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Title & Author: Lands of Ash (Elemental Realms: Book One), H. L. Burke

Genre & Publication Date: Fantasy, May 18, 2015

Book Description: “What remains when the world burns? After decades of Elemental Invasions, Kingdom of Forra has been reduced to ruins. A band of survivors pulls together in one last attempt to defend their homes and families as the Elementals push to wipe them out. Stoic Militia Captain Karvir and his brother, ardent fighter, Ketyl, lead a skeleton force against the Fiery Horde. Everything–their families, their home, their very world–hangs on their success against impossible odds. Meanwhile across the wilderness, young Brode and his pregnant stepmother flee, hoping to find safety near the ocean. As Elementals pour through the portals, a sacrificial act gives hope for peace, but is it sustainable? With their cities burned, the human race must fight back from the edge of extinction. Could the key to their survival lie in a child?”

First Line: Ketyl tightened his grip on the pack-ram’s leather bridle.

My Take: This book was provided by the author for review.

I had a little trouble finishing this one. While this apocalyptic fantasy world was well built, I couldn’t connect with the characters and thus had trouble caring what happened to them. What do I mean by that?

Two things:

  1. Their behavior seemed uncharacteristic.
  2. They didn’t change at all, or when they did, they changed suddenly and completely.

To give an example, there came a scene between two characters in which one proposed marriage to the other. Character A finally admitted his love for character B, except he sort of screamed it at her. Was she supposed to know? Other characters had mentioned that this wasn’t the first time he’d proposed, though before he’d offered in order to “provide better protection” (and what girl doesn’t leap at that kind of proposal?).

Character B, who’d known this Romeo for many years, refused him in a manner reminiscent of squashing a bug. She might have been sick of him pursuing her, but some of the things she said even had me thinking, “Damn girl, that’s cold.” Worse, it was very uncharacteristic of her. She’s set up as a sweet-natured, loving personality and then, BAM!, she rips the guy’s heart out. Later she even rubs his face in it when she’s with someone else. WTF?

Character A still doesn’t stop trying to win her over, though he does it in the most pathetic, in-your-face, pissed-at-you-because-you-won’t-reciprocate methods. Now, I’ve acted like an idiot in love before, but at a certain point you pull it together and get your head out of your ass.

His behavior, again, seemed unlike the personality traits with which he’d been introduced to us: Honorable, clever, brave. Suddenly he became, aggressive, possessive, and, well, stupid. He didn’t go down this path by degrees. It seemed to happen very quickly and I found it difficult to believe, and later, to care about what would happen next.

I also couldn’t figure out whose story this was. At first I thought it was Ketyl’s, mainly because he’s the first character I met, but the POV shifted from chapter to chapter with no real pattern and left a lot of ambiguity on this point. Knowing who the story belongs to is important because it helps the reader connect with the characters, root for them, and worry for them. Without that, it’s a lot like channel surfing. You never fully invest in what you’re seeing.

The Magical: A unique setting. I found the concept of portals between elemental worlds fascinating.

The Mundane: The story drowned in dialogue. I don’t mean that I need a story to overload on action. In fact, I love dialogue (Masterpiece Theater fan here!) but it has to be dynamic and believable, and above all, interesting. Many times the interludes of dialogue went on far too long and was cluttered with dull or repetitive exchanges.

Summary of Thoughts: This book is currently $2.99 on the Kindle. I wish I could recommend it but there were just too many speed bumps that spoiled the journey for me. The world was well crafted but I’m afraid the characters and their interactions extinguished my interest in the plot.


Many thanks to author H. L. Burke for providing a copy of the book to review.

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