First off – A huge thank you to Intisar Khanani for allowing me to read an advance copy of Memories of Ash! This was a free copy provided in exchange for an honest review – which in no way affected my review 🙂
Memories of Ash, the sequel to Sunbolt came out a couple days ago- have you ordered your copy yet? If you haven’t read Sunbolt, don’t worry – it’s quite short, and very good – so fix that first 🙂 You can also click through above to read my review of Sunbolt, and to get an idea of the story.
Memories of Ash picks up immediately where Sunbolt left off – so some minor spoilers for Sunbolt follow in the synopsis (pinched from Goodreads):
In the year since she cast her sunbolt, Hitomi has recovered only a handful of memories. But the truths of the past have a tendency to come calling, and an isolated mountain fastness can offer only so much shelter. When the High Council of Mages summons Brigit Stormwind to stand trial for treason, Hitomi knows her mentor won’t return—not with Arch Mage Blackflame behind the charges.
Armed only with her magic and her wits, Hitomi vows to free her mentor from unjust imprisonment. She must traverse spell-cursed lands and barren deserts, facing powerful ancient enchantments and navigating bitter enmities, as she races to reach the High Council. There, she reunites with old friends, planning a rescue equal parts magic and trickery.
If she succeeds, Hitomi will be hunted the rest of her life. If she fails, she’ll face the ultimate punishment: enslavement to the High Council, her magic slowly drained until she dies.
Since I don’t want to spoil the book for anyone I’ll follow the same format as I did with reviewing Sunbolt, and give you 6 reasons why you need to read Memories of Ash, ASAP.
6 Reasons to Read Memories of Ash
The World and Characters.
If you love fantasy, you know that a fascinating world and colorful characters are extremely important. In the Eleven Kingdoms of Sunbolt and Memories of Ash, Khanani has created a world so vivid and interesting that you won’t want to leave. Her worldbuilding is fabulous, with so many (effortlessly) diverse and multifaceted cultures and places. In Memories of Ash, the Mage School and the magical wastelands (both mentioned in Sunbolt) are the primary new locations explored, and there are a handful of new characters introduced as well. As with Sunbolt, the characters are varied and well-developed, with Hitomi always at center stage (as she should be). Val isn’t forgotten either, and the ramifications of their alliance (friendship) are further explored and complicate the story.*
I know I used her as one of my reasons for reading Sunbolt, but I’ll shamelessly repeat myself: Hitomi is just the sort of strong heroine that we need more of. She isn’t fearless or invincible, but she’ll go to (believably crazy) lengths to save the people she cares about. In spite of this, she won’t trample people or intentionally cause harm (which creates a few moral quandaries to spice up the plot). She’s moral herself, but she isn’t judgemental, and she is both a likable and relatable young woman. And of course, Memories of Ash just made me love her more.
3. Consistency rules.
When I started Memories of Ash (hereafter known as MoA), I was immediately plunged back into the world of Sunbolt. Khanani’s characters, facts, magic systems, locations, and details are so seamless that you don’t feel disconnected at all. With fantasy, this is pivotal to the reader’s experience of the book. Characters from Sunbolt mixed with new characters, and at the center, Arch Mage Blackflame seems to have an even more complicated scheme than we all realized
4. The Writing.
This is another point I’ve brought up – but Intisar Khanani’s prose is fluid and beautiful to read. She blends humor, intrigue, and just the perfect amount of description. Her plotting and pace are wonderful, with a good mixture of adventure, action, and a few twists. I could immediately visualize all of the different locations, though the descriptions were never long.
5. Thorny Morality Questions: Met head-on.
Have you ever watched an adventure film or read a book and thought “where are the consequences?,” or, “do they even care about collateral damage?” Well, morality (interestingly enough) comes up rather often through the course of Memories of Ash. Hitomi is confronted with several pivotal decisions that make her put her own freedom/safety/happiness up against the lives and livelihood of others. And she doesn’t just make these decisions by flipping a coin or shrugging it off with a “ends justify the means” mentality. It’s refreshing to see a character dealing with the real fallout of their decisions, and Hitomi’s struggles just made me more invested in her.
6. It’s BOOK SIZED.
Did you love Sunbolt, but wish it was longer (I did!)? Memories of Ash is book-length, which takes away my only complaint from Sunbolt. A longer novel was definitely worth the wait, as it allowed Khanani to further develop and enrich the fascinating world and characters.
