Memories of Ash is another fantastic installment in The Sunbolt Chronicles by Intisar Khanani. Memories of Ash is the second book and unlike the first story, this is a full length novel. Hitomi’s story continues and the political strife plaguing the land is much more powerful than anyone expects. Khanani’s writing is beautiful and you are immersed in Hitomi’s complicated emotions throughout, with a few magical surprises expertly woven into the story. Though all the questions brought up may not be answered enough are to feel thoroughly satisfied and extremely anticipatory at the end of the novel. I’m not sure how many books are planned for The Sunbolt Chronicles, but either way it’s nice to know that there is more to come.
- Note to my readers #1: I was given an Advanced Reader Copy in return for my honest review.
- Note to my reader #2: I had already purchased Memories of Ash through pre-order before receiving my ARC from the author and I totally don’t regret it. 😉
A WriterAlina Book Review
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
I thoroughly enjoyed Intisar Khanani’s Memories of Ash! There are 3 reasons I’m giving Memories of Ash a solid 4 out of 5 stars instead of an amazing 5 out of 5 (note that I rarely give a 5 star rating to anything – even when I love a story).
- There was a surprising amount of backstory at the beginning of the novel. I guess if you read Sunbolt and Memories of Ash back to back it would feel less like a dump of backstory at the beginning of a novel, but I was surprised at how much backstory was given to the reader in the first chapters. I understand why it was done, but I wonder how much of it was really necessary.
- Though Hitomi’s memory loss was written well and not a serious distraction, there were aspects to the memory loss that felt a bit too convenient and I struggled with the rules of Hitomi’s memory magic a bit, but overlooked it because I was enjoying the story.
- The primary antagonist, Blackflame, still feels a bit two dimensional to me right now even though there are people around him that make me wonder about him as a character. He still kind of feels like your typical power hungry mage. There could be more to his story but there just isn’t any real opportunity for the reader to learn it.
This summary is taken from Intisar’s website:
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.
The Story and It’s Delivery
Memories of Ash continues in Hitomi’s first person perspective. As in Sunbolt the prose sucks you into Hitomi’s character with sprinklings of surprising detail that draws you into her story while at the same time providing believable descriptions that are vivid, painting beautiful pictures of the landscapes and the people. Again, the reader’s imagination is pushed toward things that Hitomi would notice and nothing more providing the reader with additional insight into Hitomi’s character.
This story is appropriately an act 2 with a satisfying enough end to feel complete but leaving enough loose ends to leave the reader wanting more and wishing book three was already written.
The first half of the book moved forward adequately and around the midpoint picked up into a gripping “couldn’t put the book down” flow. It’s not that the beginning was slow, it just had longer sequences of contemplation and travel, where most of the real action happened after the midpoint. What I enjoyed most about reading the beginning were all of the hints and foreshadowing events that occurred that then made sense later on in the story. (I love it when I can see an action, person, or scene comes back full circle and proves to be much more important that originally thought).
Hitomi & Memories
The nice thing about Memories of Ash is that even though Hitomi looses her memories after using her sunbolt magic in the previous story and in this story her character arc doesn’t start over. YAY! OMG, I can’t even express how much of a relief I found this. Hitomi’s memory loss was used more to create tension between her and the other characters in the story, which is much more compelling and more realistic. Tension was created from people of her past because she didn’t remember them or who they were before, or even who she was before, which forced her to treat people by how they are now.
The only part of the memory loss that I found a bit unjustified is why Hitomi lost memories of her distant past and yet kept (or perhaps recovered?) the most recent memories first. For the sake of the story, this was a good thing because at least she knows that Blackflame is the bad guy, but at the same time it felt a bit convenient. There was also hints that Hitomi’s magic used memories to work and it was unclear if all of her magic was this way or just specific instances and I wondered if this was instinctual or conscious that she did this. – This comment is mostly for the author and may or may not make sense to any other reader without me going into detail about the specific scenes that I’m referring to.
Hitomi’s actions also told volumes. Even though she may have forgotten much of her past, deep inside she is still the the young woman who wants to help the people that she loves and people who she believes are being treated unjustly. These are feelings that go beyond memories, it’s part of who Hitomi is and it’s innate character traits like this that authors who write about memory loss need to remember when they write their stories. People may make different choices when they loose their memory but who they are does not.
