Today I’m participating in a blog tour put together by the lovely Jenny for Ashael Rising by Shona Kinsella, which is out now on Amazon. From the cover, I initially thought that this was science fiction, but the plot is pure fantasy.
Ashael Rising follows two principal characters, the eponymous Ashael, a hunter-gatherer woman and apprentice filidh**, or seer, and Iwan, a slave for the other-worldly Zanthar, who is forced to spy on Ashael and her tribe. The Zanthar are known to Ashael and the other Folk, but have not been seen on KalaDene in living memory. They were defeated centuries ago by the Folk and their winged allies the Flores, and have returned to KalaDene bent on vengeance and slavery.
As the book continues we learn a great deal about the principal enemies, Daven and Meegrum, and get hints about a much wider world beyond the perspective of Ashael and the Folk. World building is clearly Kinsella‘s strength, as KalaDene gradually opens up to the reader as the plot progresses. By the end of the book, I had a lot of questions about the wider world that remained unanswered but was left satisfied by the amount of information revealed. KalaDene and the wider world of the Zanthar are cleverly worked into the plot withoutlong passages of scene setting or exposition; instead, we are gradually drawn into the reality of Ashael’s world as she learns more about it and herself.
Kinsella’s characters fall a little flat; there’s too great a disparity between good and evil for my liking, and while the principal characters are more than one-dimensional, they still lack complexity. Shout out to Bhearra, the badass old woman who is clearly the best character. The plot, while nothing shockingly innovative to a regular reader of fantasy, is fun and engaging, and led me to sneakily reading the PDF at work so that I could find out what happens next. The only real criticism I had was that the prophecy felt a bit shoehorned in and unnecessary.
Shona Kinsella’s debut doesn’t read like a first publication. She is clearly a talented writer with a gift for world-building and teasing the reader with just the right amount of information to keep them interested. The greatest praise that I can give this book is to say that I would buy the sequel. I’m genuinely intrigued as to where this series will go next, as by the end the what the reader and Ashael know of the world has been blown wide open, leaving both reader and character with as many questions as answers.
For anyone interested in reading Ashael Rising, check out the giveaway below!
*I was sent a copy of Ashael Rising in exchange for an honest review.
**I’ve been mentally pronouncing it “filly”, but any Gaelic speakers please correct me if I’m wrong!