on 10 November 2012
Crown of Ash represents a confident new step in the Blood Skies series. The tone of the book is true to form: dark, descriptive passages, melded with brutal action sequences and magical combat that crackles and explodes with a violence reminiscent of Manga.
This time, we get to know some of the previous side-characters a little better, and I enjoyed hearing more about Danica Black and Kane. They really come into their own in this novel, proving that they're worthy of far more than mere bit-parts. Danica, particularly, is a character whom I feel a real sympathy for. She's a reformed but still-tormented villain, struggling to do the right thing in a world that's gone to hell. She makes for an excellent hero, and her troubled past really made me feel for her plight.
Eric Cross, hero of the original novel and martyr of the series, finds himself trapped within the nightmarish realm of the Whisperlands, divorced from reality and striving to save humanity from final destruction. The Whisperlands itself is an incredible creation, allowing Steven Montano to really flaunt his talent for dark, poetic prose. This awful dimension plays host to some of Montano's most impressive writing to date.
Crown of Ash is an excellent, logical next step for the series. It isn't a revolution, rather an evolution, but that's honestly fine by me. Montano has proven that the formula works, and now he continues to incrementally improve the series with each new release. If you've read and enjoyed the previous Blood Skies books, you'll certainly enjoy this one too. Oh, and if you haven't read the previous ones, and you like the sound of a bastardised and ruined Earth infected with creatures that crept straight from some nightmare, then why are you still here? Go to Book One and start at once - you won't regret it.
on 30 March 2013
The Crown of Ash follows on immediately from where we left off at the end of the third novel in the series Soulrazor. Danica Black, Mike Kane, Ronan & Mauer are now in Blacksands, hiding out while being pursued by a multitude of bounty hunters.
Cross is alive but still unconscious and after weeks shows no signs of improvement. The team is being protected by Klos Vago a member of the shard, a cartel of smugglers and slavers, with no money and no real choice, they are forced into doing the dirty jobs for him in return for a promised trip home to Thornn.
Kane, Ronan, Mauer and two of Vago's people Jade a witch and Sol a half-doj enforcer are sent into the wastelands to investigate damage to the arcane barrier that separates Blacksands from the wild territories to the west and north, there ship comes under attack from vampire tanks of the Ebon Cities and they are forced to crash land. Mike Kane takes on a central role in the story and gets his own POV chapters as they are separated from Danica and undertake their own journey.
Back in Blacksands Danica reluctantly accompanies Vago to a public event, a place where someone in hiding really shouldn't be, she is spotted by a murderwraith and attacked. She is forced into using her spirit to survive but this allows the Revengers tracking her to lock onto her arcane signature and after a violent chase she is captured.
Cross remains unconscious throughout but features in incorporeal form, he finds himself in the Whisperlands, at first not knowing why he is there or how to get out and return to his body. He travels far and knowledge comes to him, along with friends and enemies. He has a vital role to play, saving mankind always is, and we follow the separated trio of Black, Cross and Kane as they draw closer together.
The Revengers feature heavily and we get to meet some old friends of Danica with a little of her history revealed aswell. The Revengers take on the role of the chief bad guys, they have joined forces with the renegade undead of Koth, which featured in the debut Blood Skies as the witch known as Red, the former leader of Thornn sought the surrender of mankind. The Revenger leader Rake has a masterplan that could spell the end of the human race and only Cross and his team can stop him.
The Crown of Ash maintains the high standards of the series so far, a frantic pace, coupled with intense and violent action scenes. Fantastic world building and refreshingly not padded out to a 600+ page monster. The plot is excellent and there are plenty of twists and turns and I'll say it again this series is highly recommended, no question.
As usual not all the good guys survive and there was an extremely surprising, if not shocking death of a major character but with this series you kinda have that feeling in the back of your mind, especially when you see there is no way out of some situations and I think at times not even Cross is safe from a grizzly, violent death. After reading this there is an overwhelming need to move straight away onto the next in the series.
on 6 October 2012
The fourth book in the Blood Skies series "Crown of Ash" continues the story of Eric Cross the former Southern Claw warlock who now operates as an independent contractor along with his rag tag band of associates all of whom have their own dark and bloody histories. Ripped from the Earth and thrust into the whisperlands the spirit or soul of Cross explores this new realm and soon realises that events are evolving in tandem with the world he just left where his former comrades fight their own battles in the quest to retrieve him and return home.
From all corners forces beyond comprehension from the Ebon City vampires, mages with little or no allegiances and races long thought lost battle to claim a prize which will change the world forever and rip away the only hope the human survivors of the Black have left.
As with the other books in the series Steven creates a vast and awe inspiring world full of frighteningly disturbing creations and landscapes used to conjure up images which add a layer of grime and grit to an already decaying world in which humans fight every day for survival against the vampires, beasts and all manners of things new to the world after it haemorrhaged. This world is populated with characters who struggle, sacrifice and die some for a belief, for loyalty and for power but it's hope that keeps everything moving and that one brief spark of light is enough to keep you coming back into this world.
Crown of Ash picks up soon after Soulrazor and to truly appreciate the book I would highly recommend reading the series in order, you can jump right in but you would be denying yourself some wonderful story telling.