Did I convince you yet? Then what are you waiting for?! Go purchase a copy (you can download it through Kobo, Nook, or Amazon, or ask your local bookstore to order you a physical copy!**)
Have you read/do you plan to read Memories of Ash and/or Sunbolt? Scroll down for more info and a GIVEAWAY!
*Don’t you just love complicated relationships (in fiction)? And Hitomi and Val’s whole connection is so interesting to me. I can’t wait to read more about Breathers (yeah, I’ll keep bringing this up . . .)
**I’ll be ordering physical copies for the store I work at!
Intisar Khanani grew up a nomad and world traveler. She has lived in five different states as well as in Jeddah on the coast of the Red Sea. Until recently, Intisar wrote grants and developed projects to address community health with the Cincinnati Health Department, which was as close as she could get to saving the world. Now she focuses her time on her two passions: raising her family and writing fantasy. Intisar’s current projects include a companion trilogy to Thorn, featuring the heroine introduced in her free short story The Bone Knife, and The Sunbolt Chronicles.
So if you follow me here or on various social media, you probably know that I was just at Book Expo America 2016, in Chicago, Illinois. If not, now you do.
What is Book Expo? It’s basically an annual 3-day convention that brings bloggers, press, booksellers, librarians, teachers, publishers, agents, sales reps, printers, AND SO MANY MORE BOOK PEOPLE together in a giant venue. There are educational sessions, author panels, vendors, autographing events, and a lot more. It’s crazy, busy, and a little overwhelming. But it’s also a lot of fun, and I’ve been fortunate enough to go twice now for work.
For those of you who didn’t get to go, I thought it would be fun to give you a taste of BEA16 through the eyes of a scattered bookseller/author/blogger.
DAY 1 (Wednesday, May 11)
I was in Nashville at my brother’s house (long story that I may or may not tell some other time), and he kindly got up with me at 4 am to take me to the airport for my flight. AAAAAND – my flight was cancelled . . .
We went to the airport anyhow, and I waited in a line of around 100 people only to find out the next flight was at 8 PM! I needed to be in Chicago by 10 AM to make the sessions I wanted to go to. According to the ticket agent, they always call when your flight is cancelled – but I didn’t know I was called because my phone crashed/died/imploded randomly the previous Friday (another long story I may tell later). I explained this to the ticket agent, and he managed to get me a refund (which was very nice of him, but it didn’t solve my flight problem).
Fortunately, I had purchased a Go Phone with my emergency cash, so I just logged onto a different airline site and snagged one of the last available tickets for Chicago. I had to wait an hour in the security line (for real), and my new flight didn’t make it there till 11am, but that was a lot better than missing the whole day!!
So I made it to O’Hare, which was a zoo. I quickly jogged downstairs and bought a Ventra card, hopped on the “L” train, and finally made it into Chicago. It was an easy ride to the McCormick Place stop (where BEA was), and I jogged a block, and arrived just before the exhibit hall opened at 1pm.
Instead of joining the crowd (stampede) rushing for the ARC drops and autographing lines, I took a few minutes to familiarize myself with the floor map and the show schedule. Next, I actually walked the building, to get the 3D version of the map in my head (hey, I’m actually a methodical person). And it’s just under 500,000 square feet of exhibit space, and that isn’t counting all the rooms for sessions and functions!
Once I had my bearings, I explored the many rows of shiny books and exciting, glittery things. It’s a bit like the booksellers’ equivalent of the fairy market, and it’s a really good thing that I bring home catalogs instead of buying things on the spot . . .
I am kind of bad about taking pictures, so I added one from BEA itself to give you a taste. It’s lines and lines of vendors from all over the world. I spent an inordinate amount of time in the Chinese publishing delegation’s section.
Day 1 for me was mostly spent in chatting with sales reps, publishers, and in snagging a few ARCs. I tend to be more adventurous, and get books from publishers and/or authors that I am less familiar with. In addition to books, there are always tote bags, bookish vendors (such as Out of Print Clothing Co.), and other exciting things to look at, so I usually reach sensory overload by the end.
Once I was thoroughly tired of hauling my overnight bag and books around, I headed back to the L, and from there to the commuter train. Riding the train is always fun for me – and besides, you can read! It was only about a 45 minute ride to the station, where my second cousin picked me up. We went to dinner, and then caught up over cups of tea back at her house. Tea is always amazing, but it’s even better after a long day!
