Four hundred years ago, a cataclysmic war cracked the world open and exterminated the Elder races. Amid the ashes, their human inheritor, the Dawn Republic, stands guard over lands littered with eldritch relics and cursed by plaguespawn outbreaks. But a new conflict is looming and brother and sister Maya and Gyre have found themselves on opposite sides.
At the age of five, Maya was taken by the Twilight Order and trained to be a centarch, wielding forbidden arcana to enforce the Dawn Republic’s rule. On that day, her brother, Gyre, swore to destroy the Order that stole his sister… whatever the cost.
Twelve years later, brother and sister are two very different people: she is Burningblade, the Twilight Order’s brightest prodigy; he is Silvereye, thief, bandit, revolutionary.
I really enjoyed Ashes of the Sun and was glad to get an ARC, which didn’t disappoint.
The premise of this series is fairly straightforward – two siblings, one a staunch uphold of the Republic, the other a sworn rebel – but what’s interesting about it is Wexler’s interest in examining some of the often unstated mantras of fantasy worlds. There’s no black and white, here – the Twilight Order has an important role to play in protecting people from the plaguespawn, but they’re also founded on ideas about magical supremacy that are fundamentally incompatible with equality. This makes a nice change from of a lot of stories – cough, Star Wars, cough – that never really think about what it might mean to have an exclusionary group of people calling the shots. Meanwhile, the rebels have a vision of a society free from rule by the Twilight Order, but there are many different views about what it might take to get there. These conflicts play out for both Maya and Gyre in this book, which also makes them compelling characters – what are they willing to sacrifice, and how do they reconcile the good and the not so good parts of their communities? (It does occasionally see them – particularly Maya – make some really dumb decisions, but these are at least believable in the context of what they know).
Blood of the Chosen also expands the world in interesting ways, exposing us to more of the fallout from a war centuries’ ago, and also allowing us to get to know some of the side characters a little better, particularly Beq, Maya’s girlfriend, and Elariel, Gyre’s ghoul companion. They’re a lot of fun to spend time with, and there are plenty of lighthearted moments among the plaguespawn attacks and other horrors lurking in every tunnel. I did think the central conceit of Gyre and Maya being separated with opposite storylines dragged on a little too long – we are now two-thirds through the trilogy and they’ve spent more page time apart than interacting – but the sequel set their relationship up to move into a new phase in book 3. Which can’t come soon enough, given the ending. I’m curious to see how Wexler ties everything up, and where Maya and Gyre’s loyalties will eventually lie.
Note: I received an ARC from Head of Zeus. Blood of the Chosen was released on 5 October 2021.