Cover Image: Age of Ash

Age of Ash

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Member Reviews

Thanks to Orbit and Netgalley for providing an e-copy of this book in exchange for a fair and honest review.  I am very conflicted giving this review, because, despite me loving the genre and Abraham, both in his work on the Expanse and in Dagger and Coin, this book really was not for me, and I can't figure out why.  It has a plot that normally sucks me in, a tale of a street urchin, a motive for vengeance that feels Scott Lynchian or like Robert Jackson Bennett-so fans of those authors should definitely check this one out.  But I kept personally losing the thread of things - and while the atmosphere was engaging, I did not get sucked in like the best books will often do to me.  This probably means I missed the point-and so I am not going to rate this book poorly as there will be plenty of people out there who will like it.
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In the city of Kithmir, Alyse has lost her brother gotten herself entagled in a political and magical morass. Think Game of Thrones if it were extremely invested in the morality of characters and completely uninterested in keeping the reader engaged. The political subplot is rendered pointless by the introduction, which takes place after the book concludes and spoils the fate of the prince of the city, the driver of that subplot. Repeated philosophical motifs are meant to sound deep but can be annoyingly pointless, as is the entire book.Likely to be part of a series, Age of Ash doesn't stand on its own and left me completely uninterested in anything in Kithmir.
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Last month I finished The Expanse, a series I’d read over the past couple of years, growing enamored of the universe and the wild adventure that James S. A. Corey had continually evolved with each subsequent installment. In my post-read hangover, I was looking to see what novels Corey had in the works, and I was rather chagrined to discover Corey was a pen name for the authors Daniel Abraham and Ty Franck. Furthermore, unbeknownst at the time, Abraham’s upcoming solo title, Age of Ash, had ended up on my most anticipated reads of 2022. Intrigued with my newfound insights as to the author’s previous works, I had even high anticipations for this new series, far removed from the space opera I’ve been used to. 

Age of Ash takes place in the city of Kithamar and follows several characters from royalty to the street urchins. The main focus falls on the thieves, Alys and Sammish, who quickly find themselves over their heads when a heist goes awry. This blunder sets off a sequence of events that leads to a personal tragedy for Alys and leaves all of Longhill reeling. In the wealthy district of Green Hill, another death opens a void for the ambitious to jockey for position. With turmoil roiling throughout Kithamar, Sammish and Alys paths diverge, though they both discover magic, intrigues, and schemes, with the line between good and evil becoming blurred through the haze of revenge and perspective.

Transitioning into Age of Ash was not a seamless process with the prologue occurring after the events of this novel, before chapter one rewound the clock. Additionally, characters were introduced and then not seen again for half of the novel, if at all, making their significance to early events strained. This confusing order of events caused me to reread the first couple of chapters again immediately after finishing the book, something I can’t recall ever doing before, with valuable insights standing out that had previously been easy to overlook. I felt like this formatting made Age of Ash harder than it should have been to acclimate into this fascinating world.

Initially, Alys is our main focus, as she struggles to determine who she wants to be, while shouldering crippling grief. She slowly loses sight of herself, one decision at a time, until the Alys we first met is unrecognizable. The reader isn’t the only one to notice Alys’ transition as her friend, Sammish, grows increasingly concerned with the widening gulf. Sammish, who exhibits the unique power to disappear in plain sight, experiences her own character growth from the painfully timid to quietly bold and confident. We are granted perspectives from quite a few other characters in varying degrees, however the most fascinating point of view was from Kithamar itself. I’m going to purposely keep my descriptions of this character vague to avoid any spoilers but it involves a twist that I was not anticipating. Kithamar has so many inherent implications and built in depth that has yet to be fully mined. Other perspectives pop up once, before never showing up again or getting tied back into the story, leaving a disconcerting feeling of loose ends that are yet to be resolved. Perhaps later installments of this series will bring these wayward characters back into the fold but their absence was unresolved.

The characters themselves were distinct, though their insecurities were often rehashed on a repeating loop. Their plights kept the reader on the edge of their seats, but I found I wasn’t necessarily invested in any of their fates, even Alys or Sammish. 

The pacing of Age of Ash is deliberate and methodical throughout, sputtering to life with every planned heist, before falling back into the established pattern. As a whole, I enjoyed the world and story, but this wasn’t a book that kept me glued or squeezing in one extra chapter before bedtime. It felt like I was more just passing the time with an entertaining journey. Again, not a bad description by any means, I just wasn’t hooked or emotionally invested in the outcome.

The ending itself seemed simultaneously open and closed where Age of Ash could feel like a stand alone, but with so many open questions left unanswered after the last dramatic and chaotic heist. 