DAY 2: (Thursday, May 12)
We were off bright and early – her to work, and me to the train again. I continued to read one of my ARCS (more about this later), and the ride seemed pretty brief. I popped on my headphones, jogged to the Clinton St L stop, and made it to McCormick’s about a half hour early.
I looked over the day’s programming, marked up what I wanted to see and who I needed to meet up with, and then I waited with the crowds until the hall opened at 9am. My first stop was the ABA lounge, where those wonderful human beings had coffee for ABA members the whole time.
I spent the earlier part of the day doing more networking, meeting up with some of the people I met at Winter Institute (including my awesome scholarship sponsors, Lerner). I went to a few panels – covering what was new/upcoming in Adult, Children, and YA lit, and then one on nonfiction. I also attended on on what editors were excited to see at BEA. I grabbed a few of the ARCs that I heard about (including a heist novel called Thieving Weasels that looks hilarious!)
After being a good, studious little note-taking bookseller, I finally stood in a few signing lines. My first one was for MG/YA author Brandon Mull! (Fablehaven, A World Without Heroes, Five Kingdoms, etc). It was really cool to meet him and to tell him (personally) what success the store has had with his novels, and how so many young boys read them. He signed a book for my sister Charlotte (a fan!), which was awesome of him.
Debut author Kerri Maniscalco signed her novel Stalking Jack the Ripper (about a forensics student who, guess what, is trying to solve the Ripper murders), and she was very sweet and demure, and I’m pretty excited to read it.
Next, I stood in line for Min Jin Lee’s novel Pachinko, a story about a Korean family in Japan, starting in the early 1900’s. I hadn’t read anything of Lee’s, but I was sold by the premise. Since the line wasn’t super long, I actually got to chat with her for a few minutes, and she was lovely. We got to talking about my lifelong love of Asian history and culture (from India to lower Russian, to all of East Asia), and my travel-bug, which made her laugh and ask if I was actually Asian and didn’t know it – and then she signed my book like this —>
Needless to say, it’s one of my favorite ARCs I picked up, and I can’t wait to start it!
But the day’s excitement didn’t end there – because I found the Disney booth . . .
AND GUYS, GUYS – THEN I MET EOIN COLFER AND ACTUALLY MANAGED TO TALK. I don’t know if YOU read Artemis Fowl as a teenager, but I did, and it was a big deal to meet this guy. Not to mention, I have shared his books with my younger siblings, and he signed the book for my brother Elijah. It’s a novel about Iron Man (yeah, that Iron Man), and this is doubly cool because Elijah was a very reluctant reader at first, and superheroes are what really got him reading.
Anyhow, Eoin Colfer was nice and funny, and so gracious to listen to me tell him what his books meant to me, even with a whole line behind me. Also, since this was Disney (and they pull out all the stops), there was a guy standing in for Tony Stark. He was handing out chargers and directing us to the line for mocktails (served in light-up glasses, no less), which were quite refreshing after the (very warm!) walk around the exhibit hall.
A few more ARCs and conversations later, and I was ready to quit the hall for the city. Hauling books all over a city is no joke, so I decided it was high time for some Chicago pizza.
Gino’s East was my destination, and though it was busy, a lone person can always grab a chair at the bar, so I did. I got an artichoke and spinach pizza with honey goat cheese (since I’m lactose intolerant), and it was so good. My mouth’s watering just thinking about it! I also tried some Chicago craft beer, which was good, but not as good as the pizza!
After the food, I walked all over, dragging my books behind me. My ultimate destination was Chicago 360 (I’d never been there before), and the Sourcebooks party! (Thanks again to the wonderful team at Sourcebooks!!)
Chicago 360 is on the 94th floor of the John Hancock building, and it offers exactly what the name says: a breathtaking view of the city from all around. There were hor d’oeuvres and drinks, which I didn’t try until later (see^pizza). But I eventually tried some wonderful chilled noodle dishes (since walking all over Chicago had made me hungry again), and a cocktail with green tea syrup. Next, I tried the Tilt (where you tilt at a 30 degree angle over the city), took pictures, and met a fabulous and interesting Columbian bookseller named Yolanda. We talked books and bookselling in US vs Columbia for around and hour, and I had so much fun hearing about Columbia!
