A few months ago, I had the privilege of critiquing a fight scene from author Intisar Khanani’s upcoming work, Memories of Ash. While it had a couple minor errors, the scene as a whole was tightly written and intense, as I’ve come to expect from this author. Reread that fight scene analysis here!
That long-awaited book is finally here (including the revised fight scene; I squeed when I read it)! Memories of Ash releases May 30, 2016 from Purple Monkey Press. You can pre-order it for 99 cents, or $3.99 after the release date. A paperback edition will also be coming soon.
I was able to review a pre-release copy of the book, so if you want to see if it’ll suit your tastes, read on.
Intisar is also hosting a giveaway for a free Kindle Fire, so scroll down if you’d like to enter.
In the year since she cast her sunbolt, Hitomi has recovered only a handful of memories. But the truths of the past have a tendency to come calling, and an isolated mountain fastness can offer only so much shelter. When the High Council of Mages summons Brigit Stormwind to stand trial for treason, Hitomi knows her mentor won’t return—not with Arch Mage Blackflame behind the charges.
Armed only with her magic and her wits, Hitomi vows to free her mentor from unjust imprisonment. She must traverse spell-cursed lands and barren deserts, facing powerful ancient enchantments and navigating bitter enmities, as she races to reach the High Council. There, she reunites with old friends, planning a rescue equal parts magic and trickery.
If she succeeds, Hitomi will be hunted the rest of her life. If she fails, she’ll face the ultimate punishment: enslavement to the High Council, her magic slowly drained until she dies.
A portion of the proceeds from the sale of The Sunbolt Chronicles will be donated to the United Nations Children’s Fund. UNICEF fights for the survival and development of the world’s most vulnerable children. Find out more at www.unicefusa.org.
Let me start by saying that when I read Sunbolt, the first book of this series, I felt like it was the first act of a story, not a complete story in itself. Yet the style and setting were strong enough that I wanted to read Memories of Ash, to see if it provides context to make Sunbolt feel more complete.
Not only does this book import meaning onto the events of the first novella, it develops them into complex themes that promise to have repercussions throughout the rest of the series. So not only do I recommend Memories of Ash, I can now give a true, unabashed recommendation for Sunbolt as well.
Now the review!
First, I have to point out the strongest element of this novel: the author’s writing style. Intisar Khanani’s prose reads effortlessly, submerging the reader in artful sentences that blend together in harmonious music. If nothing else, read this series just to experience her beautiful writing.
Now let’s talk about the characters. The protagonist, Hitomi, is powerful enough to take care of herself, but not so overpowered that she doesn’t need help. Brave, but not foolhardy. Moral and self-sacrificing, but without the annoying martyr complex so many YA protagonists have these days. Hitomi sidesteps clichés while preserving the fantastical elements that make for a compelling protagonist.
The side characters all have their own lives and motivations that drive them, rather than serving as plot vehicles. Very solid, though don’t come looking for Tyrion Lannister levels of moral ambiguity. This is not that kind of book, nor is it supposed to be.
Setting-wise, Intisar Khanani has built a vivid world where familiar fantasy elements are repurposed into a new, unique whole. Minor world building details interlace with the story and flesh out a setting that engulfs the reader and refuses to let go. I could picture every one of this world’s locations in crystal clarity. Beautifully done.
Finally, the plot. The story moves from point to point seamlessly, driven by character decisions that make perfect sense. At no point does the author have to shoehorn people into position; they go willingly, driven by internal motivations and cultural themes.
I will say the climax was a bit odd; I can’t point to a particular moment of catharsis to mark the high point of dramatic tension. (Was it the scene with the potion? The scene on the roof? The scene with the horses? None of the above?) The plot flowed so well, however, that this didn’t detract too much.
The only other minor issue with the plot is that events are set up so well that it’s hard for plot twists to come as surprises. (“Of course Character X is doing Action Y; the scene two chapters ago guaranteed it.”) This isn’t necessarily a problem, but don’t come into the story expecting major shocks. (This could also just be me; I watched too much Lost and now I have a problem where I predict too many plot twists.)
In short, this is an engaging YA novel set in a unique fantasy world. The setting, style, and refreshing characters stand out more than the plot, but the plot itself is well-constructed and well-paced and should appeal to fans of the genre, and to YA readers in general. Highly recommended.
I received a review copy from the author in exchange for an honest review. This has not affected my review in any way.
About Intisar Khanani
Intisar Khanani grew up a nomad and world traveler. She has lived in five different states as well as in Jeddah on the coast of the Red Sea. Until recently, Intisar wrote grants and developed projects to address community health with the Cincinnati Health Department, which was as close as she could get to saving the world. Now she focuses her time on her two passions: raising her family and writing fantasy. Intisar’s current projects include a companion trilogy to Thorn, featuring the heroine introduced in her free short story The Bone Knife, and The Sunbolt Chronicles.
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