by Gillian Bronte Adams
*cover image and synopsis from Goodreads*
She rides a fireborn, a steed of fire and ash, trained for destruction.
Ceridwen tal Desmond dreams of ruling like her father over the nation of Soldonia, where warriors ride to battle on magical steeds—soaring on storm winds, vanishing in shadow, quaking the earth, and summoning the sea. After a tragic accident claims her twin brother, she is exiled and sworn to atonement by spending her life—or death—for her people.
But when invaders spill onto Soldonia’s shores and traitors seize upon the chaos to murder her father, Ceridwen claims the crown to keep the nation from splintering.
Combatting overwhelming odds and looming civil war, she begins to wonder if the greatest threat to the kingdom may, in fact, be her.
With fire before her and ash in her wake, how can she hope to unite instead of destroy?
Flames rage and oceans rise in this explosive first installment of The Fireborn Epic as the exiled heir, a novice priest, and a reluctant rebel wage war against a hidden power that threatens to shake the world.
Of Fire and Ash is an epic fantasy book–and epic in all meanings of the word.
This was one of my most anticipated books of 2021, and it did not disappoint. I was captivated by it from the start. It has been a while since I was as invested and sucked into a story as I was with Of Fire and Ash.
For those who don’t know what epic fantasy is, epic fantasy is like regular fantasy except that it typically has more expansive worldbuilding, a larger cast of characters, a plot and stakes that affect the world, and touches on some big themes (think of Lord of the Rings). Of Fire and Ash definitely meets the genre expectations of epic fantasy.
Gillian did an amazing job of the worldbuilding. I love all of the various settings. The imagery was awesome. I felt like I was right there with the characters, whether that was in the middle of a firey battle or a lush jungle. Aside from the setting aspect of worldbuilding, Gillian also has three different major cultures in the story and several other cultures that get mentioned throughout. And you can tell that she has developed all of them. The richness of the worldbuilding was fantastic. I cannot wait to get to learn more about Soldonia in the rest of the series.
Also, can I just take a moment to fangirl over the horses Gillian has created? They are seriously so epic, and I’m not going to say anything else about them because I don’t want to spoil anything for you.
The characters were amazing. They stole my heart from the beginning. I love all of them, and Gillian had better give them a happy ending. 😉
In all seriousness, the characters really were fantastic. Gillian did a great job of giving all of them distinct voices and personalities. None of them felt overly similar to each other. The main characters also were very relatable with their struggles and fears.
The plot was super well done. Gillian has three POV characters who aren’t together for almost all of the book, and who all have different plot threads. But Gillian kept all of the POVs and plots engaging. I was never wishing I could get back to a different POV.
There were a couple of things about the plot that I was able to guess, but that might have been because I’m a writer. And even guessing at what was going to happen didn’t ruin anything for me; rather, it made me wish I could reach into the book and yell at the characters to not do something. 🙂
The ending was well done. While it definitely ends with some setup to book two, it doesn’t have an agonizing cliffhanger, which I appreciate.
Epic fantasy typically touches on deep themes, and Gillian does not shy away from hard themes, such as redemption, forgiveness, and the sovereignty of God in suffering. All of the themes are touched on nicely, and I look forward to seeing how Gillian continues to develop the themes and character arcs further in the series.
The only thing I would note for readers to be aware of is that there are a number of battle scenes in Of Fire and Ash. The battles are never drawn out excessively, nor is the violence overly graphic and gory. But if you are a sensitive or younger reader, know that there is a lot of fighting.
Of Fire and Ash was a fantastic novel, and I cannot wait to learn what happens in the rest of the series. Highly recommend!
Caution: semi-graphic, heavy violence
Of Fire and Ash releases December 2021 from Enclave Publishing.