Review: Ashes of the Sun by Django Wexler

Long ago, a magical war destroyed an empire, and a new one was built in its ashes. But still the old grudges simmer, and two siblings will fight on opposite sides to save their world in the start of Django Wexler’s new epic fantasy trilogy.

Gyre hasn’t seen his beloved sister since their parents sold her to the mysterious Twilight Order. Now, twelve years after her disappearance, Gyre’s sole focus is revenge, and he’s willing to risk anything and anyone to claim enough power to destroy the Order.

Chasing rumors of a fabled city protecting a powerful artifact, Gyre comes face-to-face with his lost sister. But she isn’t who she once was. Trained to be a warrior, Maya wields magic for the Twilight Order’s cause. Standing on opposite sides of a looming civil war, the two siblings will learn that not even the ties of blood will keep them from splitting the world in two.

Rating: 4/5

Review

I’m an only child who loves stories about other people’s complicated sibling relationships, which is what originally drew me to this book. Ashes of the Sun alternates between Gyre and Maya’s POVs, and while we don’t see a lot of them interacting with each other in this book, the set up for the broader conflict was fantastic and still kept me engaged all the way through. There are a lot of complicated – and legitimate – feelings on both sides, that will need to be worked through once Gyre and Maya are both in the same place at the same time.

The author notes Star Wars as an inspiration, which is clear in the world-building, most notably in the role of the Twilight Order, which is made up of heirs of the former magic-wielding Chosen, and is responsible for protecting the Republic, as well as use of lightsaber like weapons. It does occasionally feel derivative, but this book takes the premise to a really interesting place and pokes at the moral questions Star Wars never really wanted to explore – at what point does protection become a form of subjugation in its own right? And how ethical is it for a single group to regulate the use of magic, even if they use it for the greater good? With one sibling on each side of this divide, I look forward to seeing them wrestle with these questions in future books.

In addition, this book features a really sweet f/f romance (and a less sweet, but highly entertaining m/f one) and a begrudging ally (my favourite kind). There are also the plagueborn: mutant, ever-evolving creatures that the Twilight Order defends its citizens against, and which I literally pictured as giant, plague-ridden rats. While there are no plagues in this book, it’s probably an unfortunate time for your main monsters to have such connotations.

If I have one complaint, it’s that this book could have been 50-100 pages shorter – the fight scenes are a little more detailed than they need to be, and some events feel rather drawn out. (Anyone who’s read Wexler’s Shadow Campaigns series is likely to already be familiar with this particular issue).

I highly recommend Ashes of the Sun and am looking forward to the sequel.

Note: I received an ARC from Head of Zeus. Ashes of the Sun was released on 21 July 2020 (October 2020 in the UK and Aus).

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