An Inheritance of Ashes

October 1, 2015 2015, 3.5 star books, dystopian/post-apocalyptic, Kim 16 ★★★½

An Inheritance of AshesAn Inheritance of Ashes by Leah Bobet
Published by Clarion Books on October 6, 2015
Genres: dystopian
Pages: 400
Format: eARC
Source: Publisher
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three-half-stars
The strange war down south—with its rumors of gods and monsters—is over. And while sixteen-year-old Hallie and her sister wait to see who will return from the distant battlefield, they struggle to maintain their family farm.

When Hallie hires a veteran to help them, the war comes home in ways no one could have imagined, and soon Hallie is taking dangerous risks—and keeping desperate secrets. But even as she slowly learns more about the war and the men who fought it, ugly truths about Hallie’s own family are emerging. And while monsters and armies are converging on the small farm, the greatest threat to her home may be Hallie herself.

A lone figure ambles its way up the twisted ruins of road to find itself unbidden on the steps of a solitary farmhouse. Is the stranger friend or foe? God or man? For 16 year old Hallie, the questions, and the threat, are all too real. In the desolate ruins of civilization, Hallie and her much older sister Marthe have been clinging to their farm, their world, and trying to hold on to each other, but are failing at both.

I really enjoyed this book; more, actually, than I have any book in almost two months (I’ve been in a really terrible slump). It has the isolated, post-apocalyptic farm vibe of The Hallowed Ones, with a touch of The Stand, and more than a touch of The Subtle Knife. Leah Bobet crafts this book out of simply gorgeous prose that is never overwrought. This is a sparse, ruined world and Bobet’s words fit the eerie, desperate tone of it perfectly. A strange and unknown war happened in the south between the Wicked God and mortal men. At last the Wicked God fell, but his Twisted Things, creatures so close to animals from our world but not, have been tearing across the land burning in their path. And now they’re on Hallie’s and Marthe’s farm.

It’s hard to place this book at first. It seems like a fantasy taking place in a world roughly analogous to 19th century America. Is the Wicked God real? What are the Twisted Things and how did god and monsters even come to this world in the first place? Eventually it becomes clear that this is the ruins of North America about 100 years after civilization fell. But the questions about this strange war, and from whence it came, linger on.

The strongest point in this book is its masterful character development. Hallie particularly shines in her internal journey. There is a large cast of characters. Hallie, her sister Marthe; Tyler and Nat, her two oldest friends; Heron, the enigmatic veteran battling his own demons; and many more neighbors and friends who together make a complete world out of their tiny community. I especially enjoyed the diversity of this book with its many POC and queer characters included in the narrative. They aren’t Other, they just are; and Bobet is exceptionally good at including this diversity seamlessly.

But beyond the supernatural elements, the mythical elements, the ruined world, and the war…this book is about so many deeper things. It’s about the very human effects of war, on society and on ourselves; on the soldiers who fought, on the ones they leave behind, and the ones they come home to. It’s about how even when the war is over, the fight to remain human is often just beginning.

Some wars aren’t fought on battlefields, either. Some exist in the hearts of minds of those who are survivors of abuse. Both Hallie and Marthe are still living in the shadow of their abusive father, eight years dead. Both so wounded by what he inflicted and still kept apart by the way he poisoned one against the other. If you enjoy heartfelt sibling stories this one is definitely for you.

Don’t worry. The answers about the Wicked God, and the war, and the Twisted Things do come. You will be satisfied. But they’re not what’s really at the heart of this book. It’s about very human failings, how we overcome them, how we grow up and grow together. About how we can learn to recognize our mistakes and start to fix them.

Oh, and yes, there is a very sweet, minimal romance in this story. Hallie and Tyler are childhood best friends who slowly come together as something more throughout this book. The unfolding of Hallie’s feelings for Tyler are so natural and real. At first, she’s unsure about how romance would even fit into her internal universe. They kiss, and she doesn’t see fireworks. It’s normal. Hallie learns that sometimes the fireworks come later through trust and time and learning to really see a person for exactly who they are and loving them for that.

