Ryna Tully is a "Road Rennie," one of the talented folks who entertain at Renaissance Festivals, and she's been doing it all her life. She has red hair, is literally and figuratively hot-headed, and is still hurting from a breakup with Liam, a dashing character from the Village Militia. Ryna isn't looking forward to running into Liam over the next seven weeks at the Pendragon Festival, and she is in a foul mood at the beginning of the book.
Bea Saunders' brother Daniel has finally talked her into assuming a role at the Ren-Fest. The kind-hearted Bea becomes Phoenix, an exceedingly cranky old herb-witch who, over the course of the book, develops a suitably caustic and funny way of dealing with the Festival patrons. Liam sets his sights on Bea, and she is flattered, but as the story goes on, it's not Liam she becomes emotionally entangled with but Ryna.
So, at heart, this novel is a romance, but it is also oh-so-much-more. The book is immense, and every page is packed full of colorful characters, the hustle-bustle of the crowds, and all the wit and humor found at a Renaissance Festival. Seen mostly through Ryna's and Bea's different perspectives (with some flashbacks to the 1500s), the story unfolds at a pace in keeping with the best stories of old. I am reminded of all the interconnectedness of an Austen novel, the breadth and scope of Dickens' work, and the wit of The Canterbury Tales.
Ultimately, Ryna and Bea's relationship is central, but there are so many sub-plots running throughout the novel that many of characters become dear to the reader's heart (mine being the gender-reversed Robyn Hood & The Merry Maids who count one lone male, Lord Marion, as a member. They get into a lot of funny scrapes.)
The book truly is a tour-de-force about the Renaissance Faire traditions. From the Ashes contains a wonderful mixture of the Gypsy, Irish, Italian, and English characters we associate with the Olde World: Knights, Lords, and Ladies, peasants and witches, fairies and rogues, minstrels, fortunetellers, a little bit of Magick, and Harvey, the Privy Monster. To keep us on track, the author has provided a glossary of the peculiar lingo that the Rennies use as well as a character listing.
If you enjoy Ren-Fests, King Arthur, Robin Hood, or stories about Merry Olde England, or if you ever wanted to be a part of a benevolent group working toward an entertaining and rollicking common cause, this book's for you. I highly recommend it.
~Lori L. Lake...