Overall, Abraham has built a solid foundation in Age of Ash that will act as a springboard for the rest of the series with seemingly limitless potential as to where he could take this fascinating literary world.
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I enjoyed the story, but it was a bit confusing at times as some of the names were similar.  Decent world-building and characters were developed to a good level.
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I received an ARC of this book via NetGalley.

Plot: 3.5 stars
Characters: 3.5 stars
Writing: 3.5 stars

I may read the next in this series, depending on my mood!
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4ish stars.

Much different from Abraham's collaborative Expanse series, but not in a bad way. He slides comfortably into the fantasy genre, with good character work and impressive worldbuilding.
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I'm very aware that in checking "yes, author, please visit my store" that Daniel Abraham won't be visiting my small island bookstore. I'm going to continue to live in hope, however, because I have MANY questions to ask him about this. The scale of this book, and the idea of the trilogy as a whole, is so interesting to me. Kithamar is such an alive place - or not, depending on your point of view - and the people that live there are fascinating. The thread of political machinations is my particular favourite, and I'm so excited to see how it will play out from different perspectives in the next installments.
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Daniel Abraham's Age of Ash is a fantasy epic that fails to feel fantastic or epic.
I had high hopes for this book based on the sales copy, but as soon as I started it, I realized it probably wasn't the right book for me. There's a tremendous amount of worldbuilding and 'narrator' point of view, with a lot of it focused on the city and the king.
I was hoping that once I got past the prologue, things would pick up, but they didn't - I got yet another 'thief/pickpocket with an unreliable gang' character (which seems to be a staple of epic fantasy now) who, unfortunately, is also incompetent. And then more information about the city. And then more back story. On and on like that.
The writing is solid, and there's some interesting stuff to the characters (Alys's fascination with people after they get robbed), but it never rose above middling storytelling.
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Age of Ash sets out early on to expose its reader to the darker sides of grief and how life shattering it could be. This made it hard for me to read in large doses early on but was so expertly done I am comfortable giving this a 5 star rating. It also does a great job exploring the complex nature of human relationships at the levels of family, friends and the society one lives in.

The reader is introduced into the world of Kithmar and its mysteries through the various characters in the book. At the end of the tale we get a sort of satisfactory ending that is neither rose or stepped in harshness which was a fair compromise given the subject of the book.

There are still nations and mysteries to be explored and I look forward to seeing what the author does with all that in the rest of the series.
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Age of Ash is a fantastic first book in what will surely turn out to be a wonderful series. The world building and characters are written well, The story feels very dark and a bit of a downer and the pacing is slow in parts, but by the end of the book I found that I enjoyed it a lot. I look forward to the next book in the series.
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This story follows a few different characters in the city of Kithamar we follow Alys a young thief  who lost her brother early in this book who takes up the work he was doing before he died. While taking up this work Alys ends up in over her head with rituals and murder. Alys throughout this book is trying to figure out who murdered her brother and what the people she is working for are up to. 
I wanted to like this book but I had a very hard time getting into it. This book is very slow paced and character driven. There is a basic straight forward simple plot but the amount of description of the town and the characters made this book hard for me to read. This story is mostly set in the slums of Kithamar and it’s pretty bleak and sad. I will say that I did enjoy the character development but felt that the pacing was just off on this one. I also really liked where the plot is going in this series so I do plan to pick up the next book. I would like to thank Netgalley and the publishers for a chance to read this book for an honest review.
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Thank you to NetGalley for allowing me to review this book. I enjoyed it overall. It could be somewhat slow-paced in my opinion with the settings, but that could be a personal thing. Overall, this was a good book that I would recommend. I look forward to any sequels! 3.8 stars!
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Quite an interesting overlay to begin a trilogy. The author gets quite a bit of praise for his character development and story line build ups, which arm appropriate!
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New trilogy from one half of the James S.A. Corey duo? Definitely interested. Disclaimer: I don’t think I read beyond Leviathan Wakes in The Expanse series, but maybe I’ll go back one day. For now, though, let’s talk about Age of Ash. Abraham sets us up to expect heists, recrimination, and plenty of intrigue. I would say that this book mostly delivers, though I could see how there is room for disappointment depending on the type of expectations one goes in with.

Thanks to NetGalley and Orbit for the eARC!

Kithamar is a city on the river. It was a meeting place, though now the two major ethnicities live mostly peaceably side by side. Ruled by a prince (the term is gender neutral in Kithamar), the city has its share of the poor and disadvantaged. Alys and Sammish both fall into this category. They grew up in Longhill, the poorest district. After Alys’s brother Darro dies mysteriously, Alys vows to discover who killed him and why. This leads her down a dangerous path, putting her in the employ of a man and a woman from Green Hill—the richest district—and stretching her morals to their limits. Meanwhile, Sammish’s unrequited love for Alys forces her to confront the dark currents that threaten to sweep up Alys in their wake. And the city of Kithamar does not slumber—it is completely, personally awake.

