- TITLE: Ashes of a Black Frost (Iron Elves #3)
- AUTHOR: Chris Evans
- PUBLISHER: Simon and Schuster (UK)
- PUBLICATION DATE: 13th October 2011
Before I review Ashes of a Black Frost I feel I need to apologise—both to the writer (who is a fantastic guy) and to myself, for having deprived myself of this book for too long. This was released last Autumn and I had every intention of reading and reviewing it immediately—not long after I concluded my interview with Chris Evans, in fact. However, I couldn’t source an ebook immediately and due to problems with my fingers and (irrelevant to this) my knees, I couldn’t read it. Then I forgot, as you do, when your TBR pile resembles a certain leaning tower.
Regardless, I read it recently and can’t apologise to myself enough for having neglected what will definitely be awarded a place in my top ten books read this year (though not published this year, the book deserves a mention too much for me not to bend my own rules a little).
Ashes of a Black Frost is the final book of the Iron Elves trilogy, and damn what a book it is. I’ll say already that this is a five-star review, without a shadow of a doubt, and it quite possibly the best of the series. How often can you say that about the final instalment, eh?
In this book, Evans had to bring together any loose ends and deal with the growing issue of the Oath and the Shadow Monarch—as well as dragging his army hither, thither and yon in order to do so. It was always going to be a challenge to end a series that has followed a regiment across continents, especially with a single goal in mind. It could have been easy to set a straight line and make the plot follow it, but Evans was wiser than that.
Ashes picks up directly after the events of The Light of Burning Shadows and not only does Evans manage to not lose pace between the two books, he manages to perfectly convey the sheer silence that hangs in the air after a battle. It was a beautiful, solemn, devastatingly sad beginning to a novel—and it was absolutely perfect. There was no belabouring of the death, blood and gore, rather, Evans chose (wisely!) to focus on the emotions and the utter stillness of the aftermath. It was touching and deep and I’ll be damned if it could have been written any better. The beginning of Ashes was quite literally astounding.
The bar had been set.
It’s difficult to review a book that felt so utterly perfect: sure, there were things I personally didn’t like, but that’s only because I as a writer would never choose to write them; as a reader, I was completely satisfied with every decision Evans made, and entirely pleased with the execution. Everything in this book worked, had logic that backed up even the strangest of occurrences (like the transformation/evolution of the sarka har), or was so fluidly presented that you just “went” with it. The humour is there as much as ever, intermingled with the constant devastation of a regiment whose numbers are quickly dwindling—and have been since they left friendly soil.
This was a skilfully written climax that leaves the reader wanting for nothing—not emotionally on behalf of the characters, or as a reader. Every base is covered. More than that, every second is satisfying, right up to the last line. Evans has demonstrated, right here, how to end a series.
The romance that’s been building between Konowa and Visyna continues to develop in such a real and satisfying fashion: there’s no awkwardness in the execution of the love-story, there’s no sense of “Konowa needs to get the girl because he’s the main character”, there’s no one thing about the plotline that smacks of being forced. It’s natural; Konowa and Visyna act and react with and to one another in the way they do, because they are Konowa and Visyna. It’s a beautifully written, real, and heartfelt romance that doesn’t jar against the background of war, war, war, and march, march, march. It’s not padding; it’s as much part of the trilogy as the battle against the Shadow Monarch herself .
And it was one of my favourite parts of the whole damn series. But hey; I’m a sucker for a good love story.
The pacing was excellent, the fluid switches between POV were excellent, the conflicts—both within and without—that the characters faced or were presented with couldn’t have been more beautifully executed. Evans knows his characters and not for one second did he betray them, whether by way of their actions and conduct, or their emotions and mentalities. Evans, quite frankly, nailed it.
I wasn’t expecting to be blown away by this book: I had a few reservations with The Light of Burning Shadows, mainly regarding the execution of the ending and the details/logistics of the battle, and I carried them with me into Ashes. I needn’t have bothered.
Evans had me from the very first paragraph: I could so vividly sense the numbness Konowa felt as he stumbled around the littered battlefield in a daze, that I was there. All the relevant emotions were present and accounted for during this book; I felt relief, I got teary-eyed, I was happy for the characters’ happiness. As I said, Evans nailed this one in one shot.
Ashes of a Black Frost neatly demonstrates just how to end a series: with poise, passion and determination and by staying true to your world, plot, and characters, all whilst gearing towards an ending that doesn’t have to be what was expected.
The Iron Elves trilogy was a superb offering of neoclassical fantasy, and this final instalment seals the deal. There is little more to be said other than: Read It.