So, you might be saying now, “Kim, it sounds like you absolutely adored this book. Why only 3.5?” Well, a couple of things. I don’t think this is at all fair or a judgment against the book, but I am still very much in a slump so it didn’t pull at my heartstrings as strongly as I wanted it to. There were definitely many heart tugging moments, though. I think if I had read this book non-slump it would definitely be a four. The other thing, and this is definitely not the book’s fault, was that the formatting for my eARC was all sorts of wonky and it was distracting and made it hard to concentrate sometimes.

All in all, An Inheritance of Ashes is a beautifully written, supernatural-ish tale of sisters and of friends, of the enemies within and the enemies without, and of how we can heal after all. I have Leah Bobet as an author to watch, and am definitely eager to read whatever she puts out next.

 

An advance copy was provided by the publisher for this review.

 

kim teal

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

16 Responses to “An Inheritance of Ashes”

  1. Alexa S.

    How very intriguing! I haven’t heard all that much about AN INHERITANCE OF ASHES, but you’ve definitely put it on my radar with your review. I’m always up for a story with strong characterization and plot, and based on what you’ve said, this has both. Might have to check it out myself!
    Alexa S. recently posted…Return to Green Gables: Visiting Prince Edward Island

  2. Carina Olsen

    Yay :D Stunning review Kim. <3 So glad you enjoyed this book. You are making me so curious about it. Yay for sweet romance :) But minimal? Ugh. I want more romance, lol. But glad you liked it :) And yay for beautiful writing too. That is always the best. <3 I'm still not sure if I want this book. Probably not, lol :) But so glad you enjoyed it. Thank you for sharing about it sweetie. <3
    Carina Olsen recently posted…In My Mailbox #205

  3. Pili @ In Love With Handmade

    Well, minimal romance, diversity fully integrated as part of the story, a mix of dystopia and mythology and fantasy and a complex and central sibling relationship? I think this book sounds a lot like Pili bait and I’m thinking it will be my next ARC to read! (and it releases next Tuesday, dammit, I’m so behind!!).

    Fantastic review Kim! Now I’m tempted to pack my Kindle with me to London to start reading this one ASAP!
    Pili @ In Love With Handmade recently posted…Friday Reads: ARC Review of Never Never by Brianna Shrum!!

    • Kim

      Ohhhhhhhh man. You have no idea how jealous I am that you are in London!!! My heart! I will get back there one of these days.

      But yes! I think you would like this one! You must let me know what you end up thinking if you read it.
      Kim recently posted…These Shallow Graves: Review

  4. J. Oh

    Great review! I had heard a lot about this book but kind of written it off based on the description. But if you like it this much, I’ll definitely reconsider it; sounds like there’s a lot to appreciate here.

    • Kim

      Oh, there definitely is! It depends on if it’s your type of book, really. Can you deal with slowly told atmospheric stories? It’s not a high-action page turner. But it is a touching story about family, war, and forgiveness.
      Kim recently posted…These Shallow Graves: Review

      • J. Oh

        Sounds totally up my alley! Although I read fast-paced stories quickly (guess there’s a reason they’re fast-paced), I sometimes get tired of too much action, like in the DIVERGENT books. Slowly told atmospheric stories are my favorite, as long as they’re done well enough that I’m not getting bored–but my threshold for boredom is pretty high. Awesome. Thanks, Kim!

  5. kindlemom1

    This sounds like a good start to a series, maybe fantasy dystopian of some kid? Anywoo, too bad the world building wasn’t a bit better but maybe more of that will be explained in book two!
    Great review. I am definitely curious about this one!
    kindlemom1 recently posted…Review: Rikki by Abigail Strom

    • Kim

      This is actually a standalone! And I feel pretty satisfied with that. I would totally welcome the chance to go back to the characters, but this particular story was told in its entirety and done well too.
      Kim recently posted…These Shallow Graves: Review