Of Fire And Ash by Gillian Bronte Adams is a YA epic fantasy about a young queen, a lost prince, a stolen priest, and the world they’re trying to save.
I’m a bit of a nut for horses. I know this because I have Breyer model horses lined up on my shelves. Black Beauty by Anna Sewell, King of the Wind by Marguerite Henry, and the Black Stallion series by Walter Farley all number in my earliest memories of reading. Of Fire and Ash ranks with those classics of the equine persuasion.
I was thrilled with all the different kinds of equines Ms. Adams dreamed up. Regular ones, of course, are included but those were for plebians. No, we’re talking about horses made of fire, water, shadow. Unicorns of solid earth and pegasi of lightning and cloud. If for nothing else, I would have loved this book for bringing these animals to (literary) life.
But what sealed the deal for me was the absolutely stunning character development, fast-paced narrative, and lyrical language. Well, not all of the book is lyrical. It depended on the chapter’s focus character. And that was part of the charm. Each character had his or her own voice, distinctly written. After a few chapters, I didn’t need names at the top of the page. The writing did it for me.
The story is slightly heavier toward a character-driven narrative. That doesn’t mean it isn’t full of action. It is and it’s non-stop. I just mean that Ms. Adams did a great job of playing the two off of each other. In other words, the story is tight, character-, thematically-, and plot-wise. It’s actually a good balance between character-informed choices that lead to consequences that set off another set of choices. There’s never a part that stuck out to me that didn’t make sense within the scope of the storylines.
And this is an epic tale. There are no less than three point-of-view characters but so many more mentioned. There are elements like slain parents, countries at war, treks across strange lands, kingdoms at stake. All of which are typical for an epic tale. Actually, I think Ms. Adams put in every epic trope that she could find. That isn’t a slur, by the way. It’s a nod to an author who knows her genre and makes it work.
The book is not overtly Christian. However, if you know you’re Bible stories, you’ll be able to pick them up here and there. I see references to Joseph, King David, Miriam, and Jesus. If the reader isn’t Christian, this won’t even factor into it. For those of us who are, it’s like finding Easter eggs throughout the story. And, there appear to be some historical references too, specifically when Persia invaded Greece.
This is a sweeping tale of war, loss, and love set in a magical land of elemental horses, basilisk-like tigers, and evil gods. It’s completely perfect for older teens through adults who enjoy epic fantasy or any kind of fantasy that includes mythical beasts. Honestly, it’s one of the best books I’ve read all year and has earned a rarely given five-star rating.
Goodreads Rating: ★★★★★ I loved it.
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About the Book
Book: Of Fire and Ash
Author: Gillian Bronte Adams
Genre: YA Epic Fantasy
Release Date: December 7, 2021
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?
About the Author
Gillian Bronte Adams is a sword-wielding, horse-riding, wander-loving fantasy author, rarely found without a coffee in hand and rumored to pack books before clothes when she hits the road. Working in youth ministry left her with a passion for journeying alongside children and teens. (It also enhanced her love of coffee.) Now, she writes novels that follow outcast characters down broken roads, through epic battles, and onward to adventure. And at the end of a long day of typing, she can be found saddling her wild thing and riding off into the sunset, seeking adventures of her own. She loves to connect with readers online at www.gillianbronteadams.com.
More About Gillian
I still vividly remember the moment, years ago, that the idea for this book came to me. It was the end of July, sometime between ten and eleven at night, and the insects outside were buzzing so loudly you could hear them through the window of the back room of the camp office where I sat. Slumped exhaustedly in a chair, shivering in the air conditioning in my sweat-soaked jeans and a t-shirt, I was waiting for the other summer staff to arrive so we could start and finish our planning meeting and stumble off to our cabins to sleep.
Even then, writing felt like breathing to me, so to pass the time and keep myself awake, I drew a ragged notebook out of my backpack and started scribbling sparks and specks of story ideas, barely noticing how my arm left smears of dirt on the page. It was my third or fourth summer as Head Wrangler, which meant I spent my days either on horseback or jogging alongside kids who were learning to ride. Dirt was just a part of life.
So many details of that night remain fresh in my mind, it’s odd that I can’t remember exactly what sparked the idea itself—the wide-eyed grin of a boy on his very first ride, the budding confidence in a girl as she raced around the barrels, or the cumulation of all the hours I’d spent atop my own wild thing, clearing wooded trails with a machete, leaping across creeks because he refused to simply wade, and performing amateur stunts for the occasional skit.
Whatever lit the fuse, as soon as I scribbled the first set of words on that crumpled notebook page, I knew I had struck gold. I felt it in my bated breath and leaping heartbeat. “Super-powered horses.” Or better yet, “Magical steeds.” Some that could breathe fire, some with hides like stone that could quake the earth with their hooves, some that rode upon the waves of the sea, and still others that could step into shadow and disappear without a trace.
Seven in all, they quickly cluttered the page, and I couldn’t wait for the chance to write the epic tale that could contain creatures like these. Unfortunately, I didn’t have a story yet. Just a page full of fanciful beasts and a head full of wild dreams. No characters. No plot. No premise. Or so I thought.
The meeting started then and I had to tuck my notebook away, but I couldn’t banish the magical horses now roaming in my head. Over the weeks and months that followed, I took them out and let them dance across the page every now and then, gradually fleshing out details, uncovering their secrets, and imagining their world. Yet the story itself remained elusive, until I finally, reluctantly, set them aside and turned my attention to other things. Months before that summer night, I had, in a fit of wild inspiration, outlined a new three-book series starring a female warrior who longed to rule like her father before her. It was a bit daring and a lot daunting, but while I liked the characters and the concept, the world itself was lacking that flare of uniqueness, that touch of magic, that allows a fantasy realm to sprawl beyond the confines of the page and take root in the imagination of a reader.
Reading the outline afresh, I lamented that it was the sort of lusterless story doomed to die on a novelist’s hard drive, and perhaps my incredible magical horses with it, for though they were lustrous enough, without a story, they could never truly live. Without a story …
What if my aspiring queen lived in their world? What if she rode a fire-breathing steed? How might those beautiful magical creatures enhance and ultimately, shape her and her story?
Combining any two concepts can be dangerous, as you never know how they will interact until you try it. The resulting explosion shattered my outline and blasted apart my carefully formed plans, but when the dust settled and the heart of the new story emerged, I knew that this finally was an epic tale worthy of my magical steeds, and a world deep and dangerous enough to have forged my aspiring queen. It was, at last, Of Fire and Ash, the first book of The Fireborn Epic.
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Texas Book-aholic, December 13
Debbie’s Dusty Deliberations, December 14
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Inklings and notions, December 16
Locks, Hooks and Books, December 17
deb’s Book Review, December 18
Where Faith and Books Meet, December 20
Musings of a Sassy Bookish Mama, December 20
Ashley’s Clean Book Reviews, December 21
April Hayman, Author, December 22
Blogging With Carol, December 22
A Modern Day Fairy Tale, December 23 (Spotlight)
Through the fire blogs, December 23
Truth and Grace Homeschool Academy, December 24
To celebrate her tour, Gillian is giving away the grand prize of a $40 Amazon gift card!!
Be sure to comment on the blog stops for nine extra entries into the giveaway! Click the link below to enter.