Ember and Ash by Pamela Freeman
|Ember and Ash by Pamela Freeman|
|Reviewer: Robert James|
|Summary: An enjoyable story is perhaps let down a couple of times by the sometimes rather slow pace, but has enough good world building and character development to be worth a place on any fantasy fan's 'to read' list.|
|Buy? Maybe||Borrow? Yes|
|Pages: 496||Date: May 2011|
|External links: Author's website|
Ember is about to be married. It's not just a romantic day for her personally, it's exciting because her wedding will seal the alliance of the Far South Domain and the Last Domain in the north, making a new kingdom which is a shining example of justice and peace. By fantasy standards, this sounds too good to be true. And so, of course, it is. Barely have the words which bind Ember to new husband Osfrid been spoken before he is consumed by flames, murdered by an elemental god her mother once angered. Soon after that, nearly every fire in the kingdom is extinguished. Shocked to learn that the world is controlled by elemental powers she knew nothing about, Ember enlists her cousins Ash and Cedar to go with her to Fire Mountain to bring back a piece of the mountain and relight their lost fires.
I'm not convinced the above paragraph is one of my best recaps, but in fairness to myself, I have to point out that this is a seriously complicated book and I'm trying to avoid spoilers. The above barely covers the first thirty pages or so of a novel more than fifteen times this length. Further on, we get a lot of character development, some romantic tension, and a much greater insight into the world author Pamela Freeman has created as the group venture through it – including some very interesting bits about the place of the Travelers in the world and the discrimination they suffer. It also has one of the most genuinely unsettling scenes I've read in years, as one of Ember's companions meets a horrific fate – won't go into details because as I said, I'm not keen on spoilers, but believe me, you'll know which one I mean if you read this!
It's not a perfect book – for a start, there are a fair few slow bits, and I hadn't realised that it was set in the same world as an earlier trilogy of Freeman's, The Castings Trilogy – if I had, I would have tried to read the previous set first as I think they may have filled me in a bit more on the background of the world. That said, there's nothing here which will have new readers completely lost, I'd just have liked a warning that it had ties to an older series.
Altogether, though, this is an accomplished novel with some beautiful writing and is a definite recommendation for fantasy fans.
For more epic fantasy I loved the Moorehawke trilogy by Celine Kiernan, which starts with The Poison Throne.
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