An Inheritance of Ashes by Leah Bobet

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Title: An Inheritance of Ashes
Author: Leah Bobet
Release Date: October 6, 2015
Publisher: Scholastic Canada
Pages: 400
Source: ARC received at 4th Ontario Book Blogger Meet-Up courtesy of Scholastic Canada
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Overall: 3 STARS

The strange war down south—with its rumors of gods and monsters—is over. And while sixteen-year-old Hallie and her sister wait to see who will return from the distant battlefield, they struggle to maintain their family farm. 

When Hallie hires a veteran to help them, the war comes home in ways no one could have imagined, and soon Hallie is taking dangerous risks—and keeping desperate secrets. But even as she slowly learns more about the war and the men who fought it, ugly truths about Hallie’s own family are emerging. And while monsters and armies are converging on the small farm, the greatest threat to her home may be Hallie herself.   

You won't find a chosen one with magical powers destined to change the fate of the world and overturn a kingdom in An Inheritance of Ashes. This is not that kind of fantasy story. Hallie is an ordinary girl living the hard life of a farmer with her older sister Marthe as they await the return of Marthe's husband Thom, who has left for war. Far in the South, a terrible battle has been raging against the mysterious Wicked God Southward and the Twisted Things, his monstrous bird-like servants.

Wild stories about a man named John Balsam defeating the Wicked God have spread across the land, even to their isolated farm on the outskirts of Windstown. When a veteran arrives to Roadstead Farm looking for work and shelter, Hallie and Marthe reluctantly welcome him to their home. They're both desperately trying to to keep the farm running, and the preparations for winter are overwhelming and endless. 

But the horrors of the war arrive at their farm when a Twisted Thing suddenly appears on Hallie's bedroom windowsill. And it's not the only one. Twisted Things burn everything they touch and leave a barren wasteland behind. But if the war is truly finally over, why are they still appearing? If Hallie and Marthe don't tear each other apart first with their secrets and pride, Roadstead Farm might just have a chance to withstand the coming danger.

An Inheritance of Ashes very much focuses on Hallie and Marthe's complex relationship. When they were younger, they used to be so close, but now it seems the sisters can never agree on anything and only exchange biting remarks. How can they cross the distance that's grown between them? Hallie fears she's only a disappointment to her stoic sister, that no matter how hard she works, it will never be enough to Marthe. 

A blend of fantasy and post-apocalyptic, Leah Bobet's An Inheritance of Ashes is eerie, haunting, and unconventional. It's a fantasy novel, yet the fantastical aspects seem almost like an afterthought in comparison to Hallie and Marthe's tense relationship, or its study of the costs of war once it has ended, psychologically and physically. Or if not an afterthought, then the magic and Twisted Things are more of a metaphor of Hallie's life falling apart

In any case, An Inheritance of Ashes is not the kind of fantasy book you read hoping for fast pacing and suspense at every turn. It quietly simmers and pulls you into its pages, leaving you curiously enchanted and unable to put the book down until you've reached the very end.

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