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Monday, August 17, 2020

Ash and Bones by Michael R. Fletcher


Official Author Website
Order Ash and Bones over HERE (USA) & HERE (UK)



OFFICIAL AUTHOR INFORMATION: 
Michael R. Fletcher is a science fiction and fantasy author, a grilled cheese aficionado, and a whiskey-swilling reprobate. He spends his days choreographing his forklift musical (titled "Get Forked"), and using caffeine as a substitute for sanity. Any suggestions that he is actually Dyrk Ashton in disguise are all lies.

FORMAT/INFO: Ash and Bones is 664 pages long divided over 40 numbered chapters and is the second entry in the City of Sacrifice series. The author self-published it in August 2020. Cover art by Felix Ortiz.

REVIEW: How does one follow up a dark fantasy focused on gods using humans to regain their place in Pantheon? Evidently, by making things uber-dark and making the story epic and unforgiving.

In Ash and Bones, the followup to Smoke and Stone, Michael R. Fletcher places his protagonists at the center of a devastating conflict between gods. With Mother Death back at Bastion and a shocking display of power from Nuru and Akachi, peace isn't an option. 

Meanwhile, the gods scheme and play their human pawns. Nuru and Efra believe they must oppose gods, no matter the cost or the consequences. Akachi gets delusional. And stoned. Heck, everyone gets stoned in this book. Without drugs, no one could wield so much power and survive.

Fletcher’s talent for crafting compelling and supremely grim fantasy is on full display. He ups the stakes by forcing his characters to stretch their powers beyond their limits. The cost of power is high. Being a god's Chosen One is much more of a curse than it is an honor.


The novel shows both emotional trauma and harrowing battles. It describes them through spectacular scenes showing godlike powers at full display. 


As a middle volume, Ash and Bones succeeds not only in showing us the price of power—it also takes care to develop protagonists, especially Nuru and Efra. Akachi gets hopelessly delusional. I don't expect anyone will have a happy ending (it's Fletcher's book after all), but his god will ruin him and the remnants of his beliefs. Things happen slowly. Were this book 10-20% shorter, it would move at a breakneck pace. In its current form it, unfortunately, meanders in places and gets repetitious. 

The story unfolds through Nuru and Akachis's eyes, and it gives a sense of scale and drastically different views of the same events. While Efra doesn't get POV chapters, her role in the story gets significant. She's terrifying but also fascinating. She's touched by divinity but in Fletcher's world, it doesn't have a positive meaning.

While not perfect, Ash and Bones ends on such a powerful note that I can't wait to read the final book in the series.


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