I wasn’t sure what to expect from Ashes of The Sun. I’d never read a Django Wexler story before. I knew from the book blurb that it was one of those siblings on opposite sides of a conflict tropes but that was about it. What I didn’t expect was Star Wars. Yep…Star Wars…just not in space. And I really enjoyed it.
“Long ago, a magical war destroyed an empire, and a new one was built in its ashes. But still the old grudges simmer, and two siblings will fight on opposite sides to save their world, in the start of Django Wexler’s new epic fantasy trilogy
Gyre hasn’t seen his beloved sister since their parents sold her to the mysterious Twilight Order. Now, twelve years after her disappearance, Gyre’s sole focus is revenge, and he’s willing to risk anything and anyone to claim enough power to destroy the Order.
Chasing rumors of a fabled city protecting a powerful artifact, Gyre comes face-to-face with his lost sister. But she isn’t who she once was. Trained to be a warrior, Maya wields magic for the Twilight Order’s cause. Standing on opposite sides of a looming civil war, the two siblings will learn that not even the ties of blood will keep them from splitting the world in two.” – Goodreads blurb
So, where to begin? I’ll tell you now and save the suspense, I was not blown away by this book. But I did thoroughly enjoy it. What I mean by that is it didn’t give me all the feels, it didn’t have grand poetic prose, and it didn’t leave me on the edge of my seat in suspense. But it was some damn good adventurous fun with great action and inventive world building. And sometimes when the world is a trash fire all around you and you need an escape, this is the kind of book you need!
Ashes of The Sun is told in an alternating POV style format following the story of Maya and Gyre, two siblings separated at a very young age. The cause and effect of that separation has put each on opposing sides of a political conflict that threatens to explode into an all-out-war. The format works really well for the story as the characters get closer and closer to crossing paths.
Maya and Gyre are both well written and I enjoyed each storyline. Though if I’m honest I have to say I like Maya best. And that’s odd for me because I tend to like the “burn it all down” kind of rebel that is Gyre. I think maybe it was because he was just a little too whiny and negative at times. Gyre was still a likable character all around and his motivation really does fit him. Maya was more upbeat and just had more of a hopeful positive attitude. Maybe in the moment that’s what I needed most in a character when I was reading this. She’s also got a bit of the underdog trait going for her which I’m also a sucker for at times.
There’s a core set of minor characters as well that I really came to like, Beq, the arcanist-trainee Maya develops a huge crush on, Varo the scout-trainee whose friends all seem to die in wild ways, and Kit the Doomseeker who opens Gyre’s eyes to a wider more dangerous world. Each was a welcome and entertaining addition to the story.
Where the book really excels is in the world building. It’s imaginative and engrossing. Centuries after an epic war fought between very powerful forces the people of this world are still dealing with the fallout. This was a war fought between the Ghouls and the Chosen, two sets of powerful beings who ruled over the world. Each used powerful artifacts powered by dhaka, a supernatural power and deiat, the power of creation. These included huge artificial constructs (automatons) and skyships. After the war the ghouls and Chosen vanished, leaving humans behind to make their way in a world filled with plaguesspawn created by dhaka still existent in the world. They do so with the help of the Twilight Order and various arcana powered by deiat like the haken and blasters (more below). Only the Twilight Order isn’t universally loved as Gyre will attest to. It’s a world still struggling with the aftermath of that great war, one with great wealth and poverty, one ready to be set on fire once again.
But the most interesting aspect of the world building for me are the parts that are unmistakably borrowed from Star Wars. Now, I know some will say this is lazy world building or just stealing from another story already told. Maybe. But EVERY author is influenced by other stories and at some point they’ve all borrowed something. And this something was really cool.
So here’s a breakdown of some of those influences:
- A Jedi inspired group of masters and apprentices called The Twilight Order
- Jedi Master inspired Centarchs
- Jedi Council inspired Kyriliarchs
- Padawan inspired agathios
- Lightsaber inspired haken with blades of energy that form out of the hilt
- Blaster inspired blasters
- Stormtrooper inspired legionaries wearing “unmetal” white armor
I could probably take this further. The Dawn Republic might have similarities to a pre-Empire but that may be a stretch at this point. There’s also sort of a dual force wielding thing between Ghouls/Chosen but that implies a level of evil vs good that I can’t say exists in this book. Anyway, I loved these influences, however heavily borrowed they are. It was really cool to see them in a non-space setting.
Wexler’s writing was just what you’d want for a book like this. Overall it was engaging, and kept you turning pages. It was replete with action scenes that were fast paced and exciting. The dialogue (inner and outer) flowed without hiccups and was at times very amusing. There was just enough foreshadowing that you could see where the story was going without it giving everything away. And importantly for me there wasn’t much in the way of info dumps.
As themes go the one that stood out the most to me was that of good vs evil where the truth is somewhat muddied. At a surface level it would seem what is good and evil in this world is clear. But as is the case with the real world, the truth is people and institutions don’t really fall entirely within one category or the other. What is good or evil is often in the eye of the beholder, or in mouth of the storyteller. This is really at the heart of Ashes of The Sun and plays a major role in the motivations, desires, and conflicts of the characters.
Let me also say a quick something about that cover. I am a sucker for a good cover and this one is outstanding! That person staring up at the sky amidst the waterfall streaming ruins of a fallen empire? Yes…that is just…well…it screams buy me.
So what are my overall thoughts? Ashes of The Sun is page turning fantasy at its best: fast paced and entertaining with exciting story arcs, fanciful world building, powerful magic, and characters you’ll love to follow. It was just the right book for me in these chaotic days to help pull my mind away and take me to another world.
I was sent an Advanced Reader’s Copy of this book by the publisher.
4 of 5 Stars
Author: Django Wexler
Series: Burningblade & Silvereye #1
Publication Date: July 21, 2020
Format: Advanced Reader’s Copy Paperback