ARC provided by the author in exchange for an honest review.
Cover illustration by: Felix Ortiz
Ash and Bones by Michael R. Fletcher
My rating: 3 of 5 stars
Series: City of Sacrifice (Book #2 of 3)
Genre: Fantasy, Grimdark Fantasy, Post-Apocalyptic Fantasy
Pages: 661 pages
Published: 1st August 2020 Michael R. Fletcher
Ash and Bones is a sequel filled with battles, narcotics, magic stones—especially obsidian—and moral dilemmas.
“There are two means of convincing a population to police itself: Religion, and Economy. Faith and greed.”
Bastion and the gods are at war; as Nuru contemplates for a world without gods, Akachi strives to fulfill what his god wants—hunt the blasphemers that would destroy his city. Ash and Bones is the second installment in Fletcher’s City of Sacrifice series; it starts off from where Smoke and Stone left off, and the actions begins immediately. Fletcher is one of my favorite grimdark authors. I’ve mentioned this before, his Manifest Delusions series, and more recently, Black Stone Heart are some of the best grimdark fantasy I’ve ever read. Fletcher managed to maintain his imaginative world-building streaks in this sequel. The epigraphs, in particular, at the start of each respective chapters in this novel contained some of Fletcher’s best writing so far, such as:
“The Bankers preach economy. They will work the bones until they break, drive the meat until it fails, ink the flesh with the sins of debt, and break the heart if it means a profit. They care not for the soul for it has no intrinsic value.”
Great epigraphs aside, reading Akachi and Nuru’s story again were bloody delightful. Faith is definitely the most pivotal theme of this novel and series; the conflicts that arise in the series so far can be surmised to a clash of differences in belief, and I do believe that the contemplation that each of them has throughout the book reflected their emotions clearly. The morality of right and wrong was often questioned, the battles waged were insane, and the world-building continues to build from what the previous book has established.
“Faith does not compel the gods to forgive us our transgressions and blasphemies.”
Unfortunately, I have to admit that there were parts in Ash and Bones that didn’t work for me too well. I felt that Ash and Bones is a hugely transitional novel, and despite the large pages count—or what felt like it—the story didn’t progress as much as I hoped. As I mentioned before, this is a book full of contemplation and battles, and frankly, it did get repetitive for me after a while. It seemed like for the entirety of the novel what Akachi and Nuru ponder in their decision making goes around in a continuous loop. “I will fight for my god,” to “is it okay to do this, “why am I chosen to do this,” and back again to “I will fight for my god.”
“A willingness to do anything, to commit any atrocity to achieve the desired end, was a horrible thing. He knew it in his blood. People should have doubts, they should question. They should question both their own motives, and the motives of others.”
Although I did like reading about the main characters, all of the side characters were uninteresting; one month from now I’ll most likely forget about them. Lastly, and this could be just me, but other than mirrors, it seems like Fletcher now has a new obsession with the word ‘obsidian.’ I do know and understand that obsidian stone is a part of the series. However, between this and Black Stone Heart, the first book in Fletcher’s Obsidian Path series, the frequent use of of the word obsidian—more than 100 times in this book alone—ended up becoming a distraction to me; I actually had to remind myself several times that I’m reading about Akachi and Nuru, not Khraen, because their voices started sounding similar.
Thankfully, Ash and Bones did end on a very high note that made me excited to find out how this all will conclude. It pains me to say that this is the first of Fletcher’s book that I have mixed feeling about, but hey, it can’t always be a hit, right? Regardless of my opinion, I do honestly think that fans of Fletcher’s books will still find plenty of things to love in this book; do give this a go! It seems like Fletcher is planning to release the sequel to Black Stone Heart next, and I’m seriously looking forward to it.
Felix Ortiz did such an incredible job on the cover art; easily one of the greatest cover arts I’ve seen so far. I also loved the nod to Beyond Redemption and She Dreamed in Blood in the text.
Official release date: 1st August 2020
The quotes in this review were taken from an ARC and are subject to change upon publication.
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