Memories of Ash picks up about a year after the conclusion of Intisar Khanani’s Sunbolt. Hitomi, now using the name Hikaru, has been under the tutelage of Brigit Stormwind, learning to perform healing magic and attempting to regain her lost memories.
This interlude comes to an end with the visit from representatives of the High Council of Mages. Stormwind has been called to the council to answer charges of treason. Hitomi must emerge from hiding to confront her enemy Arch Mage Blackflame in order to save her mentor.
Here’s my challenge, dear readers: I want you to read this book. I want you to read both of these books, but I’m only reviewing one. Because Hitomi has lost most of her memories of the events of the first book, Khanani has a handy excuse to bring the reader up to speed, but I think you’ll appreciate the characters more if you’ve already met them and understand the space they occupied in Hitomi’s past.
In addition, Khanani is a gifted writer. The story flows smoothly, and the characters are real and flawed. (Blackflame is two-dimensional, but he doesn’t chew much scenery. He gets a pass.)
Memories of Ash is within the young-girl-saves-the-world genre that’s popular right now, but it’s easily one of the best examples I’ve comes across. Things I loved:
- The world is diverse. I know. You’re tired of hearing the SJW drumbeat. But it’s nice, you know? Hitomi is Middle Eastern-East Asian (so far as those things exist in this fictional world). Skin tones are described in a spectrum of browns (with no comparisons to foods and/or beverages!).
- Khanani includes an impressive array of supernatural creatures without making a big deal out of any of them. There’s a tanuki shapeshifter, a two styles of vampire, lycans, a phoenix, a dragon, and a fairy. Even so, until I mentally counted them off while writing this review, I didn’t realize just how loaded the story was with supernatural creatures.
- Khanani has so much story here that I want more of. Hitomi’s search for her father’s people. Her mother’s ostensible betrayal. How will she fulfill her promise to the phoenix given how the story ends? What will come of the lycan conflict with the mages? And I need more about Val.
- Speaking of Val, for a dystopian-ish YA novel with a female protagonist, Memories of Ash isn’t hamstrung by a love triangle. There’s sort of a love interest. Maybe? It’s unclear. In fact, there are two or three possibilities for romantic entanglement, but it doesn’t matter. Because Hitomi has bigger things to worry about than whether so-and-so finds her attractive. No hearts beating faster. No longing glances. No teen drama. Allelu!
I want you to love this book because it’s a lovely little volume that deserves a wider readership.