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Release-Day Review: Ashes by Sophie H. Morgan (Divided Kingdom #1)

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Ashes by Sophie H. Morgan // VBC ReviewAshes (The Divided Kingdom #1)
Sophie H. Morgan
Published: April 21, 2015 (Samhain)
Purchase: Book Depository or Amazon
Review source: copy provided by the publisher in exchange for an honest review

Reviewed by Amanda

Rating (out of 5): 4.5 stars

Once a princess, now the leader of a street gang, Ana uses her phoenix fire and lethal fighting skills to bring some sense of justice to the Maze. But she’s not just going around fighting crime willy-nilly; as the shadowy rebel Liberty, she’d determined to end the human ruler Edward’s reign and stop his experimentation on supernaturals.

Cade was Ana’s bodyguard years ago, and he’s never forgotten her—or her confession of love. Convinced she was dead after she disappeared a decade ago, he’s out on a mission for Edward: kill Liberty.

Ana knows there’s a bounty on her head, but she has no idea Cade’s the one tracking her, just as he has no idea she’s Liberty. When Cade doesn’t kill her outright or try to bring her into Edward, she decides to try to bring Cade over to her side. But she underestimates Cade’s loyalty to the human. And she definitely underestimates the raw attraction between them.

*cue fangirl flailing*

I loved this book. I feel like I’ve been on a hot streak with books lately, and this one certainly lit that match. Ashes is creative, fun, fast paced, and I fell in love with Ana and Cade almost immediately.

I haven’t read many phoenix stories, so Ana’s supernatural abilities were relatively new to me. The way the myth and the power of the firebird are woven into the story and mixed with Ana’s very human traits was intriguing. As a princess, Ana always felt she was a disappointment to her parents. Her preference for archery and disdain for political machinations left her convinced she wasn’t fit to inherit her parents’ throne. But she’s not all fire and kickassery. Her hurt over Cade’s rejection and anger at herself for still being attracted to him made it easy to empathize with her.

Cade’s a jackal shifter and a former member of the royal guard. He’s the one who taught Ana how to fire a bow. And it took everything he had to turn away from her when she told him she loved him–because a princess could never accept him as her consort. Cade had a number of surprising layers, and his vulnerability made me want to cuddle him, then smack him upside the head for thinking so poorly of himself.

The world Sophie H. Morgan’s written is a blend of old and new—you’ve got kingdoms and the hierarchies that go with it alongside technology like flash-guns and cell phones. Ana’s gang prefers old weapons that don’t rely on that technology (because a sword will never jam on you). And Ana herself has carved out a meager existence for herself protecting the Maze, a warren of harsh streets where the people look out for one another and don’t trust authority. Not when that authority is keen on beating them down.

Morgan does a great job of building the tension and mistrust between Ana and Cade. Because of her abilities, physical intimacy can be awkward for Ana. Watching the pair circle each other only to snap at the tightest, tensest moment kept me turning pages. Throw in great banter with the secondary characters, some creatures I’d really not want to meet in a dark alley, and a vile man determined to take down the supernatural races a notch or three, and you’ve got a pretty awesome story.

The end of Ashes ties things up for Ana and Cade, but there’s still a lot of justice to be wrought in the Maze, and I’m definitely looking forward to the return trip.

Sexual content: flaming-hot sex. Literally.

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