(Minor Tangent: There are way too many stories that use memory loss as a tool to write the same character arc for the same character in another book. It’s a ploy to make the character “rediscover who they are” and I feel like it’s such a cheat. This is so irritating I can’t even tell you. Scott Westerfeld’s Uglies and Pretties is an excellent example of what I’m talking about – It’s exactly the same character arch with different settings. This is one of the reasons I only recommend reading Uglies and skipping the rest of the series. But I digress.)
Other Sunbolt Chronicle Characters
Overall memory was handled very well. I loved the implications that were hinted at between Kenta and Hitomi and I felt that Kenta’s character still shown through Hitomi’s lack of knowledge of him. His actions spoke loudly to show his personality.
I was happy to see the Degaths again even though it was brief and I was felt with the feeling that each of the characters grew from their experience and whatever experiences they had between seeing Hitomi again. I was disappointed not to see Ghost again, but at least Kenta was there to represent the Shadows League.
Val was a welcome surprise within Memories of Ash, I was not expecting to see him again after his exit at the end of Sunbolt.
Blackflame was evil and uncaring, but I wish that I knew more about him so I can truly loath him. At present he just feels like the typical power hungry mage and what makes him interesting are the women that are around him and the mystery of why they are and were there for him.
As I’ve said before The Sunbolt Chronicles is a perfect example of what the #weneeddiversebooks campaign shoots to promote. The peoples in the story are as diverse and realistic as the world we live in. The main difference between Earth and The Sunbolt Chronicles is that people can have magic and that there are magical creatures (mages, phoenixes, dragons, lycan, blood drinkers called fangs, breath consumers called breathers, and much more). There are dark skinned islanders, desert dwellers, pale skinned northerners, and easterners who have the unique epicanthal folds of their eyelids.
Memories of Ash shows that there is an expansive world beyond the streets of Karolene. We learn more about Hitomi’s desert dwelling half of her heritage. We get to learn a little bit about the people’s culture and ways of speaking. We are reminded that Blackflame and Stormwind are from the northern lands (outside of the Eleven kingdoms). We learn that there is a reason that there is a mage High Council. We experience the remanence of the magical war that changed the world where more questions are brought up that will hopefully be resolved in future stories.
Much more of this world’s magic is explored and explained as well. More magic is shown in Memories of Ash, magic performed by creatures, experienced mages, and Hitomi herself. There are many basic charms and spells and several very imaginative ones that help both the protagonists and antagonists get ahead.
There are many unexplored alliances and histories between various characters in the novel that are hinted at, which I hope will also be explored in future stories.
A Word Or Two About Respect, Friendship, and Romance
Memories of Ash is heavy on friendship development, even simple acquaintance friendships and alliances. There is a lot of demonstration of good, trusting, and open people. Even though Hitomi has forgotten most of the people in her life she still has the desire to make and maintain connections with people. It’s nice to read about friendship, being open when you can, and creating alliances.
If you enjoy fantasy of any kind, I highly recommend Sunbolt (The Sunbolt Chronicles Book 1) and Memories of Ash by Intisar Khanani. Sunbolt is a short novella; it’s fast paced and action packed. Then you can quickly follow-up with Memories of Ash, which is also action packed. To be honest, I believe that there is enough information in Memories of Ash to read it on it’s own, though I think that the slowness beginning of the novel will be a bit easier if it’s read right after reading Sunbolt.
The Sunbolt Chronicles follows a unique heroine who wants to make the world a better place in her own small way.
Have you ever read Sunbolt or any other of Intisar khanani’s stories? I hope that I’ve inspired you to pick up Memories of Ash for yourself. I would love to hear from you; feel free to leave a comment below.
WriterAlina’s Memories of Ash Endorsement
Thanks for reading my review! And now I’m going insert my plug for my Indie Author friend, Intisar Khanani. For those who act before May 30, 2016 you will be able to pre-order Memories of Ash for the discounted price of $0.99 at your local electronic store of choice, be it Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Apple, or Kobo.
Also, if you have yet to purchase and read Sunbolt (book 1 of The Sunbolt Chronicles) this novella will also be available for the discounted price of $0.99 until the release date of Memories of Ash. (This offer also ends May 30, 2016.)
Purchase Your Copy of Memories of Ash Here:
Thanks for your support!
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