Title: ASHES OF AETHER
Series: LEGENDS OF IMYRIA #1
Author: HOLLY ROSE
Publication Date: JULY 27, 2021
As the daughter of Nolderan’s most powerful mage, Reyna Ashbourne has only ever faced two obstacles: her father’s wrath for slacking with her magic studies, and being shunned by many for loving Arluin, a necromancer’s son.
But Reyna’s life takes a bitter turn when Arluin’s exiled father returns to wreak his vengeance upon the city. With the living dead plaguing the streets, the boy she loves is forced to choose between his heart and his blood.
When those dearest to her perish, Reyna vows to become as mighty as her father. However, the path of the magi is no easy one, and she must first complete her Mage Trials to prove she has the required strength of heart, mind, and magic.
Yet the shadows of the past rise once again, threatening to tear Nolderan asunder.
And so too her heart.
I knew from the synopsis that this book was going to be interesting and I was right. I enjoyed this book way too much. This book has an incredibly fascinating story about mages, aether magic, and necromancy. I never read a story that solely focuses on the aether element and necromancy.
I do admit that there are a few books that I read before which had the necromancy concept but none of it are being done as well as the one in this book and the concept usually got cut off so that the whole necromancy stuff are short unlike the one in here. I really liked that the necromancy concept didn’t get cut off by the author just to make it short. I liked that the author focus more on the necromancy concept along with the aether element.
I understand why the necromancy concept usually get cut short in other books because if I were to really think about it, I admit that the concept isn’t easy to write because necromancy as a whole is very complex. Many only knows it as a way to raise the dead but the process of doing it and the steps the person should take before raising the dead aren’t easy but instead hard and comes with many complications. Trying to do it justice in a story is a hit or miss situation usually but luckily for this book it was a hit instead of a miss.
I really liked the way the author explained the whole necromancy stuff in this book, such as: the process of doing it, which spells should be used, what kind of power that comes with learning it etc. I was so invested in the necromancy part because it was written very clearly and smoothly which made it easy for me to understand, and also because this is the first ever book to have more focus on the necromancy concept.
As for the aether element, this isn’t new to me but this is the first time ever I read a story that has this element. The vast majority of fantasy books that are using the concept of elemental magic never use the aether element. I’m glad to say that reading this book was very refreshing because it has both the aether element and necromancy which gave a whole new different but very intriguing vibe to the entire story. I really liked that out of all concepts the author can choose, she ended up choosing aether element and necromancy. I admit, that was really smart.
Aside from the magic of aether element and necromancy, this book also have a lot of magic spells with unique sounds. I liked how some of the spells easily gave away that it belonged to the aether magic (the good kind of magic) just by the sound of it, for example: ignir’muriz, and how some other spells easily gave away that it belonged to necromancy (dark magic) just by how it sounds, for example: kravud. It was really easy to distinguished which spells belonged to the good/light side and which ones belonged to the evil/dark side. Out of all the spells, I knew that the ignir’muriz and the gelu’gladis spells are the ones that will stay in my mind for a long time. There are many more in the book but these are the ones I can remember.
One thing to describe the majority of the magic in this book is PURPLE. I see purple everywhere and I embraced it. The aether magic in this book made the color purple looking so majestic. I always viewed purple as a dull color but this book singlehandedly changed it.
Another thing I want to add is the mage trials. As much as I love reading stories that has competitions or trials in it, I also get so stressed out reading it mainly due to this kind of stories usually put the protagonists in a situation where their rivals are trying to kill them. And I always wanted the main protagonists to win. I knew that the trials aren’t easy and it was always going to be a challenge. The type of trials the main protagonist had to face in this book will determine whether the said protagonist has the heart, mind, and skills to become a mage. I liked the trials in this book more than I did with the other books. The one in here are more dangerous and everyone who are competing to become a mage will fight for their own survival. It was a life and death situation which is scary but it helps made the story even more intense than it already is. Stakes are really high in this book, thanks to the dangerous mage trials but it was needed.
It’s time to talk a little bit about the storyline and the plot. The entire storyline was very much engaging and I was hooked since the beginning. I was so invested in the story and I’m not even ashamed to admit it. The writing for this story was really neat and smooth which I find it easier to understand what was going on due to how clear it was written and how clear some parts were explained.
The storyline is focusing on Reyna’s journey to become the mage of Nolderan which automatically means she had to face an incredibly challenging and difficult obstacles in order for her to earn the title of a ‘mage.’ Her journey wasn’t easy. She had to face a girl named Kaely who bullied and insulted her every time they cross path, and add to that is her boyfriend who secretly learned the art of necromancy which made it harder for her to focus on her magic lessons and the mage trials.
