody and violent.  Nothing is easy or simple in Schaeffer’s world, and actions always consequences…often bloody ones.  I am already anxious to get my hands on book three, and it is going to be a long, infuriating wait to find out what happens after that cliffhanger.
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“Saving you was the one good thing I did in my life, and I’ve paid for that kindness in blood and screams. I learned my lesson well. I won’t make the same mistake again.”

You know how sometimes when you read the sequel to a book it’s just not as good as the first? This is the opposite of that. I was blown away by how much I loved this book. I throughly enjoyed all of the machinations and cunning characters and backstabbing in this book, even more than in the first book. And I didn’t think that was possible.

Surprisingly, I remembered most of the important info from Not Even Bones. What I didn’t remember Schaeffer was able to put into Only Ashes Remain in a smooth way with no info dumps. I also really appreciate the creature explanations she adds into the story. It’s a nice bit of world building and it puts a distinction between the legends of our world and Nita’s. Like the unicorns (Or maybe I’m just reading about the wrong legends 😂). 

Nita is such a complex and interesting character. We continue to see the parts of her that want to be good- like when she’s relieved about Fabricio- parts that don’t want to become the monster she believes her mom is. That being said, you can see where more and more parts of her mother are starting to come through as she becomes more determined to survive in her world. For example: “ “I will deal with the bodies.” Her voice was firm. “You will go and find Henry’s computer and get rid of all trace of those incriminating videos he was emailing you.”” This makes me like her much more as a character than if she had been a straight up villain.

I really liked Nita’s character growth regarding Kovit. It was lovely to see Nita start to accept Kovit as he is. I’m desperately hoping they’re gonna be the dark power couple I’ve been looking for in books.

I honestly don’t know how I’m going to wait for the last book.
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I received this book from the publisher via Net Galley in exchange for an honest review.

Omg love love love. Nita and Kovit feeling around their respective needs and desires but also how they feel about each other and the others desires is just SO MUCH LOVE. It’s so very dark and just so brilliant. And Nita’s continuing desire for vengeance and not thinking things through is so good as everyone keeps challenging her and she is trying so hard not to learn lol. I don’t know why but I love her so much.

And I love that we get more insight on what the different “monsters” are like and that they don’t all fit the stereotypes. It’s so brilliantly done.

Just read this series. Now.

My review will go live on my blog on 1st Sept
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I enjoyed this one but I didn’t enjoy it as much as the first one. Will still recommend and continue in series. 3.75/5 stars.
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The second installment of the Market of Monsters trilogy is finally here, and it was so worth the wait. This is another fast-paced, blood-drenched installment that lives up to the promise of the first book in all categories. The characters continue their development in new and interesting directions, the action remains consistent and fairly constant, and the larger themes of monstrousness deepen in unexpected ways.

I loved Nita and her cold, analytical mind before, and another book spending time with her makes me love her even more. She's just as calculating as ever, and now she has to turn her keen mind to survival once again. Even though she destroyed the Mercado de la Muerte (aka the Market of Death or the Market of Monsters) that was keeping her and other unnaturals captive to sell off to black market bidders, she’s only in marginally less danger. Her picture has circulated online, making her a highly desirable target for anyone who wants to make a lot of money.

She desperately needs allies, and it isn’t long before she calls on her former ally from the market, Kovit. Unlike Nita, Kovit might not be a target for every get-rich-quick schemer with a gun and no conscience, but he’s still on the run from his own demons, his former employers known only as the Family. He was their pet torturer, and they want him back. Kovit doesn’t really want to go back, but he also isn’t sure what else to do. After all, he’s a zannie, an unnatural who subsists on human pain.

Kovit and Nita know how to survive and hide their abilities, but they don’t want to just survive. They want to have normal lives. Nita thinks that with a high enough body count, people will eventually be afraid enough to leave them alone, but Kovit isn’t so sure. Do people who worked for criminals ever really get free of that world? And do people with high body counts ever deserve to be happy?

Schaeffer has some really insightful things to say about what, exactly, makes a monster of the moral variety, and how that does or does not intersect with being (or not being) an unnatural. Now that Nita and Kovit are outside the Market of Monsters, they have a chance to interact with people who aren’t complicit in kidnapping, murder, and cannibalism (you know, little stuff like that), and their moral choices get a lot more complicated. What about hurting innocent bystanders, or people they actually know? What happens when they’re forced to reckon with each other, one a torturer and the other now a vigilante? They each have lines they won’t cross, but those lines don’t run parallel. At some point, they’re bound to cross and get them entangled.

She’s also clearly thought long and hard about how so-called monsters can cope psychologically. It’s not the simple hand-wringing and boo-hooing about “oh what a monster am I” that’s all too common in YA. It’s about finding ways to be okay or even proud of your survival even when the life you have doesn’t resemble the life you want. Nita and Kovit have genuinely done terrible things, some in the name of self-defense, but others with less clear-cut justifications. At what point is justification just an excuse? At what point does a person have to take responsibility?

