Age of Ash: Daniel Abraham
Published on: February 15, 2022
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.
“Longhill’s always Longhill.”
The strength of this story lies in its world building. It takes only a second to realize the world Daniel Abraham has created is rich with history and is well-developed. The characters reference that history time and time again. They know which district they have come from and what it means. It means that “Longhill’s always Longhill.” No matter where you go – you’re always a Longhill. It’s the type of story that gives you the distinct impression that the author has not only every street mapped out, but that he also knows every stall and business on the street as well as who runs it.
But to me, its weakness is that the story holds you at arms length, never giving you a chance to truly feel anything about the characters. I wondered several times why this was. Part of it was that it often felt as if I were being narrated to by someone watching the events. Other times I wondered if it was because I didn’t feel properly introduced to Alys’s backstory for a while. The story itself has a different pace to it and takes time to fully unwind and reveal itself. Little by little we learn quite a few things about Alys, however, it is a while before we spend a full chapter on what life was like when it was just her and her mom. But as I write this – maybe that is the point. Alys’s rough life has forced her to protect herself at whatever the cost and that includes not opening up to others and letting people in. Perhaps that includes us. Her brother Darro was her rock. While she couldn’t count on much, including her mother, she had him. With his death, her grief takes over in it’s various stages as she tries to stay connected to him any way she can. Perhaps that grief pushes not only Sammish out, but us out as well. Whatever it was, I never felt connected to Alys as well as other characters.
On the other hand, Sammish was a character I felt the closest to. Not many of us have lived the type of life these girls have. But even with that, what made Sammish’s character more relatable was that her feelings, issues, and vulnerabilities are ones that many people have encountered at some point in their lives. Somewhere we’ve had to work through that feeling of being left out or left behind, that feeling of wanting more from someone than we are being given. And it is working through these and coming to terms with these issues that we become the individuals we are today through. Overall, the exploration of her loneliness and desire to help the friend she knew (and not who she was becoming) was very well done and is why she became my favorite character.
There’s no doubt in my mind that some will like the style and really enjoy the book. It’s well written and full of the type of world-building that fantasy readers really enjoy. The character explorations into grief and loneliness will draw people in as well. I also rather enjoyed the ins and outs of pickpocketing as we get descriptions of who all is needed and what is involved to pull off this type of thievery. However, the main plot takes a while to get started and it isn’t until about half-way in before you start receiving information on what is going on and where the story is taking us. This may frustrate some readers, as it did me, if you aren’t expecting it.
Thanks to Netgalley and Orbit for the advanced review copy and opportunity to provide an honest review.