Sunday, December 30, 2012

Edi's Spotlight: Ashes of Heroes by Gabriel Archer and Jack Canaan

Dear Readers,
this is my last but one review in 2012.

In November I posted about the book I review today.  I do not want to copy and paste the whole story. But at least you should get the facts why I decided to read and review the book.
I received a kind review request by mail. The mentioning of George R.R. Martin in the promising book description made me sceptical enough to read the first chapter before my gut feeling told me to go for this book. Be sure that I will not talk again about the mentioned author within the review.

Before I forget let me tell you that I received a digital copy of
Ashes of Heroes (digital 2012) [Amazon Kindle ASIN: B009NNL4V4] from the authors Gabriel Archer & Jack Canaan which I read for this review.

Book Store Information
In general my decision to read a book is mostly based on the cover and the blurb/synopsis delivered on the back cover. You do not get more information when you are in a book store. The world of books is changing which means I also will take in account blurbs and descriptions on GOODREADS and other places.
Here we go:

Ashes of Heroes (digital 2012) 
[Amazon Kindle ASIN: B009NNL4V4] 
"Everything was in place: a thousand years war waiting for a champion; a great evil was stirring in the Ash Lands; a wise priest kept an ancient prophecy; there was a reluctant hero fated to fall in love with the beautiful maiden.
Then the hero readily slaughtered an innocent village and it all went to hell...
In the ensuing mayhem – dark-alley knife fights, merciless executions, savage massacres, bloody civil war, epic battles, duels for love, cold betrayals, and hot jealousies – two men battle for the chance to lead their country to salvation. In turn, each will become savior and traitor, hero and rogue, redeemer and accuser, until there is nothing left to them except cold steel and raw humanity.
Follow the aging priest down his misguided path and witness how the fear of his mortality has stripped him of his morality, leaving nothing but an obsession of creating a hero in his own image, price be damned. Escort the morally gray, real characters, matched only by those of G.R.R. Martin's Games of Thrones, as chaste maidens become lewd whores, godly men shift into depraved killers, and hesitant heroes turn in to willing villains.
Follow the narrative’s bloody footprints, past deflowered flowery maidens, around depraved ambitions and good intentions – careful, don’t trip over the bodies - until you make a left at the dark humor, then keep going until you are steeped in the Ashes of Heroes..." [Source]

My Expectations
Based on the blurb and on the cover I expected a lot of action and intrigues accompanied by interesting characters.

The Delivery
The 275 pages of this fantasy story are divided into 21 consecutively numbered and individually named chapters. Beside that the book contains a map.

From now on every word regarding Ashes of Heroes is totally biased because I enjoyed this book so much that it was impossible for me to write a "normal" review.
Epic fantasy needs great characters as much as soup needs a pinch of salt. The characters are the linchpins of the book(s) and Ashes of Heroes is no exception.  The characters with their personality, their knowledge, their history, the wisdom, their emotions, their connections to the world around them, their dreams and wishes, are indispensable and the more unique they are, the better the story will be.
The special characters of Ashes of Heroes are the heart of the story.
You are looking for classic black and white characters? Then please don't waste your time with reading this review about a book you will hate.

Welcome to a world where nothing is like it should be.

Listen to an 800 years old story teller which appears when Renz is drunk.
Renz is a young soldier who tries to escape the boredom in a border fort by using his charm to bed women first before thinking about consequences. But he is also much more. He is a defender of his brother and a dreamer of a grander life. He is a reluctantly pawn in a greater game. His development and his decisions have a great impact on the story. The Renz from the beginning of the story has nearly nothing in common with the Renz at the end of the story.
Of course there are a lot more characters. The depths of their characterization depends on their importance. But be sure they all show enough substance to think about their actions and reactions.
There are two more characters who need to be described a bit more.
The following prophecy is the fate of Jindar-UI Xanor also known as Xan:
"Five hundred years shall pass from the Silver Tiger's retreat.
From the peerless darkness,
He emerges, bringing shadows.
They cloud judgment, they vanquish spirit,
And destroy honor.
Yet these things will surround him,
For his destiny is to shadow the darkness, and light he will ekhal."

Year after year he is searching for the one and only hero. He collects disappointments like pearls on a chain. Follow Xan and witness the impact of an unfulfilled prophecy. How wise it is to manipulate someone to become the promised hero? I talk about Loar who likes to build castles in the air and who is convinced that you can do good things with a sword.

There is no way out that these characters cross their paths.

Now let's have a look at the world. There are political, military and religious fractions in the known world bonded on the surface by the common enemy "existing" in the region called the Ashes. But there is much more brooding in between the fractions. Treason, conspiracy, envy, striving for power and vanity are not unknown.

Action? Of course there is action with blood and gore. But the real danger lay inside the characters. Scared and burned souls can lead to the edge of the apocalypse and therefore be much more dangerous than armies and other beings. 
The inner thoughts of some of the characters will be crawling up your spine and show you how gorgeous a goose flesh can be.

The authors Gabriel Archer & Jack Canaan are definitely gifted writers. They found the right words for every situation and sometimes it is getting poetic.

I never read such an impressive and imaginative prosaic depiction about passing water (page 34 and 35)!  KUDOS!

What a great first book in a series! Unbelievable that Ashes of Heroes did not find its way to a big publisher.

Ashes of Heroes is a book which does not need to shy away from comparison with other well known epic fantasy books.

Ashes of Heroes = synonym for poetic, abysmal, gorgeous and terrifying epic fantasy

Further information
Anyway I recommend to visit the official Heroes of Ashes site. The authors show a certain kind of humor. Just read what they tell about themselves.

"Captain Gabriel Archer, IX, Ph. D., Esq. is a world-class lothario. There is a high probability that he slept with your wife or – if you are a beautiful woman – you. Mr. Archer is an expert marksman and can shoot an a amoeba off a fly’s head. He practices law in NYC for fun. He is the first sword of the Empire. He endorses self-reliance over political candidates. His hobbies include your wife (or, quite possibly, you, Mrs. Dear Reader); writing realistic magicalism, a genre he single-handedly invented with co-author and sidekick, Jack Canaan; creating fictitious and utterly true autobiographies; and breathlessly staring at the mirror. He has an advance doctorate in armchair philosophy and has spent years learning to make armchairs from Buddhist monks high in Himalayan mountains. He looks striking in a tuxedo. Although warned many times not to, he went there. He also discovered Martha’s Vineyard in 1602." [Source]

"Sir Jack Canaan ibn Hatzel, Sr., M.D. is a world-class lothario. There is a high probability that he slept with one of the women you know, or - if you are that woman - you. He is so pleasant that imaginary friends invented him for company. Dr. Canaan has worked for every single intelligence agency in the world, often double- and triple-crossing himself to the point that he remained loyal. He is a veteran of the First Angelic War and the Second Lebanese War. His hobbies include pleasing dear readers; writing realistic magicalism, a genre he single-handedly invented with co-author and sidekick, Gabriel Archer; ripping wings off angels; and unmasking hypocrisies. Ancient Canaan is named after him. He once had a date with destiny, but stood her up in favor of a ménage à trois with fate and karma. He does everything better naked." [Source]


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