Age of Ash – Book One of the Kithamar Trilogy by Daniel Abraham,
Orbit, P/B, £7.91
Reviewed by Steve Dean
This review is based on an Advance Reading Copy and not the finished article.
Alys is just one of many people struggling to survive in the slums of the city of Kithamar. She makes a living by picking the pockets and cutting the purses of the wealthier residents of the city. When her brother is murdered, she tries to find out who was responsible but stumbles into a plot involving a magical dagger and political shenanigans that go all the way to the top!
Alys is variously assisted and hindered by other thieves and low lifes, as she tries to feed herself, keep warm and stay alive as powerful forces try to use her to their own advantage.
For the most part, the characters are well-written, although some of the side characters are a bit fuzzy. Alys is a believable hero if, at times, clad in plot armour. She does go on a bit of a journey and is certainly different at the end of this volume. Interspersed with the main thread are several others telling the story of the various interested parties within the plot. These characters aren’t as well developed, although the author could be saving those for the next two books.
The story itself flows well from plot point to plot point, is fairly original and very easy to read, which is a sign of good writing. The pacing is where it falls down. The plot moves at a certain pace, and no one will make it move any faster. It maintains the same level for the entire length of the story. As I read, I kept thinking, ‘any second now, it will kick up a gear,’ but it never did.
As this is a fantasy novel, it is, of course, set in a pseudo-medieval city complete with slums, uncaring city guards, rich oppressors, rampant poverty, corruption, xenophobia, plague and poo. It’s well created and hangs together fine, and suits the story, but it’s nothing special. There is an underlying current of something not being right in a supernatural way, and this does come through in the writing and helps give the setting a small boost.
Overall, I’ve been back and forth on this book. Take a point off for the pacing and setting; add one on for the atmosphere and good writing. And despite what the blurb says, there’s nothing epic here. Would I read it again? Probably not. Would I buy the next book in the series? Maybe, if it was on offer. Ok, I’m going to commit and give it a 6 out of 10.