Sunday, October 9, 2011

Review: Ember and Ash

Author: Pamela Freeman
Genre: YA Fantasy
Pages: 498
Warnings: N/A
Rating: 2/5

I don't have a strong endorsement of this book. There were some wonderfully entertaining qualities to her prose, particularly the well-developed setting, probably because this book is a one-off of her Castings trilogy. However the characters were a real weak point for me. I had trouble distinguishing their personalities, and I didn't care too much for any of them aside from Martine (Ember's mother).

Freeman's setting is top-notch. The environment created by the local gods who oversee matters local matters like death with the Powers who function as the Elements at their most animated was lovely. I appreciate the depth that went into them, as well as the myriad of people who communicate, worship and work for them. I got the feeling Freeman created a complete world and only showed us the bits we needed to see, which I love.

However, there were some really annoying aspects of this book that I want to caution readers about. There is a host of side-characters, and it's really obvious they have a sub-plot created especially for them with no real value to the Ember/Ash storyline. The sense of urgency created by the sub-plot involving Arvid (Ember's father) was just unnecessary. I was also irritated by the scene where Ember, Ash, Holly and several unnamed guards left the Last Domain's capital. It seemed sloppy to me that anyone reading that scene knew the "unnamed" guards were going to die, and soon, to emphasize how dangerous it was. I completely respect an author who's willing to kill off characters, but this was so obvious a plot point I couldn't take it seriously. Mean as this sounds, if Freeman can't bother to introduce the readers to a set of guards, why are we supposed to care if they're hurt? Altogether, I didn't see the same attention to detail in the smaller plot points of "Ember and Ash" that I so enjoyed in the setting.

I have to reiterate that the characterization in this book wasn't top notch. I expect a lot from my fantasy books, and interesting, believable characters are a big part of that. While some of the characters in "Ember and Ash" were likable enough, but I couldn't tell their internal monologues apart. On a much more personalized note, I thought the separation of Ember and Ash was ill conceived and story ended just when things were getting sexy.

I thought this was a reasonable bit of fluff-fiction, and I'm interested to see what else Pamela Freeman writes in the future. It was a fun read while it lasted, so if you've got the time and you like elementals, I would suggest this book.

Things I'm curious about: Did anyone else hate Arvid? Is there any saucy Ember/Ash fanfiction, hidden away in a dark and dusty corner of the internet? Can anyone explain what was up with Ice? I know the assumption that elements are mercurial was worked into the plot early, but still.

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