Ashes of the Sun is a fast-paced and action-packed epic fantasy, though the pacing and setting provide an urban fantasy feel. So much took place in this novel that it almost felt to me like two separate books, split by some events that took place about halfway through. If there’s one thing this novel won’t provide, it’s boredom. At times I wished it would slow down just a bit so I could catch my breath.
In Ashes of the Sun, the POV of each chapter bounces back and forth between Gyre and Maya. For me, both POVs were on a similar level in terms of interest and entertainment, so I rarely found myself rushing through one to get back to the other, which is a common struggle in a novel with a split narrative. Despite the focus on personal motivations, this was much more a plot-driven than a character-driven story. What stood out to me in this novel was not the development of characters, but rather of realistic relationships between them, platonic and otherwise. (There’s a good deal of LGBTQ+ representation including a sapphic main couple and a gay side character.)
Wexler mentions in the acknowledgements that though this is not a Star Wars story, it does take inspiration from Star Wars novels such as those by Timothy Zahn and Chuck Wendig. This influence is easy to see not only in the frequent fight sequences, but also in a good deal of the worldbuilding. The Twilight Order that protects the Republic is akin to the Jedi Order and the Centarchs who use haken and wield deiat are akin to Jedi who use lightsabers and wield the force. There are also prophecies, armor wearing supersoldiers, and long-defeated powerful magic users that may just be threatening to rise again. Despite these obviously similarities, the worldbuilding was one of my favorite parts of this novel.
Unlike the majority of Star Wars, Ashes of the Sun does an incredible job at exploring themes of good and evil while maintaining the moral ambiguity of real life. No one side of this story is objectively right, and as a reader I couldn’t even decide which side I was subjectively rooting for. Another small worldbuilding aspect I loved was the creative use of alchemy and artifacts of arcana for solutions to difficult predicaments and to keep the regular, non-magic-wielding humans from being overly underpowered. I wish more fantasy novels made use of these types of magic.
If you’re interested in a fast-paced epic fantasy filled with magical duels, thrilling heists, underground cities, and a complex world, give Ashes of the Sun a try. And you don’t even have to wait since it was published today (June 21st).
Many thanks to Netgalley and Orbit for a free copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.