ARC provided by the publisher—Head of Zeus—in exchange for an honest review.
Cover illustration by: Scott M. Fischer
Ashes of the Sun by Django Wexler
My rating: 4.5 of 5 stars
Series: Burningblade & Silvereye (Book #1 of 3)
Genre: Fantasy, High Fantasy, Post-apocalypse, Sci-fi.
Pages: 593 pages (Kindle edition)
Published: 21st July 2020 by Head of Zeus (UK) & Orbit (US)
A captivating start to a series; if you’re worried whether Ashes of the Sun will be as good as The Shadow Campaigns or not, feel free to incinerate those doubts away now.
Almost three years have passed since I finished reading The Shadow Campaigns military fantasy series—a very underrated series—by Django Wexler, and ever since I heard that Ashes of the Sun will mark Wexler’s return to the adult fantasy scene, I was excited, to say the least. My excitement was further increased when I saw the gorgeous cover art by Scott M. Fischer. Now that I’ve finished reading the book, I have to conclude by saying that my excitement was satisfyingly fulfilled.
“This is not a Star Wars novel, but it definitely originated, back at the beginning, in a series of conversations about Star Wars. My list of people to thank therefore needs to start with Star Wars and everyone involved with it…”—Django Wexler
Hundreds of years ago, a magical war destroyed an empire, and a new one was built in its ashes. Ashes of the Sun is the first book in the Burningblade & Silvereye trilogy, and the story follows two main characters, Maya and Gyre, a sibling who were separated from each other since they were young. Fast forward twelve years later to the present timeline, Maya is now in the Twilight Order, while Gyre lives for revenge: to destroy the Order. Truthfully, I was a bit scared with this premise because earlier this year, Orbit released a new novel with a similar premise—The Ranger of Marzanna by Jon Skovron—and that one didn’t work for me; I was scared this would end up the same. But no, what a fool I was that I even felt that way, Ashes of the Sun was one of the recently released SFF novels that manage to thoroughly steal my attention from the beginning until the end. This is a Star Wars inspired fantasy, its influences on the world-building—more on this later—can be found everywhere, and the themes of family, duty, order, freedom, and justice are prevalent throughout the narrative.
“Why, she thought, do I have a bad feeling about this?”
I’m pretty sure that line is a nod to Star Wars.
If you haven’t read The Shadow Campaigns, you probably don’t know about Wexler’s capability in writing superbly-written heroine and f/f relationship. I mean it, Winter from The Shadow Campaigns is still one of my favorite heroines in a fantasy novel. From this promising start alone, Wexler’s characterizations of Maya seems to be on its way to reaching the same quality Wexler exhibited for Winter. There’s a charm in Wexler’s portrayal of f/f relationship that feels well-developed and genuine; the relationship between Maya and Beq was gradually developed, and their development with each other was easy to care for. Maya, on her own, was already a well-written character, but it’s her relationship with Beq, Tanax (her rival), Jaedia (her mentor), and Gyre that made the variety of tones in her story more compelling. More or less, the same level of characterizations can also be said for Gyre. This, of course, doesn’t mean that Gyre has a similar personality to Maya; he’s on a completely different spectrum, the one on the dark side, or at least falling towards it. After what happened in the prologue and the twelve years gap, Gyre’s fury towards the Order is now unstoppable; he detests the notion of being protected by them just because they have deiat (the force in Star Wars) inside them since they were born.
“The Twilight Order defends the Dawn Republic. That’s how it’s always been. But they defend us like a suit of iron armor. It might stop a knife, but it weighs you down until you can barely move.”
As the POV continuously (and alternately) shifts between Maya and Gyre, I found Wexler’s writing and the pacing he brought with his narrative to be greatly-paced. Seriously, due to the current world situation, it’s not easy for me to finish a 600 pages novel within three days; it could’ve been done in two days for this book, if I may be honest, I just wanted my time with the novel to last slightly longer. Regarding the Star Wars influences, there’s quite a lot to mention. Some of the most obvious ones are Haken, equivalent to a lightsaber, is a sword hilt and a crossguard with no blade that can be used by manipulating deiat. Then there’s also Centarch—pretty much a Jedi—and Agathios—a padawan training to be a centarch—from the Twilight Order (similar to Order of the Jedi). It’s all very cool and fun, but most importantly, Wexler was skillful enough to incorporate all the Star Wars elements into the world-building and story without making the book feels like it’s a Star Wars rip-off. The post-apocalyptic world, the plaguespawns, constructs, and the combination of sci-fi, technology, and fantasy all contribute to making this an immersive and imaginative world to dive into. With all of these in mind, Wexler’s well-spread action sequences in the book were all exciting; the clash of elemental deiat scenes was vivid and kickass, and one ability reminiscent of Mistborn by Brandon Sanderson or Sharingan from Naruto seriously made me went: “whoa, this is so cool!”
“The Chosen are gone, but as long as their heirs hold their weapons over the rest of us, who can stand up to them? They say they have the right to rule, out of a duty to keep the rest of us safe. As though we were children, inferior, just because we weren’t born with whatever special trick that lets the centarch touch deiat.”
Ashes of the Sun is an insanely fun and engaging Star Wars inspired SFF novel. If the intention of this novel is to entertain, it had succeeded exceedingly; I absolutely enjoyed it. Imbued with well-written characters and relationships, exciting action scenes, and an immersive world-building, Ashes of the Sun is a complete triumph. I have only one regret upon finishing this book, and that’s the next book isn’t available for me to devour yet. I need the sequel last week, Wexler.
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