By: Ru Pringle
Genre: Epic Fantasy; Grimdark; Science Fiction
Publisher: Fractal Symmetry
Content Warning: Abuse (prisoner, emotional, sexual), Animal cruelty, Hate crime, Body horror, Gore, Bullying, Degenerative Illness, Genocide, Violence (brief graphic), Racial bigotry/Racism, Torture
“Afterwards, Dana found that she could not even recall the stranger’s name.
If he had provided one.
So much for the gift of hindsight.”
Prologue, A Time of Ashes; Ru Pringle
A Time of Ashes is one of the most complex and unique fantasy books I have read, and it was absolutely amazing. The book straddles the line of a few genres; epic fantasy, grimdark and even science fiction. I settled on including it in grimdark due to some of the graphic, violent, and dark scenes in the book. The scenes are integral to the story and in no way gratuitous.
The story follows the arc of several characters, most notably Murrin Kentle, Chet, Sheehan hahe Seeheeli, and Coll as they embark through dangerous worlds to find the Construct and stop the Corruption. The Corruption will destroy all worlds in all realms. The complexity of this book is astounding and it highlights the need for indie authors must have their stories told. This book is on par with the best of fantasy writers. Mr. Pringle is incredibly skilled at the development of all his characters, and there are numerous ones besides those I mentioned. I felt their happiness, fear, pain, exhaustion and sorrow as they leap off the pages. He is brilliant at world building, or should I say worlds building. I lost count of the realms that these characters went to. Each one was fully developed, from a desert, to barren lifeless islands, to empires ruled by despots, and worlds with endless seas, these places were brought to life for the reader. It was never confusing, as chapters would focus on a different character and the worlds they encountered. It is writing that leaves the reader in suspense for the next time you encounter the characters and how they are faring in the world they find themselves in and how, and if, they will ever find their way home. Mr. Pringle’s world building is perfect and his characters are first-rate. A Time of Ashes is one of the finest fantasy novels I have read and I highly recommend it.
Summary (from Storytellers on Tour)
A quest through a thousand worlds. An aeons-old foe. Not even the gods can help. It’s killing them, too.
IN THE YEARS BEFORE THE CORRUPTION CAME, Murrin Kentle lived in a world where the largest island could be walked across in a day, and humans traded and fished in bladeships made from the bones of the gigantic and bizarre sea monsters patrolling its stormy, bottomless oceans. As a truthkeep of the Brotherhood of the First Mind, it’s been his duty to fight the decay of knowledge with religious fervour. A fervour he has increasingly struggled to maintain.
Before the Corruption came, Sheehan hahe Seeheeli was a carefree countess of the Shi’iin. Amphibious and fiercely matriarchal, her people have maintained an uneasy coexistence with the human scholars dominating the islands. Then an emissary of the gods brings news of an impending catastrophe. Now, she and Murrin must embark on a desperate voyage in the hope of salvation, although both the subject of their search and the path they must take remain stubbornly obscure.
Before the Corruption came, a wild young man named Coll grew up in a desert town, consumed by rage over what was done to his mother. His thirst for retribution will set in motion a train of events not even the gods could fully have foretold.
NOW THE CORRUPTION IS HERE, and nothing in Murrin’s world, nor any of the worlds of the Sundered Realm, will ever be the same.
There are plentiful characters in this book. Again, besides the main protagonists, many characters are encountered in the various realms our main protagonists find themselves in. Some of these characters are good, some are quite evil. They all have diverse personalities. It is astounding how many there are, and each one has a complete story arc.
Murrin is a Truthkeeper and is the one who led the expedition into the other realms to find the Construct. He knows the Corruption has started and time is running out. Murrin is level-headed, despite the harsh conditions he faces.
Murrin is the first to meet Coll, who lives in one of the realms. He lives alone and has honed his fighting skills since the horrible death of his mother. He joins Murrin on his quest, not really knowing the outcome or where they are headed.
Chet winds up alone on the boat with the captain and crew after a storm separates them all. He is a student of Murrins. As the ship traverses’ dangerous waters over many realms, it is Chet that often saves them from near death.
Sheehan hahe Seeheeli is, as noted in the book summary, amphibious. Out of the water, she appears human and has human characteristics. In the water, she transforms to her aquatic form. I liked the fact that she did not turn into a mermaid. Her form seemed dolphin-like, as she did have to come to the surface to breath. Sheehan often underestimates those she encounters in other realms. She at first seems arrogant, as she is a countess in her aquatic world. Over the course of the book, she learns that her title means nothing in the other realms.
The world building in A Time of Ashes is second to none. It is simply brilliant. Each world is unique in its characteristics, with some terrifying, and some benign. Others are seemingly endless, barren worlds devoid of all life. In those worlds, our protagonists search for ways to stay alive and the struggle is real. In realms with evil despots, the gritty, grim reality rears its ugly head. They face danger and brutality, leaving the reader hoping they will be able to escape the horrors that await them. These worlds are constructed with precise thought and detail. The people and organisms they encounter make sense for each world. One example is Homollon, the creature that Coll “keeps”. He can read Homollon’s thoughts and speak to each other. Homollon is described as a large plated animals that has wheels. They are not wheels in the traditional sense. They are symbiotic organisms that form the structures propel Homollon. If they are damaged, they can be replaced. As an Environmental Scientist, the attention to these details are absolutely fascinating. It would have been easy to make an organism with wheels, but to have them be symbiotic organisms with Homollon adds to the richness of the world building. That is just one example.
A Time of Ashes is astounding and should rank among the finest in fantasy novels. The large number characters that are diverse in personality keep the reader engaged in the story. Mr. Pringle’s world building is spectacular. Bringing to life the number of worlds he has in this book remarkable. The book runs the gamut of emotions, and the reader feels them all. At times there is frustration with the characters and the choices they make, the relief when they overcome an obstacle, the fear of survival, and the dread of danger they encounter. Mr. Pringle holds nothing back. A Time of Ashes can be hard to read at times because it is dark and brutal. As I mentioned, they are not there simply to be gratuitous and shock to the reader. They are integral to the world the protagonists find themselves in. How they make it though keeps the reader engaged and wanting them to succeed. A Time of Ashes is a fantasy that I highly recommend, and if you are a fan of the genre, a book that you should add to your collection.
My thanks to Storytellers on Tour for providing me an eBook in exchange for an honest review.Follow Me on Social Media