The King of Ash & Bone Review

Legends sometimes have roots in reality, a grain of salt that’s too much to bear but too chilling to be forgotten. As society crumbles around Mackenzie, she trusts a stranger. The fellow survivor is a means to the end of reuniting with her brother. As tensions run high, she’s plunged into a nightmare beyond her imagining. She has information about the invading species, but can she get it to the army in time?

For long time readers, it’s probably no surprise that I’m enthused about one of Melissa Wright’s books. (Here are previous books of hers I’ve reviewed). In an effort toward better literary citizenship and to better support my fellow writers, I’m going to try to increase my reviews.

I listened to the audiobook for King of Ash and Bone a few months ago, and I’ve been meaning to review it. I enjoyed this post-apocalyptic preternatural clean romance very much.

Here I’ll talk about the characters, setting, and emotional delivery with as little spoilers as possible.

Characters

The life blood of any story, these did not fail to deliver. The POV (point of view) characters are primarily MacKenzie and Hunter – two young adults trying to survive as the world as we know it shatters.

MacKenzie was more relatable than I expected. She is well-developed. Her backstory was sympathetic. I can’t claim similar experiences to hers before the catalyst, but I can identify with the emotions described – fear of social judgement, a desire for independence, disappointment and betrayal from those we expected better of. The concern and responsibility she feels for her brother is very relatable to me (and probably anyone with siblings).

Being a post-apocalyptic novel where people are fewer, further between, and untrusting, this story doesn’t have as many main characters as others, certainly not others by this author.

Hunter is a little enigmatic. Since we don’t see as much from his perspective, he’s a little harder to relate to for me. At the same time, I’ve definitely had things about me that I didn’t want others to know. Also, I’ve wanted to buck traditions and find things out for myself, so I related to that aspect very well. His backstory ends up being richer than I expected.

The tension between Kenzie and Hunter is palpable. Since it is YA, it stays very clean, but there’s an attraction between the two that grows, and shifts, and changes. The end of the story leaves them different people, which I believe is important in a YA novel.

Does it pass the Bechdel Test? Nope. Not in a significant way. Kenzie overheard a mother and small daughter (at least I think it was a daughter) singing “Happy Birthday”, but we don’t see them and I don’t recall an actual conversation. Later in the book there’s an influx of new minor characters briefly but they don’t have a meaningful exchange to my memory. Finally, in the last part of the book there are two female characters introduced, but one does not communicate in English well enough to have much of a conversation. The other is so brief, I don’t recall much interaction.

– Setting

From small town Ohio to The Dying Lands, the setting is easy to imagine and drew me in.

The post-apocalyptic parks and neighborhoods of Ohio contrasting with Kenzie’s memories of places. The otherworldly scenery of The Dying Lands was both eerie and ethereal.

– Emotional Delivery

The ending of the book was satisfying to me. The pacing held my interest. I really enjoyed the book and do want to hear the next one – Queen of Iron and Blood. Overall it wasn’t exactly what I expected, but it touched on the right chords and sometimes a surprise is a good thing.

It was a good diversion that entertained me thoroughly while I was working out and cleaning.

In Conclusion

I enjoyed listening to it very much. It’s a little atypical for what I enjoy (it’s romance and YA), but I still recommend it.

Two important notes about the audiobook: first – I received this audiobook in a giveaway off Melissa Wright’s blog. Second, the narration was a little grating for me. The narrator sounded almost angry at inappropriate times – I suppose she was just intense, but at times the emotion in her voice took me out of the story because it didn’t ring true to what was being said. I’m not sure if her reading relaxed farther in or if I came to expect her style.

This book is currently free on Amazon (not just Kindle Unlimited).

Note/Disclaimer/Rant: Originally I described this book as a preternatural romance, however … upon further inspection it is categorized as Alien Invasion/First Contact on Amazon. Which one is it?!?!?!?! I want to stand by my reasoning but #spoilers.
Is the species alien?
Yes.
Are they invading?
Yes.
It is first (modern) contact with said aliens?
Yes.
Does it have romantic elements to it?
Yes.
Does Romance solely drive the plot?
No.
Does it follow typical romance conventions?
To my understanding, yes. I haven’t read a straight up romance novel in … years, and have only ever read one Harlequin novel, [not that there’s anything wrong with either just my tastes have changed] so I can’t speak to it as an expert.
Does it have an HEA/HFN ending?
Not gonna include any #spoilers. 😛
Is science integral to this (to qualify as Science Fiction)?
Not completely. If we’re going to call this Science Fiction, then we must concede that it is Soft Science Fiction.

Book categories are just a way of micro-analyzing products that they think a certain psychograph will purchase. At a writing conference I went to, when authors were questioning agents about seemingly invented categories, a panel of agents and editors admitted as much: they are invented by book sellers, but the publishing industry has readily adopted them because … that’s the easiest way to try to duplicate business success. So endeth my rant/disclaimer — 9/22/19.


To end on an unrelated, fun note … my YA Fantasy title would be Princess of Blood and Death. What would yours be?

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