Thursday, October 1, 2015

An Inheritance of Ashes by Leah Bobet

The narrative of An Inheritance of Ashes grabbed me right away. It is hard to figure out what’s going on, but still I wanted to know. Hallie is 16. She and her older sister Marthe are trying to hold on to the family farm. Marthe is pregnant with her first child, and her husband has not returned from the far-off war he travelled to fight. Marthe and Hallie have an angry, uncommunicative relationship. Their father forced his own younger brother off the farm years ago, and now Hallie is afraid her sister will do the same to her.

The world building is, frankly, odd. It’s dystopian, but whatever returned civilization to a more primitive time happened decades ago. Now, strange, “twisted” creatures that burn whatever they touch have come into our world from another. A hero named John Balsam ended the war against them by tearing a hole through the other world, but the twisted things are still showing up on the farm.

Hallie, her neighbors, and a mysterious veteran who arrived at the farm seeking work and shelter for the winter must band together to figure out what is happening and save not only the farm but their entire community.

I found the twisted creatures on top of the dystopia a bit much. It seems unlikely that both scenarios would happen – the twisted things are never connected to whatever events crashed civilization in the first place. It might have been more effective to set the story in an unnamed primitive society rather than a fallen civilization. It just really didn’t make sense to me, but it  also didn’t bother me *that* much. I still enjoyed the story.

I liked some of the overwritten but unusual language, such as “Heron stood before me, stiff and unshaken, his peculiar grace bleeding into the very air. It wasn’t just northern manner, it was his sense of calling: the way a person held themselves high when they were devoted, without compromise, to something greater than themselves.” (p. 45 of the advance reader copy) There is some cringe-worthy dialog, especially between Hallie and the young man who wants to court her, to balance out the nice stuff.

The relentless negative relationship between Marthe and Hallie was hard to take at times, and the identity of the mysterious veteran is likely to be obvious to every reader even though it is not to the characters in the book. But I raced through this book and recommend it to readers who like dystopian coming-of-age stories. (Also, it has a gorgeous cover!)

I read an advance reader copy of An Inheritance of Ashes from It will be published on October 6 and will be available at the Galesburg Public Library.

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