It took me a while to get into Age of Ash (and a while longer to finish it, but for once that was entirely scheduling and nothing to do with the book!). The plot is a rather slow burn, and Abraham’s writing style is heavy on description. As a result, I was well over a fifth of the way into the book before I started seeing the bigger picture—but what a picture it is.

The main plot might be the least interesting part, and it is still very good. I won’t go into much detail so as to avoid spoilers. Suffice it to say, there is a dark secret at the heart of the city and its leadership. But the people who maintain this secret have enemies who want to see them fall. Abraham implies that these people aren’t very good, but it’s also unclear if their fall would really be all that better than the system that currently exists.

To be honest, though, I cared way more about what was happening to Alys and Sammish. The book starts off with Alys as the viewpoint protagonist. But she becomes an increasingly unsympathetic character, and Sammish more sympathetic, as the story goes on. This is a brilliant piece of storytelling on Abraham’s part. Alys’s obsession with holding on to the memory of her brother at first threatens to mould her into her brother—yet as Sammish points out later in the book, Alys actually goes much further. The changes are subtle and gradual enough that we can see Alys leaving behind her Longhill roots. We can also see her relationship with Sammish faltering.

Never even friends, more colleagues, Alys and Sammish’s relationship is strained for most of this book. Again, I find myself praising Abraham’s decisions here. What could have been a very simple unrequited love story turns into something more nuanced. As Alys grows distant and more cutthroat, Sammish at first tries to convince herself that she doesn’t care. In reality, she cares quite a bit. And so their relationship goes through ups and downs as each learns more about the secret of Kithamar in their own time and own ways. I like that these two are at odds more than they are aligned, and that the book gradually pivots from being wholly Alys’s story to including Sammish too—I think a good argument might be made that Sammish is more the protagonist than Alys even.

So much epic fantasy focuses on the princes of realms. He is present here, kind of, but the book is actually about the most invisible members of Kithamar society. That, too, is not new to fantasy at all—yet Abraham writes it in a way that feels very refreshing. Having read Age of Ash, I feel satiated, like I just had a full and delicious meal. I’m not exactly hungry for the next book, but I would read it just to see where Abraham goes with this world next.
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I try not to judge books based on other works by the author as every title should be able to stand on its own merit, but I found it hard to separate my love of The Expanse series by James S.A. Corey when I was reading Age Of Ash by one half of that writing duo, Daniel Abraham.
Being the first part of a trilogy set in a wholly new fantasy world is always going to come with a lot of hurdles, but having the Kithmar Trilogy be named after the grand city setting is a good indicator that the location is going to be just as important as the characters.

That leads me to what I didn’t like about this book; the characters. I really struggled to care about any of them. I tried, I wanted to, but despite everything I never found them likeable enough to cheer for or despicable enough to root against, they were just there.
Opening salvos often take their time establishing a cast, I didn’t love Locke or Jean immediately in The Gentleman Bastards and it took me nearly half a book to get a feel for Kvothe in The Kingkiller Chronicles. The difference is that by the end of the first book in those series I was completely invested in their journeys. I know their names, I know who they are, despite not having a new entry in either series in the better part of a decade.
The frustrating thing about this is I know for a fact Abraham is capable of not just writing characters I know but ones I absolutely love and did from their very first chapters. I refuse to believe all of that work was done by the other half of his pseudonym, Ty Frank, I have read enough interviews with the pair to know they are equally as responsible for The Expanse’s cast of characters.

It is telling to me that while I couldn’t recall any character names off the top of my head I knew the name of the city of Kithamar without even thinking about it.
It’s a huge cliche that the location is a character unto itself but in this instance I don’t have the vernacular to describe it any better. Kithamar is a vibrant, living city filled with real people who have interesting lives, even if the particular lives we follow I didn’t personally find interesting.
The political and social structure is rich and I really felt like I had a good sense of how the denizens of this cultural hub felt about each other and how a day to day interaction might play out depending on who was involved, where it occurred and at what time of day.

This deep world building was excellent and something I greatly appreciate in fiction, but disconnected from strong character work it left me feeling hollow. I struggled through Age Of Ash after having it high up on my most anticipated for the year.
Normally a disappointment like this would put me off continuing with the trilogy but Daniel Abraham has garnered enough of a good will cache with me that I will read at least the second book. Hopefully with the heavy lifting out of the way I will enjoy it more and it will make this one better retroactively. If not, I will be able to to write it off as simply not for me.
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Age of Ash is a great start to a new series, with memorable characters and amazing world building. It’s the worldbuilding that really sticks with you long after you’ve moved on from the plot and characters, and has me so excited for a future sequel; The city of Kithamar just feels alive through the narrative strengths employed by Abraham. I can’t wait to see where this story goes from the great ending!
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I have some mixed feelings about Age of Ash, but a lot of what Daniel Abraham does well still ended up shining through and I thought this was a solid first entry to the series in the end!

