I first came across Daniel Abraham via his A Shadow in Summer, remaindered in a cut-price bookstore. I took a chance on it and loved it. I thought the idea was genius, the writing incredible – smooth, intriguing, evocative. The rest of that series, the Long Price Quartet, was almost as good, and I felt that thrill of having discovered a talented new author.
When I bought the first book of his next series, The Dragon’s Path, though, I wasn’t as taken with it. It was fine, but I never got around to getting the next book. I tried again, with Leviathan Wakes, the first book of the now-popular Expanse series. I didn’t care for it, and liked the video series even less. Still, I’m relatively tenacious/loyal to authors I like, so I picked up Age of Ash with enthusiasm. Sadly, it was another letdown. I’ve reached the point, at last, where I’ll likely look at Abraham’s next offering with more skepticism than joy.
There’s nothing technically wrong with Age of Ash. The overall theme – an embodied city – is only a step away from the embodied poems of the Long Price Quartet, but it’s a step in a very familiar direction. The prose is sound, the plot carefully mapped, the character arcs graphed. But it’s the characters where the book goes wrong for me. They’re complete, but to my mind very clinical – almost devoid of true emotion. We hear about their emotions, and the effects of those emotions, but there are only a couple of cases when we see or feel anything ourselves. While the story is structured around Alys, her friend Sammish is the only character I ever much cared about, and she’s almost aggressively shown as a supporting actor.
Without that engagement and investment in the key characters, I never really cared much about what was happening. It was interesting in a mechanical way, but the book left me largely unmoved. There’s a slight pickup in the ending, which has some nice touches, but it wasn’t enough to carry the book, and I won’t be going on to the sequels.
I received this book for free in exchange for an honest review.