I have been waiting for what seems like forever to read this book. I first saw it over on the Harper Voyager Twitter and then they posted a little excerpt of the audiobook (which you can find here). After I listened to this I knew that I needed it. I also had the pleasure of meeting Den Patrick at Southampton Forbidden Planet and may have died a little bit and possibly used the phrase ‘on the twitter’. (Nice one Amy…) Anyway he was lovely and wrote an amazing book that I am now obsessed with! And here is why you should read it:
(pretty cover alert!)
It has been seventy-five years since the dragons’ rule of fire and arcane magic over Vinkerveld was ended, and the Empire was born. Since, the tyrannical Synod has worked hard to banish all manifestations of the arcane across the lands.
However, children are still born bearing the taint of the arcane, known to all as witchsign. So each year the Emperor sends out his Vigilants across the continent to detect the arcane in these children. Those found tainted are taken, and never seen again. Steiner has always suspected his sister Kjellrunn of bearing witchsign. But when their father’s attempt to protect her from the Invigilation backfires, it is Steiner who is mistakenly taken. However it is not death which awaits Steiner, but an Academy where the children with witchsign learn to master their powers – some at the cost of their lives. Steiner is determined to escape the Academy and protect his sister from this fate.
But powerful enemies await him at every turn, and Steiner finds himself taken on a journey straight into the heart of the Empire’s deepest secrets, which will force him to reconsider everything he has known about witchsign.
So I gave this 5/5 stars. I was in a reading slump but I still wanted to pick this up at every chance that I could. It was fast paced as it really kept you really wanting to read more, but it wasn’t too fast paced where it felt rushed. As it is the first book in a trilogy there was a lot of history and world building that needed to be introduced. I thought this was done so well as it wasn’t just one big info-dump at the beginning. The history and world building was spread throughout the story and only reveals things when they need to be revealed. I always had questions and the answers were nicely sprinkled throughout. This meant plot twists. This meant plot twists.
One of my favourite parts of the story is the mythology. A lot of the mythology is based on Norse mythology. There are gods/goddesses, magic and amazing creatures. I just thought it was brilliant how everything tied in and it really made the story work for me. And also the dragons. Because Oh yea, there are dragons.
As well as loving the story in general I also loved the characters. I can’t think of a single character that I didn’t like. There are two POV’s. These are from Steiner and Kjellrunn and they are brother and sister. Usually with two POV’s I have a favourite and one that I would rather read. This was not the case with Steiner and Kjellrunn. Although I loved Steiner and his journey I couldn’t not love Kjellrunn because she is such a badass gal. Steiner is one of my fave types of character, ‘The Chosen One Who Is Not Actually The Chosen One‘. I wish we had more of this trope in fantasy honestly. He did what he had to do for his family and for his village. He wasn’t immediately badass and suddenly amazing at everything. He had to learn and adapt and I loved seeing that from him. I hate it when characters are suddenly amazing fighters and are instantly the best swordsman after picking one up for the first time. Kjellrunn was so strong even though she was so young and she was very headstrong and took control of her own life. I loved this about her. She did what she had to do and followed her own morals instead of not being told how to act and what to do.
Kjellrunn isn’t the only strong female in this book. There are so many women and they are all so strong in their own ways. They are all different and all important for so many reasons. There are pirates and princesses and priestesses. Also none of them were described by their figure or through ‘the male gaze’, which was nice as often women are sexualised for no particular reason. As a female myself, I really enjoyed reading about these female characters because they felt so real to me and that I could connect with them.
I’ve been trying to think about anything that I didn’t like/wasn’t a fan of but I honestly can’t think of anything. More dragons? More magic? More dragons?! That is all I can say really.
Overall, I think that this is a very promising first book in the Ashen Torment series. I can’t wait to see where this story is going and how the characters develop over time. Also I will be adding the rest of Den Patrick’s books to my tbr because I need to read more of him!