ASH KICKERS By Sean Grigsby
Angry Robot Books, s/b, 8.99
Reviewed by Matthew Johns
In the not so distant future, many of our largest metropoles (metropolises?) have been destroyed by dragons, but humanity lives and fights on. One of mankind’s enclaves is Parthenon City, where the Smoke Eaters work alongside (but not necessarily with, or on friendly terms) the police and fire service to keep the city safe from dragons. Born or endowed with abilities that allow them to withstand vast heat and breathe dragon smoke, Smoke Eaters risk their lives to battle dragons while throwing out regular wisecracks and the F-bomb.
When dragons start behaving erratically and combusting thanks to the emergence of a phoenix, Smoke Eater Tamerica Williams finds herself quickly promoted to captain and hunting the phoenix before all of Parthenon City burns to the ground, thus forming the titular Ash Kickers (aka phoenix slayers).
It’s easy to see that it’s been written by a professional firefighter as he clearly knows his way around the equipment and situations that the fire crews get into and has adapted those to dragon fighting. Grigsby does a great job of bringing his world and the characters that populate it to life. As Parthenon City receives an influx of refugees from around the US and the world, prejudice rears its ugly heads as some of the citizens start calling them “rats” and blaming them for the woes that the city undergoes. While not making an out and out political statement, Grigsby mirrors some of what is occurring in the world today without sounding preachy, bringing to mind the many fascist rallies that have happened around the world throughout history and the suffering they caused for innocents.
Ash Kickers is a well-written page-turner filled with humour, packed with action and adventure, and just waiting for a sequel.