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Wednesday, November 2, 2022

BLOG TOUR: Blood Of A Novice by Davis Ashura (reviewed by Mihir Wanchoo)

 


Pre-order Blood Of A Novice over HERE
Read Fantasy Book Critic's review of A Testament Of Steel 

OFFICIAL AUTHOR INFO: Davis Ashura is a Physician by profession but an author by choice. He was inspired by his love for epic fantasy and his south Asian cultural heritage to begin writing. He has published eight books and one collection so far. He lives in North Carolina with his lovely family and loves to drive muscle cars.

OFFICIAL BLURB: Cam Folde will shake the very fabric of creation... or see all his hopes turn to ash.

The son of the town drunk, Cam never figured on letting his family name hold him down. He always strove to dream bigger, to fight for something better, to achieve more than what everyone else expected of him.

But as they say, ‘once a Folde, always a Folde’, and when a decision to rescue a friend leads to disaster, fortune’s favor is lost. Cam spirals away from his dreams and ambitions; his fall finally ending at the bottom of a bottle.

However, all hope is not lost. Cam rises, supported by family and friends. And when a powerful Master of Ephemera offers him a chance to walk the Way into Divinity and achieve redemption, Cam seizes the opportunity. All he has to do is survive the Ephemeral Academy, the very school where the next generation of Masters are trained. There, Cam just might achieve the greatness he's always sought, and with friends at his side, including an irrepressible Awakened panda, it even seems possible.

And yet Cam will soon discover that the Way into Divinity is as steep as it is arduous, and there are more fearsome things than humans who brave its perilous climb...

FORMAT/INFO: Blood Of A Novice is 774 pages long divided over fifty-five chapters and an acknowledgements section, a glossary & an Author’s note. Narration is in third person via Cam Folde. This is the first volume of the Eternal Ephemera series.

November 8, 2022 will mark the North American e-book & audiobook publication of Blood Of A Novice and it is self-published by the author. Cover art is by Asur Misoa and design is by Christian Bentulan.

OVERVIEW/ANALYSIS: Blood Of A Novice by Davis Ashura is the start of the Eternal Ephemera series and set on a new world. This new series is another one set within the Anchored Worlds universe that Davis Ashura has created. This being the fourth world that he has created, it’s been fun to read them. This new series was set up more slightly different than his previous ones and Davis reached out to me about an ARC, I readily jumped on his offer.

I’m also taking part in the Blood Of A Novice Blog Tour and this is day 2 of the tour. You can review all the stops of the tour and definitely do read Nick’s review as he opened the tour yesterday with his in-depth thoughts:

 Tuesday (Nov 1st)Nick B. at Out Of This World SFF
 Wednesday (Nov 2nd) – Fantasy Book Critic
 Thursday (Nov 3rd) – David at Blue Book Balloon blog
 Friday (Nov 4th) – Beth T. at Before We Go Blog
 Saturday (Nov 5th) – Lena on Goodreads
 Monday (Nov 7th) – Starr K. at Pages & Procrastination
 Tuesday (Nov 8th) – Cassidee at FanFiAddict

The story begins with Cam Folde, a simple son of a drunkard who yearns to be more. His world has been fraught with magic and often there are ways via which mere mortals and even animals can gain sentience and become more than just, who they are. Wanting desperately to escape his frugal origins, Cam takes a chance to further his magic but things take a turn for the worse. Things then spiral and soon Cam learns that sometimes it’s harder to escape fate but not everything is destined.

This new series starter by Davis Ashura was such a different one than his previous ones. It obviously plays on some of the same themes, it definitely is playing a longer game with the whole magic system aspect that has been playing out in Castes & Outcastes trilogy & The Instruments Of Omens (TIOO) series. Lastly similar to the Instruments Of Omens series, we get a magical academy aspect. This one however is more about the magic rather than martial aspects as it was in TIOO.

The story is primarily focused through Cam Folde who is an everyman. He faces societal condemnation for his family’s addictions, his past actions as well a general distaste for being perceived as a ne’er-do-well. He faces these head on but never lets go of his objective, to achieve magical prowess and better his station in life. Cam will do almost anything but never at the expense of his morality or at the cost of someone’s lives. This strong moral compass is demonstrated over and over again as the author puts him in various situations where his mental fortitude, (little) magical abilities and attitude gets tested in various horrendous ways. We really get to see him grow as a character and along the same time develop relationships that will have consequences down the line.

What I thoroughly enjoyed about the story was the magical academy aspect of the storyline. I must admit I’m a sucker for such things and here Davis Ashura further enrichens the story by including aspects of Indian mythology as well sentient animals who have become more than what evolution intended. The best example of this is Pan Shun, an awakened Panda who becomes friends with Cam whilst also trying to find out more about a prophecy that he seems to be the focus of. There are other intriguing characters such as Saira, Rainen the Wilde sage, Avia etc. but the readers will have to discover more about them.

The worldbuilding I have to highlight is another strong feature of the story, we get a semi-feudal world wherein there are several (nine) duchies ruled by sage-dukes who have their own agendas. There are also Rakshasas who are seeking their own agenda but mainly try their hand at destruction. There is however more to them and we are only given hints about their true agenda. The magic system is based on Ephemera which is a magical particle which is supposedly present in every aspect of creation. I loved this aspect that mirrored in Hindu philosophy similar to Brahman present in every Atma. The story also has some cool magical action sequences and this book while not having all out action, is still fascinating with all the magic that it showcases.

Now as good and dense as this story is there are some drawbacks to it. Firstly this is progression fantasy and while I’m not a reader completely familiar with this fantasy sub-genre. I have come to recognize several important facets about it. Davis Ashura hits these facets significantly and at regular intervals. So for regular readers of it, this is like ambrosia or amrit. For those epic fantasy readers, these repetitive aspects can get a bit tedious. The story is also a lengthy one (over 200k words, if I had to guess) and so this robs the story of plot pace. Now we as fantasy readers are used to the slower pace of the story, but here the author does some exposition about the magic system, world and characters which I wish was handled in a smoother fashion.

Now to be fair, I must say that progression fantasy isn’t going to be like A Song Of Ice And Fire and so readers will have to temper their expectations as well. Lastly those looking for more martial action similar to the author’s previous books might not find it to the same high degree.
 
CONCLUSION: Blood Of A Novice is the rousing start of a fascinating epic magical story, as many of the characters frequently like to recite “All is Ephemera…”, I like to this that readers might have to go all in on progression fantasy. Embrace its character tropes, and plot subversions, and you will find a magically rich and geographically deep world. Davis Ashura is a terrific writer who’s writing something magical and mysterious. It might not be for everyone but it is for those looking to find wonder in words and for those who still hope in their hearts about magic. Read it to find out more about one of the best kept secrets of the growing sub-genre of progression fantasy

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