Review | Ashes of the Sun – Django Wexler

About the Book

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.

592 pages (paperback)
Published on July 21, 2020
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This book was sent by the publisher in exchange for an honest review. 

I feel bad that it took me so long to get around to reading this book. Honestly, it wasn’t really my choice. I’ve been busy and life just keeps happening. That being said, I finally put some time aside to really tackle this beast and I’m glad I did. This book was a joy to read, and a joy to look at (that cover art is amazing). 

I will be honest, dear reader, that I was a bit reluctant going into this one. For some reason, I had it in my head that this would be a good vs. evil struggle, pretty cut and dried, and while those are okay to read about, they don’t really rev my engine. Don’t get me wrong, some good vs. evil struggles are absolutely worth your time, but I prefer my books to be a bit grayer, a bit harder to pin down, and more morally complex. 

So I stared this book thinking, “this will be a thing I’m reading” and I ended it thinking, “good god, this book was fantastic.” 

The thing is, I have learned through writing my own books, that I really enjoy family dynamics, and in Ashes of the Sun you have a brother and sister, separated when they were children, now basically living on opposite ends of… everything. Maya, who is being trained to be a centrach of the Twilight Order, and Gyre, who is known as “halfmask” and spends his life trying to destroy said Twilight Order, along with his gang of rebels. Both of them are on opposite ends of practically everything, including a looming civil war. It’s a delicious setup for whatever is going to happen next. 

Gyre and Maya were separated at the age of five, and this might be the part of the book I really liked the most. Siblings being torn apart is interesting, but the way that the entire book basically is the fallout of that one action and that had me there with bells on. Ashes of the Sun was about a lot of things, but the fact that nearly none of this would have happened if this one random kid wasn’t taken away at the age of five, was fascinating to me. 

The chapters switch between Maya and Gyre, which gives you time to see both (dramatically different) sides to what is being set up here. Gyre lives in a sort of post-apocalyptic, post-conflict (pre-another conflict) hellscape where life is hard, and messy and struggles are prevalent. Maya lives with the Twilight Order working on her way through her education, learning magic and her place in the world. Interspersed in this are not only the struggles they are both preparing to face, but personal development and growth, and a whole lot of very interesting side characters with fully fleshed personalities and motivations. There’s a lot here, and it was all so very well done and tightly crafted.

Now, I can’t remember where I saw something about Django being inspired by Star Wars to write this book, and I will say that I could see a lot of that influence here, from the lightsaber-like blades that the Twilight Order uses, to the fact that it’s a family saga, as well as some of the unique to this world beasties and creatures. Ashes of the Sun largely explores the outcomes of a few pivotal actions and how it dramatically opposes members of a family unit as a result. I will also say (don’t throw rocks at me) that I really enjoyed this a whole lot more than I enjoy Star Wars. 

There’s a lot happening in this book, and there isn’t much downtime for either characters or readers to take in what has been going on. This is fine, but when you read Ashes of the Sun, you need to understand that it starts out running and by the end, you’re going at a sprint. There’s a lot of action and adventure, a lot of intrigue, and it’s all set against the backdrop of a sort of dystopian secondary fantasy world that has some of the most interesting, nuanced development I’ve come across in a while. Mixing all of this together, as well as characters that seem to fly off the page and are wrapped in realness, is old hat for an author as skilled as Django Wexler. He knows when to describe, and when to step back and let readers figure things out on their own, and this balance makes the book that much easier to slip into, and get lost in. 

There’s a big glossary of terms in the back of the book, and while I’m not usually a person who looks at that sort of thing (I prefer figuring it out on my own), I will say I was glad that it was here in this instance. There’s a lot of unique terminology, and while it is easy to roughly figure out the definition for some of these words, I was glad to have a way to validate my assumptions. 

So, what does all this boil down to? 

Ashes of the Sun was a book I was pretty sure I was going to feel rather “meh” about, but it ended up really sucking me in. It was a fantastic setup for a series that I’m sure will knock my socks off. This book checks off all my boxes. It’s complex, detailed, a bit morally gray, unpredictable, and so well written, with characters that keep you rooted in place and wanting more. Django Wexler has been an author to watch for years now. This book is different from his other work, but no less impressive. I was really glad I read this one, and I’m sure you will be too. 

(Read this book. It was really, really good.)

5/5 stars


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