Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Review: Ash and Echoes by Augusta Li

Reviewed by Fehu
Ash and Echoes (Blessed Epoch #1) by Augusta Li
Dreamspinner Press
Novel: 350pgs
4 Pants Off

For the past few years Yarroway L’Estrella has lived in exile, gathering arcane power, but that power came at a price. Now it’s time for him to do his duty: his uncle, the king, needs him to escort Prince Garith to his wedding, a union that will create an alliance between the two strongest countries in the known world. But Yarrow isn’t the prince’s only guard. A whole company of knights is assigned to the duty, and Yarrow’s not sure he trusts their leader.

Knight Duncan Purefroy isn’t sure he trusts Yarrow either, but after a bizarre occurrence during their travels, they have no choice but to work together—especially since the incident also reveals a disturbing secret, one that might threaten the entire kingdom. But will it ultimately work in their favor?

When a third member joins the precarious alliance, it seems to cement the bonds between all three men. But the arrangement isn’t perfect: Yarrow knows the power inside him and fears getting too close. The mysterious newcomer was raised to believe love and trust are weaknesses. And Duncan struggles to accept them as they are. Saving their home will take everything they have—including the fragile relationship they’ve built.

What happens when one throws a knight, an assassin and mage together on a journey? Add some battles, betrayals, secrets and lust and you have some of the cornerstones for Ash and Echoes. Ash and Echoes is a good high fantasy book and I would recommend it for the fantasy part. It reminded me a bit of Mercedes Lackey's Valdemar books, having in common Yarrow being the youngest, liked by his aunt but not by his own family and of course him being the most powerful mage.

Yarrow is a mage with a troubled past, which is revealed in bits and pieces.  After being summoned to court, he is saddled with the task of seeing his cousin safely married and therefore creating a powerful alliance. This alliance is opposed by not only the smaller countries and nations but there is strife in their own lands, something that Yarrow finds out when it’s nearly too late.

Duncan is a knight trusted with the task to protect the prince and the mage, little did he expect that the mage could protect himself and be such a fierce fighter. It’s not until afte, an unexpected attack that Duncan learns that there is more to the mage than what meets the eyes but he certainly likes what he sees and would act on it if it weren’t for his duty.

The third one in their team is an assassin, Sasha who has learned not to trust and not to love anyone but his god of death. While physical intimacy comes easily to him, feelings and moral don’t enter into his considerations.  I thought Sasha was a pretty interesting character and well done. He started as a cold-hearted assassin and while he did thaw some to his companions, he didn’t get a total personality change. Sasha faced some hard decisions about what he wanted most and I liked how he grows with these challenges.

What Yarrow and Duncan don’t know is that they were lied to about their task and a race begins to reach the subject they were asked to protect. When one does not know who is friend or foe it’s hard to trust, and some hard truths and secrets from the past can come to haunt in the most unexpected time.

Ash and Echoes is not a book for the weak hearted, there is mentions of a gang rape to a minor in the past, a lot of blood, violence and murder. Sasha is an unapologetic assassin and Yarrows darker side kills without remorse and pretty much massacres anything in its way.

The fantasy adventure is quite good but since it’s the first book some questions are left unanswered, especially about Yarrow and his bound with the dark entity. Romance is a big part of this story but sometimes it was hard to believe it was love. While the adventure part is well written and one is easily caught into the romance plot, I didn’t really believe that Duncan loved them both equally. Sasha and Yarrow seemed to share more, understood the darker parts of each other, with Duncan it felt more on a superficial level.

I liked Yarrow and felt for him dealing with so many burdens alone, he is fiercely protective of the ones that he loves and holds dear and I really hope he will have his happy ending.

4 Pants Off

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