Katherine Bogle has a solid coming-of-age style fantasy in her new novel, Ashen. I had a difficult time getting into this book, and found myself often drifting off during the lulls. I can find nothing technically wrong with the story, and when I think about how I would describe it, it sounds fantastic, so I’m thinking it’s just a “me” thing. Overall, this is a well-executed fantasy novel. The plot moves along at fairly decent pacing, however most of the story is pretty formulaic. This formula is diverted a bit by the addition of a lesbian romance. There are a few errors in grammar and word usage here and there, but nothing that really interrupts the reader’s ability to enjoy the story.
At first, to me, it seemed like Adni’s actions don’t make sense. While reading, I felt like Bogle lost sight of her character in order to move the plot the way she wants. But then, rethinking it, it’s possible the event I’m thinking of is a result of a true reaction of an 18 year old. As things progress, you see Adni still fumbling in her youth, but also growing into adulthood. The depth of characters is shown in almost all of Bogle’s characters, many of the “good” guys having “bad” moments and vice versa. It seems there’s always a possibility of redemption or fall, and Adni is not exempt from that.
Something that does strike me as odd, though, is Adni’s total unawareness of being attracted to…anybody. How does one reach the age of 18 and have zero experience being attracted to anybody. She’s not shocked by her attraction to a woman…but she doesn’t seem to have ever been attracted to a person before. I love that her attraction isn’t something that she struggles with due to Julian being a woman. So many authors I’ve read with non-conforming relationships have the MC struggling with accepting that relationship. I know this happens a lot in the real world, but it’s refreshing to see Bogle letting Adni just go with it instead of wallowing in teenage angst.
Overall, this book is a solid fantasy read. It incorporates dragons and magic and a world that seems determined to tear itself apart. It’s a great coming of age story written in the formula that have starred young men for ages, but instead starring a young woman and her female love interest.
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