Young Adult Fantasy

Ashes of Revival

By

This book will launch on Sep 30, 2020. Currently, only those with the link can see it. 🔒

Loved it! 😍

This is a harrowing thrill ride with a wise understanding of how easy it is for deceitful leaders to craft societal enemies.

Synopsis

Leona D’Auron was born to be a queen, but she was taught to be obedient. Week after week, she watches as villagers fight to the death in the arena. Barbarians. Not the ones who cling to life as their blood turns the sand red, but the nobles who cheer and shake hands from well-placed bets.

It’s her reign. Her throne. Her decision to free those enslaved to the games. Will the nobles approve of it? No. But what’s the worst that could happen?

Ashes of Revival is a dark fantasy novel that contains adult language, graphic violence, and sexual content.

When I was reading this book, I was surprised this was a debut. It has the aura of an author with vast love and skill for teen fiction. I guess Alex Shobe's a YA book junkie like me too.


The beginning is one of the best ways to start a book I've read in ages. In life, fantasy or otherwise, there are laws, but it takes resources to enforce them, and sometimes whether the law will be respected is dictated by those with the weaponry, coin, and commitment to wreak havoc. AKA, the resources.


When Leona enforces the release of all prisoners, it essentially means the end of a cherished sport by those privileged enough not to care that it is forcing people who may not even be charged as guilty yet to fight to the death. And there are things in lives that the privileged and carefree will fight to keep, and in this case it's entertainment. Plus it sends fear in those people they'll be robbed or attacked. Leona having to pay the price for her groundbreaking decision was both realistic and monumentally infuriating. I was forced to ask myself how I would react if I loved a sport and it got not just cancelled but outlawed. Would I be willing to listen to the corruption and torture that caused it to be shut down? I like to think so, but so many in the world wouldn't.


The main idea of this story is the disgraced queen and a warrior brutalized by the system must try to take back a kingdom and town that wronged them and don't regret doing so, and when it sticks to these roots, it's deliciously entertaining.


Some of the sublime fast pace gets diluted after the second half of the book while getting to know side characters who aren't quite as interesting, and there's a third act that gets a little weird (why would Leona's sworn enemy let her sleep in the same bed as him, as he's sleeping, without proper cuffing?). But I will admit, this is beautiful work. Alex Shobe's writing is naturally medieval and scrumptiously edgy. She's always immersed in the crumbling, poverty-stricken non-technological world she's crafted.


The ending may be a tad discomforting to some, but there's also a sense of satisfaction that, when you compare it to the world right now, makes you wish for a similar kind of revolution. Ashes of Revival is a book that understands how doing the right thing can lead to enemies who'll never tolerate those deviant from them, but there are heroes out there, who do it anyway.

Reviewed by

I'm an entertainment critic from Canada. I've been blogging about movies of all genres and books of all shapes and sizes since 2014. Meanwhile, I'm also an aspiring author and actor, so you could say I have big dreams on both sides of the table. I really love the world of storytelling.

Synopsis

Leona D’Auron was born to be a queen, but she was taught to be obedient. Week after week, she watches as villagers fight to the death in the arena. Barbarians. Not the ones who cling to life as their blood turns the sand red, but the nobles who cheer and shake hands from well-placed bets.

It’s her reign. Her throne. Her decision to free those enslaved to the games. Will the nobles approve of it? No. But what’s the worst that could happen?

Ashes of Revival is a dark fantasy novel that contains adult language, graphic violence, and sexual content.

Leona

A breath is a fickle thing—easy to hold and easier to lose. I exhale as I smooth my hands over the golden lace bodice, hoping to loosen the knots twisting within my stomach. My fingers trail over the silk ties keeping the bodice closed. In the corner of the floor-length mirror, I glimpse at Gracen standing behind me, her forehead creasing with worry.

“Is it too tight, Your Majesty?”

The frail hemline swishes silently over the marble floor as I spin to face her.

“No. It’s perfect, thank you.” I offer a weak smile and return my view to the mirror. “It’s just my nerves.”

Gracen takes a step forward, her hands folded neatly in front of her. “If you’d like, I could get you a cup of tea from the kitchen? Jasper has a fresh stock of chamomile. Or maybe peppermint?”

I lower my eyes to the floor. No amount of herbal tea could ease the gut-wrenching torment within me. If only it were as simple as drinking a tonic to make all my problems go away. After a moment, I lift my head and our eyes meet again. “That won’t be necessary.”

I cross the room to the vanity with Gracen following behind. She pulls the stool from under the table and absentmindedly sweeps her hand over the cushion. Dust never settles around here. Once I’m seated, her hands are in my hair, a brush gliding down the length.