For in-depth thoughts (spoiler free) see my video review, linked below!
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Age of Ash
I want to thank the publishers and NetGalley for allowing me the opportunity to read this book.
The characters and story were very vivid and well formed. The world was very dark and depressing. I don’t normally read and enjoy such distressing books. I continued only because of the promise to review. 
I might read the next books in the trilogy if the plot is a bit more upbeat.
I’m currently reading The Expanse (4th book) series and find the stories have the hope of happier prospects.
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I honestly didn't know what to expect when I first started Age of Ash. The blurb didn't really explain too much so what I went off was that the author also co wrote The Expanse, that the cover art was kinda cool, and that those two elements combined piqued my interest- and oh boy am I glad that I checked it out. Set in the city if Kithamar we are interoduced to Alys, a young woman living in the poorest parts of the city and making her money through con work and thievery. All in her life is predictable and consistent until the day her older brother's corpse is found in the river that flows through the city. Now wracked with grief and anger, Alys throws herself into the task of finding out how and why her brother was killed, only to find out that what her brother was involved with may have been more dangerous than she could have imagined. Simultaneously, we follow Sammish, a notably unnoticeable young woman who has spent years pining after Alys and throws herself at the opportunity to help her friend (and crush) avenge her brother. But as they both get more and more involved in his past work, Sammish begins to realize just how twisted the path Alys walks down is.
I really enjoyed this book- the characters were engaging and the way they changed and developed over the course of the story felt real to me. Especially Sammish, the way she developed in this book from a shy, love-stricken girl who lives in others shadows to who she finishes the book as had my attention from beginning to end. I loved following her and watching her progress, especially through the lense of her relationship with Alys- who had some very interesting development as well. 
The way we see grief and loss blind her to what her actions mean both frustrated me and broke my heart. While I do wish that her actions had some more direct consequences, I appreciate for the most part where her story went and where we left her at the end of the book. The one issue I really had with her is that we had such little time between her and her brother before he was killed that I was a bit confused at times as to why his death impacted her so much. We were never really shown how close they were aside from one specific moment from the beginning and aside from that it felt like I was never really convinced of the love Alys had for him. I wish that we spent more time with her brother (Darro) and Alys together before his death so that this relationship was better established and Alys' late actions felt like they made more sense.
The plot itself was coated with mystery and the ending left me with so many questions in the best eay possible. There are so many questions that I want answered that there's no question over whether or not I'll be reading the sequel. I'm too investing in figuring out why the knife is so important, what the smoke/shadow monster is, and what the truth behind the city and it's history is to just leave it. I also can't wait to see where Sammish's story leads her and how Alys' actions will further impact the story. 
While I can't say that this book marks the start of a new favorite series, this is still something that captured my interest and left me wanting more. I genuinely can't wait to see where book 2 takes us and the questions that will be answered then.
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Age of Ash
by Daniel Abraham
Published on 02/15/2022
Audiobook Narrator: Soneela Nankani

** I was given this E-Arc copy of Age of Ash by NetGalley and Orbit Books in exchange for an honest review. ** 

Synopsis: Age of Ash is the first in a new trilogy by Daniel Abrahah, a co-author of The Expanse series. This book is written from the POV of several different characters but finally settles upon two primary POVs: Alys and Sammish, who are two friends that live in one of the poorer neighborhoods of Kithimar. The story begins after Alys' brother Darro is murdered and Alys finds a dagger and some gold coins within Darro's secret apartment. Alys and Sammish then work to understand who murdered Darro and why. As they begin to learn the truth, larger truths about the city they live in begin to unravel as well. 

Thoughts: After getting this e-arc, I was incredibly excited to read this one. I had heard so many good things about The Expanse series and I really wanted to try one of their books. I was incredibly disappointed. I appreciated the writing style but that's where my praise ended. The characters were not very interesting and honestly, I found myself apathetic to what they were doing or what would happen to them. I also found the descriptions brought the city to life and created the start of a very atmospheric tale but I do think the author was a bit too detailed. The details drowned out the storyline making the plot slow and for me, ultimately insufferable. At the 50% mark, I realized that I was bored. Although I had traversed over 200 pages into the book, very little had happened and although I recognize this is the first in a series, I still need something that's going to hold my attention and keep me intrigued. This book did not offer that for me. Unfortunately, I did decide to not finish it. Perhaps in the future, if I hear the continuation of the series is worth it, I might pick it back up but for now, I cannot finish it.
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