This was all as amazing as it sounds, but the highlight was KRISTI YAMAGUCHI. Yes – that one. She was at the party promoting a children’s book, and I missed the sample signing. However, I spotted her before she left, and managed to work up the courage to approach. (She’s one of my childhood heroes, and I followed her skating journey with the fervor of any fan, so I was truly nervous). Everyone after asked why I didn’t ask for a picture, and I’ve had trouble explaining that meeting her, shaking her hand, thanking her, and telling her how she inspired me – that was more valuable to me personally. It’s something I will never forget.
When I finally made it back to the suburbs, I was giddy and way overtired, and I didn’t make it to bed until 1am. But no regrets here!
DAY 3: (Friday, May 13)
By now, I was thoroughly tired, but still excited about several galleys and speakers/sessions on Friday. Most importantly, there was a galley drop of Blood for Blood (sequel to Wolf by Wolf) right off, and I wanted that more than pretty much anything. I braved a swarm of people and managed to get a copy, and it was all that I could do to not sit and read it on the spot.
But there were more books to get and people to talk to, so I resisted!
I went to two panels that were really fun, one on YA with Veronica Roth as the moderator, and one on African American authors and fiction.
The YA panel was extremely entertaining (and I really want to read Veronica Roth’s new book now), but the second panel was spectacular. They talked about the importance of African-American lit written by/for African-American authors, and how the issue of an author’s race shouldn’t be an issue. A book is a good book, and we all want good books. Kwame Alexander is one of the most gracious, eloquent speakers I’ve ever had the pleasure of hearing, and he’s really funny too!
Late afternoon brought the Children/YA Author and Illustrator Tea. This was the heaven it sounds: booksellers, educators, and librarians sat at a table with an author or illustrator and listened to them talk about their books. And we had tea and scones. I had to pay extra, but it was 100% worth it.
My three author/illustrators were Jeffrey Brown (*DARTH VADER AND SON, PEOPLE), Duncan Tonatiuh (incredibly talented Mexican-American illustrator), and MARISSA MEYER. It was awesome to sip tea and enjoy scones with these three diverse authors. And of course, we got copies of each book!
It’s hard to pick a favorite experience, but the tea was wonderful, and I’m so grateful to the ABA for providing the opportunity.
I had a huge pile of books by now, but my long-suffering sister (yes, Grace), was going to pick me up (driving my car down from Michigan), and I had time to kill. So naturally, I hopped on the L and did some exploring. Despite the books I was hauling, it was wet and rainy and I was pretty soaked by the time I’d walked around Chinatown. This was the only day I hadn’t worn my much-loved Timelord hoodie (uh, it had been all over the L, and BEA, and the train . . .), and the only day I’d dressed for warm weather. I’m smart like that. So I did the only logical thing – I went to K-Pop of Chinatown and bought a giant Bigbang hoodie that was like wearing a fuzzy blanket (and solved everything).
Needless to say, I now walked everywhere in the rain, and ended up at the Disney Store. Naturally.
Dear Grace eventually managed to find me, but she had to play taxi since it was so busy, and I quickly hopped in and drove us back to the suburbs.
Day 4: (Saturday, May 14)
Book Expo might have been over, but that didn’t stop us from spending a fun day in the suburbs with family.
We explored downtown Geneva, and went to the mall (why not?) and found an Anime store that delighted us far more than it should have. They were playing 1Am by Taeyang(never mind that he’s Korean and had nothing to do with anything), so we happily sang along and geeked out over plastic junk from Japan. As you do. But then we found these:
I got Itachi, which was awesome – but Grace got Sasuke, who was adorable (and Itachi’s little brother, so it was kind of perfect). They’re so tiny and cute!
We also went to a really cool store called Ragstock. They had vintage kimonos. We bought some vintage kimonos, and now felt perfectly fulfilled.
Back in Winfield, we went to bed to late, and packed up all of our stuff to leave in the morning.
Day 5: (Sunday, May 15)
We went to church, then came back to hang out for a bit before we headed home. We were pretty exhausted, but it was worth it.
And that was pretty much it. It was back to work (and Eastern Time) again early the next morning. I haven’t started in on any of my new books yet (I’ve been trying to finish the ones I was already reading), but I’m super excited about them!
So do you think you’d like to go to BEA? Have you been to Chicago (and what’s your favorite part)? Did you read all the way down to here? (If so, you deserve some cookies or something)