It was nice of the author to put Reyna in many difficult and stressful situations in order for her character to grow more from where she was at the beginning of book. I was fine with the whole storyline except for Kaely’s part. Every time she appeared in the story, I got angry and my blood was boiling hot. She verbally bullied and insulted Reyna whenever she got the chance to, and not once did she ever apologize to Reyna for the hurt she’d caused. Reyna really lived in her head rent free for her to taunt Reyna.
That was the reason why I was so stressed out reading this book—only the parts with Kaely in it. The fact that Kaely even exist in the story to begin with increased my stress level. Her jealousy and pettiness made her character ugly. She didn’t even try to change to be a better person. As the story went on, she kept getting worse and I was like, “damn, does this girl never get tired of being a mean girl?” She needs to go to therapy. Call me whatever you want but I was so happy her character got killed off at the end. All I can say is that, it wasn’t Reyna who killed her. Now that she’s officially gone, I won’t be stress reading the sequel.
As for the plot, there are twists at the end there regarding the main villain and what kind of connection he has with Reyna. Since one of the main concept of this book is necromancy—and it was stated in the story that necromancy is a forbidden magic because it is part of dark magic which can corrupt a person and make the person do more harm than good—it make a lot of sense for the main villain to be a necromancer who works with other necromancers but only one can be the leader. The villain was really good at what he did because he was so smart and his technique of deceiving Reyna fooled her and her father who is the Grandmage of Nolderan (the most powerful mage).
I expected him to stay good but I should’ve known that he would eventually go down the dark path. That was the twist I didn’t see coming even though it should’ve been obvious to me. Honestly, I never like villains but I do admit the one in this book is a well-written villain. Just because I acknowledged the villain was written so well by the author, it doesn’t mean I like the him because I don’t and never will. He was so vicious and also smart so it won’t be easy for Reyna to defeat him but she did something so huge at the end of the book for the purpose of defeating him, so by that act alone nobody should underestimate her (this was another twist I didn’t expect to happen). Will the big battle between Reyna and the necromancer happen in the next book? I honestly don’t know but I hope to at least see a fight scene between the two of them, and I doubt the next book is going to be the end so the big battle probably happen in the final book.
The worldbuilding was really fantastic. The world of Imyria is big but this story takes place mainly in Nolderan because that’s where the main protagonist herself Reyna Ashbourne came from. Nolderan was described as a big beautiful land and it was protected by the aether magic. It has a bright environment which makes the setting of the story so lively but it was sad to see what happened to it at the end.
The ending made Nolderan lost its light and magical sight which turns the entire land dull and eerie. The tragedy that strikes the land pained me. The fact that only Reyna survived the tragedy made the ending very dark and depressing. Just imagine you’re the only one alive in your country after a horrific tragedy strikes it, you’d be alone. I imagined myself in Reyna’s situations, and I don’t think I can survive unless I know how to fly a plane to another country. This story takes place in the medieval era, so try to picture Reyna alone with her pet faerie dragon, how can she even go to another land with any transportation, and her pet can’t even fly her because its size is small compared to a person.
With the thing she did at the end of the book, I have no doubt that her new companion will help her. At least she won’t be alone but being stuck with a demon hell-bent on killing humans isn’t ideal either. I’m looking forward to see where the author will take Reyna, her pet faerie dragon named Zephyr, and her new companion to next in the sequel.
There was an epilogue chapter which sets up the sequel perfectly. I feel like the chapter was needed which can help readers get a glimpse of what’s more to come in the next book and the readers can expect from it. I’m excited to see whether Reyna and her two companions will cross path with the priestess and the priestess’ sworn protector from the epilogue. Where will she travel to next, and I have a theory on where that will be because the priestess from another land (I forgot the name of the land) was mentioned in this book plenty of times and with that epilogue, it makes a lot of sense for Reyna to go to that land. I can feel that things will be a lot more epic and intense in the sequel.
Now let’s talk about the characters…
Reyna as the main protagonist is considered as ‘weak’ in terms of her magical ability and physical strength, but she’s very strong when it comes to thinking using her brain—especially when she was in dire situations. I usually hate it when main protagonists are weak, but in Reyna’s case I totally understand it since being weak is just the beginning of her journey to become a strong mage. She wasn’t the type of person who take the magic lessons seriously at first but after losing her mother, she has improved.