“Earlier,” she says, braiding the hair at my temples, “the Lord Commander was determined to see you.”

My hands clasp tighter in my lap. “What did you tell him?”

“That you were busy, shoulders-deep in audiences with diplomats.” A soft chuckle escapes Gracen’s mouth, and it vibrates through to her fingertips. “He almost had half a mind to go room to room searching for you, anyway.”

“He does have half a mind. I’m still trying to figure out where he keeps the half that works.”

At this, Gracen’s full laughter carries throughout the room. It’s a pleasant sound to hear. There’s not much amusement in the castle anymore. She pins the plaits to the crown of my head, then moves to gather the rest of my hair. I reach up, and she pauses when I touch her hand.

“I think I’ll wear it down today.”

She nods, then uses her fingers to fan out my hair along my back. When she’s satisfied with its placement, she rests her hands on my shoulders. “I wish I could take this burden from you.” Her voice is faint behind me. “Your mother despised attending as well. And she, too, wore her hair like a blanket on these days.” She pauses again. “I suppose it brought her some comfort.”

My eyes sting at the mention of Mother. I press them shut, hoping to will the tears away. It’ll only do more harm than good for the Council to see me with puffy, bloodshot eyes. Gracen’s hands fall to her sides when I turn around to face her.

I clear my throat, pushing back the emotion from my voice. “That’ll be all, Gracen. Thank you.”

Gracen drops her head into a bow, her graying hair falling forward in front of her face. It’d been thrown up in a tight chignon at the start of the day, but loose strands have escaped during her morning chores.

She shuffles out of my bedchamber, the thick maple door closing effortlessly as she exits. There aren’t many people I like around here, but she’s one of them. I hate that I’ve been keeping her at an arm’s length recently, never allowing myself to feel the maternal value she once gave me. Now that my mother is gone, it feels like a betrayal. Still, she’s one of the few people within these castle walls who doesn’t smile with kind eyes in my face only to utter their dissatisfaction of my reign behind my back. She’s an honest soul, more truthful than those whose allegiance should’ve been sworn to me. The others follow me only out of necessity, not support.

Six months have passed, and this has gotten no easier to stomach. When I claimed the throne, the nobles didn’t rejoice at my coronation. They looked on in polite disinterest, muttering words they thought I couldn’t hear as I passed. Mother warned me that might happen. I’ve held onto her hope that I could be the leader the country needs, a queen who could soften the firm edges of a man’s world. The country is entombed in its traditions—its games—and the nagging thought pulls at the corners of my mind.

A breeze rushes in through the open balcony doors, carrying with it the spicy scent of the lilac gardens below. There’s warmth in the springtime air, yet an icy chill grabs my spine, leaving me paralyzed for a moment. Once the sensation passes, I walk over to the bedchamber doors and hold on to one last deep breath before pulling it open.

The guard posted outside in the corridor stands an entire head taller than me, and still, his body stiffens at attention when my eyes land on him. He peers down at me, eyes wide, as he waits for my instruction.

I give him a curt nod. “I’m ready.”


A thunderous crowd grows louder with each step I take toward the arena. They’re chanting, not my name—no. The word fight echoes like a ricochet around the coliseum.

Everyone’s waiting, and when I step into view, the crowd falls silent. I pull my shoulders back as I emerge from the tunnel that leads to the monarch’s gallery. A crimson chenille canopy, pulled tight between four stone columns, bucks when the wind catches underneath it.

I march past my Council, six men whose judgmental glares are lost against the other hundreds of eyes directed toward me.

Everyone’s waiting.

My feet carry me to my chair, though they’d much rather had taken me somewhere else—anywhere else but here. I’m numb, my vision focused in front of me, with only the crowd’s expectations driving me forward.

I hate this.

I hate the dingy stench of the arena, an odor that comes from hundreds of years of use. I hate looking upon the masses, knowing that they find enjoyment in their lack of humanity.

But none of that matters now, as I am here.

I stand in front of my seat for a moment, letting the noon sun caress my face and the tops of my shoulders. It’d be such a beautiful day, if not for the dread looming over me like a shadow. I lower myself onto the chair, and a booming vibration rattles the structure as the crowd cheers.

It’s time.

About the author

My name is Alex. I currently reside in Indiana with my husband and two daughters. When I'm not getting lost in a good story, or working on a good story of my own, you can find me binge-watching Netflix and strumming my guitar. view profile

Published on September 25, 2020

Published by Vulpine Publishing

70000 words

Contains explicit content ⚠️

Genre: Young Adult Fantasy

Reviewed by

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