Friday, 11 January 2013

It Began With Ashes

Title: It Began With Ashes
Series: Wroge Elements #1
Author: D. E. M. Emrys
Pages: 200 (ebook)
Published: November 24th 2012
Published by: Four Branches Publishing

Wroge has not seen war for twelve years, not since the Arneuton invasion. The Arneut rule, the Keltir serve, and the Vikir and Narz remain in exile. The blood of four races belongs to the earth of one land.

But what if blood was to run again?

Draven Reinhardt is a man with a nightmare of a past, dreaming of a better future. He paid his dues in blood and coin, settling for a quieter life, a better life. Gone are the knocks at the door from his past. But what happens when the future comes knocking?

Like any boy, Kale wants to follow in his father’s footsteps – if only he knew what they were. It’s hard enough to find his own feet in the walk of life, without knowing where he came from.

The walk of life is a lonely one for an outsider, Astartes will vouch for that. Raised a tax collector’s son, and born of foreign blood, he searches for a friend who will overlook the divide.

Divided, four races stand. United, someone will fall. Will the past shape the future, or can blood be washed clean?

‘It Began With Ashes’ is the story of how life’s greatest struggle is to accept who you are – a tale of broken promises, bitter grudges, and brotherhoods bound in blood.

Astartes and his tax-collector father Nicolas are travelling to the village of Hearth in the Emberfen forest when Astartes sees a haunting silhouette in the forest. A man with horns. There are soon all too many of these about, and old friends and ex-mercenaries Draven and Shrike fight to protect their home, their wives Morganna and Wynne fight to escape, and their sons Kalekht and Deule fight to survive. After a short introductory story in From Man to Man, this is the first story in the Wroge Elements series, and the first real introduction to the world at large.

This is a well written book, and I found it quite easy to get into. The descriptions are good - if a little repetitive at times when it comes to describing people: we are constantly being reminded about the defining characteristic of some characters - and the story is intriguing. There is plenty of action, with the fight scenes not being skimped on but explored quite thoroughly, evoking more of the senses than just saying what the characters can see.

But From Man to Man was written purely from Draven's point-of-view, and I enjoyed his voice, his little humorous thoughts that he kept to himself, the things he left unsaid in general. We don't get any of Draven's POV in this book and I missed that a little. I hope he comes back later in the series. Not that there is any real reference to From Man to Man. There is one remark about Nicolas and Draven being friends, but nothing else. I expected a little more link between the two, but then maybe this was written first which would make it understandable.

We are introduced into the world well, not left confused by a lack of information but not having it all thrown at us at once with info dumps. There are a number of clans resident in Wroge, as well as the occupying Arneut people, who all seem quite ignorant about each other (the children at least), giving the perfect excuse for explanatory sections here and there about the war, or the world, or the politics or whatever. But these aren't cumbersome, giving us just what we need to know without being excessive and going into too much detail.

I liked the whole 'clan' thing, and that each has its own rites and areas of general expertise. Thought has obviously gone into it all and I'm looking forward to finding out more. One problem I had with the created societies was their oath - "Fraid and Govannon's bloodied blades". It just seems like a bit of a mouthful, and I sure wouldn't be able to be bothered to say this all the time. And as far as I can remember, you're never even told who Fraid and Govannon are. And people are basically lazy - think about how many contractions there are in our language, and how easily people fell into 'text speak' - and I think even something like this would have been shortened down somewhat, except maybe for things you really need to swear about.

The descriptions of people - as I've already mentioned - were sometimes a little cumbersome as well. Deule is often referred to merely as 'the knotted-haired boy' (and in all honesty I'm not even sure what image this is supposed to portray: I'm torn between general messiness and dreadlocks), and Morganna and Wynne as 'the two mothers' as if they are the only ones about who are mothers. Near the end of the book Draven is referred to as the Blacksmith of Hearth, as if we haven't been following him about for the past 150 pages or whatever and know who he is quite well by this point.

There were a couple of other little things that didn't quite make sense, some that didn't quite sit right with me, but overall I very much enjoyed this book. There is a definite ending, but it is open enough to give you some clues as to what will be coming in the next instalment and keep you interested.

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