There was a huge difference between Reyna when the story started and when the story ended. And the 3 years time jump help sped things up for the development of her character. She’d gotten stronger in terms of her magical ability and physical strength, and her brain power remain intact. I’m proud of seeing how far she’d grown throughout the book. I do admit that sometimes she made bad decisions which came with a lot of consequences. I hate it when main protagonists are like this, they knew the consequences of their own actions and yet they still did it. Just like Reyna, she knew that she always made bad decisions and she knew what the consequences are and that still doesn’t stop her from doing something she shouldn’t do.
Honestly, she was bold for repeating that mistake. I hope she become smarter when deciding something in the sequel because that’s one of her flaws she needs to get rid, along with her trusting the people she’s close to. She needs to be more wary instead of being too trusting because trusting someone would land her in a bad place just like what happened in the ending. She needs to put her guard up.
Aside from that, she was also a very kind person with a big heart. She was also selfless as was seen when she went to help her best friend during the mage trials, and in the end during all the chaos she was running to make sure her best friend was fine. She could take those chances to just save herself by running away from all the dangers but instead she didn’t. That’s what I like about her character. She wasn’t selfish and she made sure those she holds dear are safe even if that means she was in danger. When her nemesis Kaely was going to kill her during the mage trials, Reyna fought Kaely to the point she had the chance to kill Kaely but she didn’t, instead she only put Kaely in an injured state (not too gravely). Reyna does have a big heart, she cares too much and doesn’t want to leave anybody behind. Sadly that in the end she was alone.
I’m looking forward to a more new development for Reyna’s character in the sequel. Let her full potential as a mage shine in the next book without anyone underestimating her and calling her weak. Seriously, I’m tired of seeing the ”you’re weak” line in this book, so I hope that line won’t appear in the next book. Reyna is officially a mage now and not an adept anymore, so let her show what she can do at full power instead of nerfing her character. I hope she and her two companions will travel to other lands instead of staying in Nolderan, and I want to see how will her new companion help her in defeating a band of necromancers.
Arluin on the other hand is Reyna’s boyfriend who is the necromancer’s son. His father was exiled by Reyna’s father so he’s living alone. He was also shunned by nearly everyone in Nolderan—except for Reyna—for being a necromancer’s son. Everyone expect him to be just like his father even though he didn’t show any signs of being one. Truthfully, I feel sad for him because of how he was treated and how he was always so quiet because he also knew no one wants to be his friend and hang out with him except for Reyna. People called him names and it pained me seeing he got the worst treatment ever. He always kept to himself and the only time he opens up was to Reyna only. It shows how he only trust her.
I’m conflicted about his character. Just when I think he was good, he proved me wrong. For the most part, he was actually good but after the 3 years time jump, there was a change in his character and it wasn’t the good kind of change. Plus, he was also missing for the whole 3 years but came back to Nolderan because of his promise to Reyna. He’s a honest young man who never break his promise, and he stays true to his words. But then again, I should’ve known that he would go down the dark path just like his father especially after witnessing how his father died. He lost the only family member he had left and add to that he was shunned his whole life just for being a necromancer’s son, these two things alone drove him to the edge and turned him into someone who possessed the power of forbidden magic which is evil and deadly. This made me feel conflicted about him.
After what he did at the end, I finally found me answer and that is I hated him. I feel bad for him at the beginning and wanted to protect him from all sorts of harshness but after seeing how manipulative he can be 3 years later and what evil he’d unleashed to destroy Nolderan, I don’t have any love for his character anymore. Honestly, I couldn’t blame him for doing what he did and I understand his reasonings but still what he did was wrong and it was downright evil. His reasons behind his action are all valid but he was clearly in the wrong and I’m not going to side with him. Like I said earlier, I hate villains and since Arluin is now one, I hate him too. Now I want Reyna to win the battle that will happen between them.
The romance between Arluin and Reyna at first was really sweet to the point I was 100% supporting their relationship but all of that went straight to zero after the second half of the book. What I liked the most about their relationship was how Arluin never forget his promise to Reyna, and how he never forget a simple small thing like her birthday. Whatever he told her and promised her, he never once break it. Like I said, he stays true to his words. For example: he promised her that he would marry her in 3 years after they graduated from Arcanium (a school for mage training), and Reyna also promised the same thing. He disappeared after a chaotic event and came back exactly 3 years later to marry her on the night of her graduation. That’s when you know he’s a keeper and is loyal to only one girl. It’s very rare to find male characters who keep their promises and are loyal to their girlfriends, I can only name a few and Arluin is part of those ‘few’ bunch.
