Walking into A Testament of Steel by Davis Ashura, my expectations were already high. Testament had already spent many months on the best-seller lists and won the coveted Readers’ Favorite Award (but, hey, I came in second place! ) Grudges aside, I really wanted to like this book. Davis is a downright nice individual, someone I consider a friend.
Thank god I loved it, for it would have been darn awkward to tell Davis anything different.
I’m going to gush about this book because it deserves to be gushed about. I mean, there is a reason why it beat out the entire 2020 field of Readers’ Favorite contenders (no, I’m not going to let that one go!) This is a book that is mesmerizing and impossible to put down. I spent a few sleepless nights with tablet in hand, compelled to keep the pages turning.
Cinder is a fantastic main character. He is pretty much everything you could ask for in a fantasy hero—competent, courageous, polite, bold, and fiercely determined to accomplish what he sets out to do. He overcomes every obstacle in his path with never a complaint. But what truly makes him a great character is his humanity. Even though Cinder could have easily been written as a Mary Sue, Ashura resisted that temptation, infusing him with all the right kind of flaws to make him not just believable but someone I wouldn’t mind sitting down at a table with for a conversation over drinks. He’s got a heart of gold, the kind of friend every person needs on their side.
The supporting characters are equally compelling. My favorite was Anya, an elven princess who sees in Cinder the same things I do—traits that set him apart from the rest of his human peers. While their relationship is not romantic, there is definitely an attraction between them, and it’s fun to watch. Another notable side-character is Cinder’s horse, Fastness, which is sentient and quirky and just downright adorable. He has friends and enemies of various races, all with very unique personalities. No cardboard cutouts or dark lords here!
The training sequences are many and varied, and keep the novel moving at a good pace. At its core, this is progression fantasy, after all, and it’s fun to watch Cinder persevere against every odd stacked against him and level up. I think that’s one of the big reasons why this novel is so beloved by so many—I think we would all like to see a little of Cinder in ourselves.
This is a novel I am very proud to highly recommend. Buy it. Now. You will thank me for it. You’re welcome.