Age of Ash (2022) – Daniel Abraham

Orbit Books invited me to take a look at the first novel in The Kithamar Trilogy, a new fantasy series from author Daniel Abraham. Fantasy novels have always been a tough in for me, I enjoy Tolkien, have delved into some Terry Pratchett, and have been known to enjoy some fantasy entries in the ‘Young Adult’ genre, but I’ve never been able to settle into stories of high fantasy, and magic and strange beings.

I knew this time I would be different.

I knew it would be different, because Daniel Abraham is one half of James S.A. Corey, the creative team behind The Expanse series, one of my all-time favorite science fiction series. That title and his work on it, bought a lot of good will from me for diving into Age of Ash.

And it pays off wonderfully.

Abraham plunges the reader into the engaging story and fully realized world of Kithamar, letting one learn as they go about the situations, the politics, and the people who inhabit the city-state. We are introduced to Alys, a young woman who has grown up in one of the less affluent areas of Kithamar and has crafted a bit of a criminal career for herself alongside her friend Sammish.

But when her brother ends up dead, killed while he was on a pull, both women find themselves wrapped up in something bigger than either of them could guess at, and they may end up on opposite sides of it.

Gods walk the streets, and there is magic at work in the city.

The novel deals with grief, revenge, and power, but Abraham keeps the story completely grounded in the emotions of his characters, as we are taken through their motivations, their beliefs, and we learn the true secrets of Kithamar. He builds his story patiently, letting his characters develop, investing the reader. His action beats are well-crafted, but it is the character moments that stay with the reader, the revelations when they hit home, and the way events play out for those involved.

Alys is flawed, wonderfully so, and is driven by her grief, and her story arc is well thought out, set against a fascinating backdrop of intrigue and magic, none of which ever overpowers the story, but instead, adds an enjoyable flavor to it.

I think that is my fear when delving into fantasy novels that you lose the human touch, even if your characters aren’t human. Abraham delivers a story that has stayed with me days after I finished it, the locations, the characters, the world. I found myself more engaged in his creation than I thought I would be, and I shouldn’t have doubted the writer, no matter what genre he decides to create in.

At no point is the story over-powered by its more fantastical elements, in fact, each one serves the narrative, and the characters, delivering an entertaining and emotional tale that has me eagerly anticipating the next instalment in the series. The groundwork has been laid, and things, I have no doubt, are going to get bigger for the characters involved…

Age of Ash, Book One of The Kithamar Trilogy is available now from Orbit Books.

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