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Book Review

Publisher's Note:

Red Rising meets The Scorpio Races in this epic fantasy following three phoenix horse riders--skilled at alchemy--who must compete at The Races--the modern spectacle that has replaced warfare within their empire. Every year since the Ashlords were gifted phoenix horses by their gods, they've raced them. First into battle, then on great hunts, and finally for the pure sport of seeing who rode the fastest. Centuries of blood and fire carved their competition into a more modern spectacle: The Races. Over the course of a multi-day event, elite riders from clashing cultures vie to be crowned champion. But the modern version of the sport requires more than good riding. Competitors must be skilled at creating and controlling phoenix horses made of ash and alchemy, which are summoned back to life each sunrise with uniquely crafted powers to cover impossible distances and challenges before bursting into flames at sunset. But good alchemy only matters if a rider knows how to defend their…

Ashlords

by Scott Reintgen

Overall Book Review:

Brilliant and breathtaking, Ashlords is fresh young adult fiction.  Set in a world where the invaders have become the enslaved and where phoenix horses die in flames only to be reborn from the ashes at morning light, this is a intriguing addition to YA fantasy.  

Stylistically, the chapters are told from the perspective of three race participants, whose purposes and stakes vary greatly. This narrative style is popular in young adult novels but the author diverges a little bit from the formula, which keeps things innovative.  First, the three narratives and individuals only touch each other peripherally; this is a book of three stories that happen to be occurring at the same event (not of three entwined stories…at least, not yet).  Second, Imelda and Adrian’s accounts are in first person, but Pippa tells her account in the second voice, utilizing “you” instead of “I” as she reports what she is thinking and what is happening to her.  This is terribly effective in reinforcing that she is part of the ruling class (as if she is invoking the “royal we”) and demonstrating her sense of entitlement.  Nice stylistic narrative touches all the way around.

The plentiful action, nice twists, suspense, life and death, and alternating viewpoints all make this a page-burner and a pleasure to read.  The race concludes in this book, but the true story is only beginning with book two of this series slated for early 2021.  Highly recommended read for all young adult action, dystopian, or fantasy readers!


Content Analysis:

Profanity/Language:  22 mild obscenities; 1 derogatory name; 1 scatological word.

Violence/Gore:  Character tries to grab another; brief struggle knife and sword; report of deaths in previous wars with execution of firstborns, no details; report of death of parent; reference to murder in prior races and footage of the act is replayed on a screen; verbal threats; reports someone shoved someone off the cliffs; a death by poisoning; knife thrown at someone; hand deliberately sliced; references to blood sacrifices; a couple of instances where horses’ ashes are sabotaged; training with weapons; phoenix horses die every night and this is shown in several different scenes, in one scene the rider speeds the death up by running a sword through his horse (not in a merciful way); planning and talk of war; riders attack other riders with whips while racing; horse attacks another horse and draws blood, while racing; 2-3 page fight scene where brutally beaten character is left barely alive; fight with whips among characters, one knocked unconscious and other falls from cliff with severe injury; report of death of  a horse; pursuit by a fantasy creature, whip used in defense; scene with shooting, chase, mention of blood, and deaths; character burnt to death by phoenix horse; character is killed; character cuts hand to give blood to another; racing characters whip horse, use whip to break another’s wrist; magical force knocks someone from saddle resulting in serious injuries; multi-page battle scene with shooting, explosives, death (mostly general descriptions); character beat/hit in head and driven to knees.

Sex/Nudity:  Characters have a romantic relationship; characters kiss; reference to men desiring a female; dream with a kiss on the cheek; character allows suggestive pictures of her to be taken and sold (not nudes, but incident is still scandalous) and there are rumors about this; mating ritual of a fantasy beast is explained.

Mature Subject Matter:

Death, treason, rebellion, discrimination, persecution, blood sacrifices to fantasy gods.

Alcohol / Drug Use:

Alcohol consumed by all ages at a formal event; mention of bar; character smokes.

Overall Book Rating
Profanity/Language
Rating:
4
10
Violence/Gore
Rating:
4
10
Sex/Nudity
Rating:
2
10

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About the Reviewer

An accountant and CPA by profession, I found myself a book reviewer for Squeaky Clean Reads by happenstance. When the opportunity came to transform that website into Compass Book Ratings, I was excited to seize it and meld my business background with my love of books. As the mother of three teenage sons, I have read a large number of children and young adult books and I believe that there is great value in a content review service. As much as we would love to read everything our children read, there just isn’t enough time. I also appreciate being able to select books for myself that are really worth my precious and limited reading time. I believe there is a book out there for everyone–they just have to find it!