TBR Pile Review: Ashes of the Sun, by Django Wexler

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Paperback, 592 pages
Published July 21st 2020 by Orbit
ISBN:0316519545 (ISBN13: 9780316519540)
Series: Burningblade & Silvereye #1
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Hardcover, Goldsboro exclusive signed and numbered edition with sprayed edges, 550 pages
Published 2020 by Head of Zeus

Blurb

Long ago, a magical war destroyed an empire, and a new one was built in its ashes. But still the old grudges simmer, and two siblings will fight on opposite sides to save their world, in the start of Django Wexler’s new epic fantasy trilogy

Gyre hasn’t seen his beloved sister since their parents sold her to the mysterious Twilight Order. Now, twelve years after her disappearance, Gyre’s sole focus is revenge, and he’s willing to risk anything and anyone to claim enough power to destroy the Order.

Chasing rumours of a fabled city protecting a powerful artefact, Gyre comes face-to-face with his lost sister. But she isn’t who she once was. Trained to be a warrior, Maya wields magic for the Twilight Order’s cause. Standing on opposite sides of a looming civil war, the two siblings will learn that not even the ties of blood will keep them from splitting the world in two.

My Review

Warning, there will be spoilers.

I have both my very pretty hardback special edition, and the paperback edition. The hardbacks are gorgeous and I do tend to collect 1st edition hardbacks, signed if possible, but for everyday reading. paperbacks are easier. Yes, I break the spines, that’s why I have multiple copies of books. I got a really solid god and black bookmark with my Goldsboro Books edition, so I haven’t dogeared the pages in this one.

The Rosie Synopsis

The blurb isn’t accurate. Gyre’s sister Maya was taken by the Twilight Order when she was five; in the process Gyre lost his eye. A year later their mother died of grief and their father stopped caring for Gyre. In the years that have passed Gyre has left home, joined the rebels in Deepfire and has been hunting for a way to bring down the Order and the Dawn Republic, whom he blames for destroying his family.

Gyre falls in with a mysterious thief named Kit, who is working for people with very deep pockets and a desperate need for a specific artefact hidden in the vaults of Deepfire’s dux. The mission to retrieve the item turns disastrous after the rest of the rebels are betrayed, so Gyre and Kit seek out the clients in order to ask for a second chance.

Maya has been raised by the Centarch Jaedia for twelve years, barely remembering her birth family. She is a good little agathia – a student training to become a Centarch, a skilled used of a type of magic called daiat, power drawn from the sun.

When Maya and another agathia, Tanax, a scout called Vos and Arcanist Beq (a sort of an engineer of magical artefacts) are sent to Deepfire on a mission for the Council of the Order, to collect a very powerful artefact, things go badly wrong. It doesn’t help that Tanax is the protégé of the Dogmatist factions’ leader, and that he believes Maya has been sent to foil the mission.

Maya and Beq realise there is something very bad happening in the city and that the dux, Raskos is corrupt, but how corrupt shocks them. And the corruption goes all the way the the Council. In an expedition into the city, the pair meet the rebels, accidentally, and then are drawn into Raskos’ plans. In anger, Maya exposes the duxes corruption, meets her brother in battle and then gets arrested for treason.

Then things become complicated. As the siblings realise that they are on opposite sides and the people calling the shots are not what they seem, their individual paths meet at the Leviathan’s Womb, where horrific monsters guard a construct that could destroy everyone.

The Good

The worldbuilding, the characters, the plot. It was all good.

It’s a big book so I read it in stages, usually a couple of hundred pages at a time, with a week or so’s break in between. It was a really easy book to read, and to get lost in. But I got a bit overwhelmed if I spent too long there so I had to put it down and rest. The world is very vivid, from the dank tunnels of Deepfire to the glory of the Forge (the baths sounded amazing!), to the cold of the Splintered Mountains, it was glorious.

The main characters are Gyre and Kit, and Maya and Beq, who are also romantically inclined towards each other. The relationships progress differently, as Kit is very forthright, and Maya and Beq are incredibly inexperienced. Those two are adorable. The romance isn’t a driving factor in the plot, but an incidental part of the character’s development and individual stories. The real drivers are family love and revenge. Gyre wants revenge for the destruction of his family, Maya wants to defend her mentor/pseudo-mother Jaedia from accusations of treason, they both don’t kill each other twice because they love each other.

The story is told from Maya and Gyre’s perspectives, in alternating chapters, denoted by a mask or a burning sword. That was really helpful as the change of perspective could have been confusing. I enjoyed seeing events from both sides, through their different beliefs and perspectives.

The plaguespawn, dhakim and ghouls are really quite awful creatures, but for a part of the novel you get their perspectives as they travel with the main characters. The war between the ghouls and the Chosen was much more complicated than humanity is allowed to know or believe, and the Order are complicit in keeping people ignorant. They also control what pieces of ancient technology left over from the war that ordinary people are allowed to use. Their control of the Republic has driven some people into desperate straits but they refuse to take responsibility, while the ghouls and dhakim straight up hate humans and prey on the weak. They’re more honest about their predation, and don’t hide behind words.

The Not-So-Good

Who were the Chosen, why did they have advanced technology while 400 years later people are playing with scraps? And how long do I have to wait for book two?

The Verdict

Excellent fantasy, sprawling world, engaging characters. Highly recommended.

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