But if we’re talking responsibility, who else bears responsibility for making people do bad things? Bad parents, corrupt governments, and public condemnation all play a part. It’s the classic nature vs. nurture debate, but amped up with a body count. None of this has a simple answer, and brava to Schaeffer for making sure that while Nita and Kovit come to their own individual conclusions, there isn’t any overall conclusion being forced on the reader. Life is dangerous and messy. Friends are hard to find and sometimes hard to keep. If there’s a moral to that, it isn’t good or evil, it’s just “keep trying.”

As much as this is about the black market and international law enforcement and racism and species-ism, it’s really just about the relationship between Nita and Kovit.

No, don’t roll your eyes. It’s not about a romantic relationship, although there are moments of quiet and intense chemistry between the two. Mostly, it’s just about friendship, and how two very damaged and confused people can still manage to have a healthy relationship based on trust and mutual support.

It might have been nice if Schaeffer acknowledged some of the humor of having people negotiating their boundaries in a very healthy way while waiting outside a torture chamber and after a murder spree. It’s not that the narrative ever descended into absurdity—actually, it was all quite sweet—but sometimes narratives just need a little humor to break up all the seriousness and tension.

That was part of why Adair worked so well. For someone who ate his victims after leaving them to rot and bloat in standing water, he was surprisingly lighthearted and humorous. He also worked well as an authority figure who could provide not just information but wisdom, in the form of reality checks and big picture considerations. His speech about always asking “who benefits?” was particularly striking.

He inspires Nita to start thinking of information as power, rather than as a means to other ends. For someone whose fondest dream is to one day attend college and do medical research, Nita is quick to lose sight of the big questions, and sometimes fails to think through every aspect of her plans. I thought this was quite realistic for someone with as many distracting challenges as Nita had—her dad was just murdered, the dark web knew her identity and abilities, and the INHUP was getting suspicious of her backstory—but still a little frustrating. But though she wasn’t terribly effective, Nita was always trying to act rather than react, and I can forgive a lot of mistakes when a character never gives up.

The ending had a few too many unanswered questions, but since the emotional arcs wrapped up so nicely I can’t be too upset. I also can’t be mad at Schaeffer for doing what literally every other YA trilogy seems to do, which is to have a mostly self-contained first book (in case the rest of the series doesn’t get picked up), and then treat the middle book like The Two Towers and end on a cliffhanger. (See also: The Girl of Fire and Thorns trilogy, The Nevernight trilogy, The Deed of Paksenarrion, etc. etc.) It does make me exceptionally eager for the third installment (and maybe more after that?). How can Scaheffer top herself? I can't even imagine, and I can't wait to find out.
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This book was way darker then I thought it was going to be.  And I have to say that I adored it page after page.  The characters shinned though-out the story and I could not put it down.  There is no book two syndrome in this one!! So if you are worried that this one will leave a bad taste in your mouth it won't!  This is a must read and I wished it was longer.
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I didn't enjoy this one as much as the first. Not enough action, not enough character growth.

I'm all for a villain or anti-hero who will stop at almost nothing to get what they want, but even Dexter (a comparison often made about Nita) had a code and though you may not have agreed with his methods, you could see why he did what he did. So, I expected more from Nita. She's not the hero and normally I love that, but many of her actions in this book felt unnecessary and unwarranted- not to mention her inability to learn from her mistakes.
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Okay, whoa! I can remember that terrible cliffhanger at the end of book one. It was all kinds of wrong and made the waiting for book two so cruel. 

This is even more intense and messier than the first. Disturbing? Yep. And I still love it!

The strength in this book is the location...which was one of book one's weaknesses. The black market got to be too boring and tedious. I knew why it was set there, but now that she's free, the story opens up and is far more engaging! This is essentially a thrilling cat and mouse chase/game. 

With plenty of representation and diversity, this series is perfect for those bored of typical YA offerings. I cannot wait for book three!
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A first purchase for all YA/HS collections (along with the first title if necessary). Shaeffer is an incomparable talent and has delivered something truly unique with this delightfully macabre series.
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I was super ecstatic to get a review copy of Only Ashes Remain. 
I devoured Not Even Bones in just a couple of sittings and was left hanging at the end. It was such a darkly compelling novel that I immediately went in search of the sequel. Only Ashes Remain did not disappoint. 
Only Ashes Remain is just as compelling and stark as it's predecessor. Beyond the story, these books are amazing because there's no such thing as all good or all bad. Every character has layers and makes bad choices and good choices and is flawed in some way- including Nina and Korvit and their nemesis Fabricio. Each character justifies their choices in their own way showing that there is more than one view and sometimes those choices are terrible. And are not easy or comfortable or remotely nice.
I loved that Nina is not a NICE person. She's imperfect and justifies her actions to fit her perspective and tries to fit the world around her, but tries not to cross that line in the sand (thanks Korvit) to become a full monster.
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I'm definitely in the minority (at least, thus far), when I say that I didn't like this one as much as the first. The "romance" seemed pretty cringy and forced to me and nothing really happened throughout the entire book, to the point that a series didn't feel warranted.

