From the Ashes
by Shelby K. Morrison
Publish date: May 3, 2015
Genre: YA fantasy
For eighteen years Aia Wynnald has lived a lie. Raised as a highborn in the Kingdom of Tharien, she’s filled her days with tutors and archery lessons. But simmering beneath her polite surface is a dangerous gift, one which she must keep a secret. Aia is a Bender. And in Tharien, Benders are feared and hunted.
When her unruly power breaks free with dire repercussions, Aia’s lifelong goal of independence shatters. As she scrambles to piece her life back together while evading capture, she disturbs a vengeful force intent on destroying the kingdom.
Now, with the help of an unlikely ally, Aia will decide the fate of Tharien. To rescue those she cares about will require accepting what she is. But can she risk becoming the monster she’s dreaded to save the very citizens baying for her blood?
There are three main components I like when reading a fantasy story: action, a kick-ass/realistic heroine and a nicely done romance. Those things are usually what draws me to a story, but I won't toss a book aside if it doesn't have these things. From the Ashes has two out of three, with the third being a possibility down the road.
Action. This book starts off with a bang, almost literally. We open up with our heroine, Maia (nicknames Aia), as she runs away after knocking her prick of a brother upside the head with a log from a nearby fire. While most of us with siblings have definitely felt the desire to do that at some point in our lives, we don't do it with our illegal Bender magic.
Benders are hunted in the land of Tharien for no other reason than they exist, and therefore have the potential to become dangerous people. After Aia accidentally decks her brother with her magic, she has to run for her life from the Breakers. Breakers are the people who dedicate their lives to hunting down Benders and capturing them. Upon capture Benders have the choice the be Cleansed (death) or Drained (becoming an empty version of themselves). However, Benders who hurt anyone else lose that choice and are automatically Cleansed.
This aspect of the story really made me think of the Salem witch trials. Neighbor turning on neighbor was all it took to be convicted of being a witch. In From the Ashes there is no real way to tell if someone is a Bender. All it takes is a finger point, and if the suspect runs, they are considered guilty from there on out.
Heroine. There are two main characters in this story, Aia and Cole. Cole is the Breaker lieutenant charged with capturing Aia and bringing her in. Aia manages to evade capture on her own in the beginning. She doesn't use her Bender skills because she's afraid that if she does, she will become exactly what the people fear. Deadly. Dangerous. A killer.
When she's found by a group of Breakers, she doesn't resort to using her magic. Instead she uses her non-magical skills and shoots those assholes with her freaking bow and arrow. She bad ass enough that she doesn't even need to use her magic to escape at this point.
What I really love about Aia is that she's smart, resourceful, hard and she has a love for the people of Tharien. She's guarded and used to pushing her emotions down in order to prevent flareups in her magic. I love characters like these because they have so much potential to grow and become the greatest heroines. In the beginning she's lost, just trying to figure out how not to die.
Soon she has a cause worth fighting for, and she find people that she realizes are worth saving.
Romance. The romance between Aia and Cole here is so subtle that sometimes I convinced myself I was making it up. At first, Cole doesn't think Aia is even worth saving, so he uses her in his plans to save Tharien from the "evil" Bender, Illicina, bent on taking her revenge. I put evil in quotes there because Illicina is so much more than people think she is. But you will have to read to find out about that.
Ever so slowly, we see Aia and Cole come to respect each other, and Cole sees something different in Aia. He sees her determination, her courage and her willingness to die for the very people who would see her Cleansed.
There's no steamy kisses, or stolen moments in a dark corner. No vulnerable scenes where they confess their fears to each other as they're about to die. No white knight riding in to save the damsel in distress.
But I can still see the very subtle beginnings of what could develop into beautiful relationship later down the road. I'm rooting for these two to find their happily ever after, even if it's not with each other. I definitely think this story has a lot more to come, and this is only the beginning.
The Technical Stuff. The writing in this book is strong, with very few grammatical or structural errors. As a reader, you can really feel what each character is going through and what motivates each decision they make.
For these reasons From the Ashes gets a solid 4.5 stars out of me. The story is strong, with great writing. There really isn't a whole lot more you can ask for.
** I was provided a copy of this book in return for an honest review
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Shelby K. Morrison is the author of Shattered, devout member of the Pointless Research Addicts support group, and was voted Most Likely to Be President in high school. She believes fiction should be an escape and any great escape involves a world of wonder, characters you wish you knew, and good food. She can usually be found in three places; her office, the couch or....well just those two unless an overcast day calls her out of doors. She has a particular weakness for animals, Studio Ghibli movies, and Flamin' Hot Cheetos (resulting in a frequently stained keyboard). She is not opposed to tokens of appreciation, particularly edible ones. But if you really want to make her smile, drop her a line!
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