Aside from that, Arluin and Reyna also care so much for each other. For example: Arluin had to use the forbidden magic of necromancy to betray his own father just to save Reyna’s life. He’s the type of guy to sacrifice himself if that means the only girl he ever loved could continue on living. What he did was wrong as in using necromancy, but he had to do what was best in order to free Reyna from his father. Also, when Reyna’s father ordered the other mages to kill all necromancers including Arluin, she disobeyed her father and went to search for Arluin just so she could save his life. These two really love each other to the point they’re both betraying their own parent for the sake of keeping each other’s safe. That was true love, just like when Arluin disappeared for 3 years and he didn’t have a new girl because he only love Reyna and came back just to marry her like he promised.
As for Reyna, she kept wearing the locket that Arluin gave her the night they both promised to marry each other. She never forget him and still 3 years later she kept wearing the locket and never stop thinking about him. There was a new guy named Nolan who could be a potential new love interest for Reyna when he first appeared but he was acting strangely and I was suspicious of him. He turns out to be a fake and it was all part of Arluin’s plan.
Does that true love last forever for this couple? Not after Arluin press a dagger to Reyna’s throat after deceiving her, even though he said he didn’t mean it but he had to do it so she would comply with whatever he ordered her to do. If he think he still have the chance to be with her after that, he was wrong. Threatening her life even though he didn’t mean it is still wrong on so many levels because she was terrified. Not to mention that he proceed to murder her father in front of her because he wanted revenge and so that no one will try to tear him and Reyna apart. That murder scene alone traumatized her and she’d been through enough trauma already. He clearly had no shame after that because he still asked her to marry him.
He went from a hero to a psychopathic villain real quick, and he needs to go to therapy. They might’ve cared and loved each other earlier in the book. She may have been the only one who never cast him aside and treat him like a dirt for being a necromancer’s son. She was the only one kind enough to be with him and stay by his side throughout the ups and downs in his life. But what he did at the end was unforgivable. There’s no coming back from that unless he plan to redeem himself but from what he’d been planning, he won’t stop wreaking havoc. The chances of him getting a redemption arc is low and I’m not going to hope for one. I feel like this will only set up his character to have more room for development as the main villain. I want to see how much the author will explore Arluin’s depth as a villain. This is only the beginning of his villainous journey and he has a long way to go. He is the type of person who would sacrifice the entire world to have the girl he loved. I wouldn’t call that romantic because it’s not romantic in my eyes, some people definitely would call that romantic and that’s very problematic.
Now back to Arluin and Reyna’s relationship. Sorry, I got carried away for a moment there. I really liked their relationship because at first their dynamic was healthy and there was a perfect balance in their relationship but after seeing the monstrosity that Arluin did, I can’t support their relationship anymore because I hated him for being evil and for doing what he did. I was glad to see Reyna was wise enough not to take him back and now focusing on her mission to defeat him. They are basically soulmate, have a strong chemistry, and shared a connection deep enough nobody can break but still, I don’t want to see them back together as a couple because I want Reyna to be in a happy and healthy relationship where she won’t be threatened, deceived, and manipulated. Arluin may never did those three things to her before, but he’d done it once he came back after his disappearance.
Seriously, I feel bad for Reyna the most. She hadn’t deal with losing her mother (murdered in front of her by Arluin’s father) and then she had to lose her father too (also murdered in front of her by Arluin). Just when I think things couldn’t get any more worse, she also lost her best friend (murdered by Arluin). She was also bullied by the mean girl the entire time she studied magic at the Arcanium, and her boyfriend-turned-ex has gone down the dark path. She really can’t catch a break. She has enough trauma and I won’t be surprise if one day she just snap. The fact that no one was there to help her and give her an advice on how to properly cope with her struggles just makes things more sadder. She’d been through too much and Arluin coming back to cause chaos doesn’t help either. Their relationship is forbidden and doom from the start, and it’s not surprising that they would remain as enemies after this. I’m just going to wait to see what will they do next when they cross path with each other again.
Overall, this book was too enjoyable not to read. I highly recommend it if you want to read a story with a rare and unique concept that has a few twists. This book with its riveting storyline, intriguing plot, intricate worldbuilding, rare magic system, and complex characters made the whole thing more interesting to read and it’ll put you on the edge of your seat trying to find out what happens next. Now I’m only looking forward to the continuation of Arluin’s and Reyna’s journeys. Where will the story takes them to next? The epilogue ended this book on a high note, it perfectly builds up a strong anticipation for the sequel. Hopefully the sequel will also have dual POVs in both Reyna’s and Arluin’s because this book only has one POV which is Reyna’s, and I find it difficult trying to see what was going on in Arluin’s head and what he thought of the entire situation that happened in this book. Anyway, I’m still going to be looking forward to read the sequel because I am so hype for it.