Thursday, September 3, 2020

Review: Kings of Ash (Ash and Sand #2) by Richard Nell

Kings of Ash (Ash and Sand, #2)
Kings of Ash (Ash and Sand #2) by Richard Nell
Publication Date: September 8th, 2020
Hardcover. 448 pages

About Kings of Ash:

"The much anticipated continuation of the Ash and Sand trilogy...

Follow the long, bloody journey of Ruka, son of Beyla through the islands of Pyu and the frozen wastes of the Ascom; see the return home of Ratama Kale Alaku, the 'Sorcerer-Prince', and the terrifying rise of his 'miracles'. Before the end, a shocking history will unravel, ancient connections unfold, and all will learn the cost of unleashing the Kings of Ash..."

I'm a little behind on this series considering the third and final book in the Ash and Sand trilogy just came out on September 1st, but fortunately that doesn't take anything away from the fact that Kings of Ash was just as incredible as Kings of Paradise and I can't wait to finally get to Kings of Heaven! A quick note before diving into this review: I'll keep it spoiler free for this book and I'll try to keep things vague so as not to spoil too much from the first book, but the nature of this review might lead to inadvertent plot developments and spoilers from the first book, so just be aware of that if you plan to read this trilogy and don't want to know anything!

Where do I even start reviewing this epic fantasy tome? Kings of Paradise was a large and complex story that grabbed me from the very first page, and Kings of Ash does just that--and maybe even more. Richard Nell first made my experience that much better by including a "the story so far" sort of recap, which I am endlessly grateful for, especially seeing as it's been about two years since I read the first book. The next things that I discovered and quickly grew excited about is that this book is told largely from Ruka's POV, and Ruka is a character that I find deeply compelling and oddly enjoyable to follow. Those two things really set the stage for my expectations and enjoyment in this book, and it was just as good as I'd hoped it would be.

Since this book is largely told from Ruka's POV, I'll start by talking about this incredibly conflicting and highly captivating character. Although we do get a few other POVs sprinkled throughout the story, we spend most of the time in Ruka's head following his experiences, and I found this such an interesting journey. Ruka is a rather violent and unpredictable fellow, but at the same time he has that sort of honesty and blunt, clear view of the world that makes him someone you can't help but feel oddly connected to and almost want to root for. He's done some awful things, but there's weird sense of morality connected to it based upon his own perspectives that makes for a fascinating story, as well as makes him a really worthwhile character to become invested in.

Additional familiar faces such as Kale and Dala also make appearances, but their chapters are far much sparser than Ruka's and it's clear that they are not meant to be the main focus of this story. Still, I did really like their roles from the first book so I appreciated getting to see them again. Kale in particular has such a drastic change in roles in this book versus the first and I found it particularly exciting to see how he handles his new goals. Dala continuous to be an incredible badass who is always quick to grab to my attention in all of her scenes. We also get to learn more about King Farahi, a man that I find to be one of those who are so complex that you just are never really sure what to expect from that. I loved getting to learn more about his character and story.

Nell's world-building is once again truly superb. I thought the first book had expansive world-building with so many intricate details and fleshed out ideas, and somehow this book takes that to the next level with even more to explore and learn about. I noticed a much larger focus on weaponry in this book in different parts and I was surprised by how much I enjoyed these details and inclusions. I felt as though it really added a sense of authenticity and intrigue to the world and culture. And speaking of cultures, I continue to enjoy seeing the different ones that emerge in this world and how established and real they feel.

For being such a large book, the pacing is pleasantly consistent and I don't really have many complains about it. There were a few small pockets here and there where I felt it dwelled a bit longer in certain parts than I might've liked, but it was never anything that dragged on too long or really infringed upon my reading experience. Regardless of how much time might be spent on a certain scene, plot development, or character development, Nell has a compelling way of crafting his narrative that still makes it entertaining to follow.

Overall, this is another success from Richard Nell! If you're into grimdark, character-focused fantasy, expansive world-building, or simply great storytelling, you really need to check out the Ash and Sand trilogy--and the best part is that it's already completed so you can read the entire thing without waiting! As before, this is still a pretty dark and occasionally violent story, so just be aware of that going into it if you're not as open to those themes. I cannot recommend this trilogy enough and I think it continues to be one of the best examples of why there should be less judgment and more open-mindedness about the incredible quality and validity of self-published novels. Richard Nell is a master writer and storyteller.

*I received a copy of Kings of Ash in exchange for an honest review. This has no effect on my rating of the novel.*

Buy: Amazon

1 comment:

  1. Its nice to see a rave review for a self published fantasy trilogy, and if I had less on my plate, I'd definitely consider this😁