I may read the third if this is going to only have three books, but I don't feel like getting invested in a longer series. blah.
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A dark sequel filled with layers of story from the first novel. It's twisted and the plot will having you turning page after page. A very intriguing following up to Not Even Bones.
Thank you to NetGalley and the publisher for E-arc copy of this novel
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Thank you to NetGalley for my eBook ARC in exchange for an honest review. Thank you to the author for bringing us Kovit, he is too precious for this and any world.

In this sequel to Not Even Bones, we catch back up with Nita, now in INHUP custody after the fire destroyed the black market hub. She is there with the boy who sold her to the black market in the first place; a young man named Fabricio. She first met Fabricio in a cage that her unnatural hunting, black market merchant mother stored him in.  Plotting revenge on Fabricio, Nita looks for a way to take his life without revealing her intentions to the INHUP agents.

She is transferred to Toronto, Canada and begins to try to establish a reputation for herself as one not to be triffled with. At the end if Not Even Bones, the video of her power of self healing is still on the darkweb, making her a target of assassination attempts by other black market dealers.  She reunites with the Zannie we know and love, Kovit.  Together they try to build a safer life for themselves away from the darkweb while still trying to extract some vengence on those who have wronged them in the past.

Introducing a delightful now monster cast, Only Ashes Remain continue building a rich and diverse world that is dark and violent while perpetuating characters you already know and love. It brings deep questions to the forefronts of our minds, masterfully woven into a story that moves at a perfect pace. Are unnaturals always monsters? Or are the monsters lurking just beneath our own skin?
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I really enjoyed Not Even Bones so I was super excited when HMH Teen approved me on NetGalley for Only Ashes Remain. After the end of Not Even Bones I was eager to see where Nita's story was going next. She destroyed the black market. She's "safe." But she is now in protective custody with Fabricio, the boy who sold her to the black market. Let the revenge begin.

Only Ashes Remain took a dark twist real early on in the book. The whole book was dark actually. The destroying black market and the things Nita had to do to save herself and Kovit toughened her. We see the darkness inside Nita come to the surface and how she battles and embraces it. Where in the first book she simply dissected the bodies her mother left for her, in Only Ashes Remain, Nita does her fair share of killing. 

I think the moral dilemma between Kovit and Nita was interesting to watch. Kovit is a Zannie, which means he feeds off of pain and if he doesn't he will weaken or die. Kovit use to be part of a Mob Family and was forced to do terrible things, not all of which he enjoyed. But Kovit has one rule: He won't cause pain to people he knows. Though Kovit doesn't seem to have a moral compass because of what he is, he does. The struggle between Nita's and Kovit's relationship is how Nita can kill who ever she wants, whenever but it bothered her when Kovit would torture to feed. It's messy and I am probably not describing it well, but I really enjoyed how Shaeffer included it all. 

Overall, I can't say too much about Only Ashes Remain with out spoiling it but I hope to see these characters again soon. There are a lot of unanswered questions and things that I am still eager to see resolved.
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I absolutely loved this book. I admit when reading the synopsis, I didn’t see the part about it being a sequel. So, I read this one without having read Not Even Bones, the first book. There were references to things that happened in the first book and there were enough of them that I didn’t feel lost. I thought this book was so unique and like nothing I’ve read before. I will say if you’re squeamish, you may not be a fan. There is quite a bit of violence and gore. I loved the relationship between Nita and Kovit and how it developed through the book. I love how the main characters in the book are morally grey at best. I think that is so fun to read. I’ve always been a fan of villains and morally grey characters. The book kept me very interested the whole time with Nita and Kovit working together to handle the people from the black market who were after her. I didn’t feel like there were any lulls or slow parts in the book. I would highly recommend this book and I give it 4 stars.
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This book was received as an ARC from Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Children's Book Group - HMH Books for Young Readers in exchange for an honest review. Opinions and thoughts expressed in this review are completely my own.

What if Suzanne Collins and Victoria Schwab and combined books and they had a book baby? That baby would be Only Ashes Remain. Every page was an new discovery and immediate change to the plot that nobody will see coming. Escaping kidnappers and constantly having to fight for survival is always tough and Nita will do whatever it takes to make it go away, even when it comes to sacrificing the people that she loves and everything she has been taught or knows.  Nita's plan was not to escape but become the most dangerous woman and that approach was so out of left field that it made the book more enjoyable to borderline addicting. Fans of Hunger Games and Darkest Minds will definitely love this book.

We will consider adding this title to our YFiction collection at our library. That is why we give this book 5 stars.
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3 stars.

I'm definitely in the minority (at least, thus far), when I say that I didn't like this one as much as the first. The "romance" seemed pretty cringy and forced to me and nothing really happened throughout the entire book, to the point that a series didn't feel warranted.

I may read the third if this is going to only have three books, but I don't feel like getting invested in a longer series. blah.
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