Thursday, May 5, 2016

Review: An Inheritance of Ashes by Leah Bobet

Title: An Inheritance of Ashes
Author: Leah Bobet
Publisher: Clarion Books
Publication Date: 6 October 2015
Buy: Amazon | The Book Depository | Dymocks Australia

Six months ago, the men of the lakelands marched south to fight a dark god.

Weeks after the final battle was won, sixteen-year-old Hallie and her sister, Marthe, are still struggling to maintain their family farm—and are waiting for Marthe’s missing husband to return. After a summer of bitter arguments, Hallie is determined to get Roadstead Farm through the winter—and keep what’s left of her family together, despite an inheritance destined to drive them apart.

But when Hallie hires a wandering veteran in a bid to save the farm, every phantom the men marched south to fight arrives at her front gate. Spider-eyed birds circle the fields, ghostly messages writes themselves on the riverbank, and soon Hallie finds herself keeping her new hired hand’s despite desperate secrets—and taking dangerous risks. But as she fights to keep both the farm and her new friend safe, ugly truths about her own family are emerging—truths that, amid gods, monsters, and armies, might tear Roadstead Farm apart.

Leah Bobet’s stark, beautiful fantasy explores the aftermath of the battles we fight and the slow, careful ways love can mend broken hearts—and a broken world.
(summary from Goodreads)

An eerie, slow build of a story.

An Inheritance of Ashes is all about the atmosphere. It's grey, dreary, isolated, slightly creepy, and there's this tension, this feeling the whole way through like things are on the very edge, that at any moment this world could implode. The book is never really action packed, there's no hugely heart-pounding moment that gets the adrenaline pumping. Yet it is still nail biting in its intensity as we wait to see what might go wrong and how these characters are going to pull through. I think this kind of tone has to be hard to maintain without the story becoming boring. I'm sure it's not for everyone, but for me, Bobet maintained this balance just right. I never felt the need to put this book down, as I was hooked on the suspense and anticipation. The closest comparison I can think of to describe this book is Gone with the Wind (though please note, I've only seen the movie). An Inheritance of Ashes has that Civil War era feel, that sprawling landscape and homestead setting, encompasses the struggle during and after wartime of trying to maintain that homestead while waiting for loved ones to return from war. An Inheritance of Ashes is less conniving brat main character (apologies, but I hate Scarlett O'Hara!) and more post-apocalyptic fantasy. Here, the war was against magic and creatures from an alternate dimension. What helps this story is the slow reveal world building. Bobet doesn't info dump relevant truths but divulges necessary tidbits a little at a time so we're piecing together the whole picture as we read. We're no more in the know than her characters. It lends even more of an air of mystery and anticipation to An Inheritance of Ashes.

Bobet's characters and their relationships also increases the intensely atmospheric nature of the story. Hallie and Marthe's family history ensures neither girl trusts anyone, not even each other. An Inheritance of Ashes is narrated by Hallie, and the anger and sadness that crackles between her and her sister is at times like a fist around your heart. The emotional impact more than makes up for the lack of action, I think. Hallie and Marthe are both strong and determined characters, hurting but trying their best to keep it together. Their lack of real communication bothered me so much. It's so frustrating! Such miscommunication is a huge theme of An Inheritance of Ashes though. The things that can be accomplished by taking a moment to just listen and learn, Bobet gets it. Heron is a quiet and brooding character that aims to further the mystery of the story. The truth of Heron was a little obvious but it didn't detract from the narrative. Heron acts as a bit of a catalyst, I guess, and I liked what he brought to the story. The same can be said for Tyler, Nat and Ada, Hallie's neighbours. They add a little lightheartedness to the book, each somewhat sassy and full of banter. I was surprised but so pleased by the budding romance of An Inheritance of Ashes. It's not what I was expecting, but quickly became one of my favourite things about this novel. 

Bobet has created a truly atmospheric and intriguing story.



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