I am often intrigued by grand-scale stories and settings that are a character in their own right. And the Kithamar of Age of Ash is exactly that. A city, but also a character in an epic story, in which the smaller plots of the book unfold. Having heard great things about Daniel Abraham’s earlier work, I was very excited to pick this one up, but I’m not quite sure whether it met all my expectations. I think I may have to read on and see where the story goes from here to really make up my mind.
Many thanks to Nazia at Orbit for sending me a review copy of Age of Ash. All opinions are my own.
RELEASE DATE: 17/02/2022
STAR RATING: 3.5/5 ✶
SUMMARY: Kithamar is a center of trade and wealth, an ancient city with a long, bloody history where countless thousands live and their stories unfold.
This is Alys’s.
When her brother is murdered, a petty thief from the slums of Longhill sets out to discover who killed him and why. But the more she discovers about him, the more she learns about herself, and the truths she finds are more dangerous than knives.
Swept up in an intrigue as deep as the roots of Kithamar, where the secrets of the lowest born can sometimes topple thrones, the story Alys chooses will have the power to change everything. (from Orbit)
OPINIONS: This is a compelling story straddling the fine line between epic fantasy and Grimdark. Centred around a city rather than individuals, it sets up a unique sort of storytelling focused more on the grand picture of an evolving society. And I loved how Kithamar became a character in Age of Ash, not merely a setting. Alys’s story is used as a vehicle to illustrate this period in the life of the city, to make this amalgamation of culture come alive.
However, the story itself of a petty thief, of a murdered brother, of coming to terms with loss and dangerous secrets, is not something that feels especially groundbreaking. I am definitely intrigued enough to want to know more about Kithamar, to read about other stories set in this city that is both enchanting and gritty at the same time, but I’m not sure if I think that Age of Ash by itself is a book that stands out for me. And that is probably more due to me as a reader than due to the book itself – right now, I seem to click most with stories that have a hopeful aspect to them, and while this is not only bleak, it is less oriented towards a hopeful future than works for me at the moment.
The characters are strong and well-developed, and the writing is immersive – I ended up devouring the book despite my struggles with it, which speaks for the quality. It feels like this is one that I will probably enjoy more on a reread when I’m in a different reading mood, so there’s a good chance that I’ll pick it up again in a couple of months to give it another shot.