The Ashes and the Sparks by Mary Victoria Johnson

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Title: The Ashes and the Sparks

Author: Mary Victoria Johnson

Genre: YA/Romance/Steampunk

Rating: ****

Review: The prologue to this book was very interesting and playing on a different type of nightmarish beast I haven’t encountered before- an evil dyrid. While it was interesting some of the wording/language used was a bit difficult to grasp but this should become easier as the novel progresses. In the first chapter we meet Jorun and her friends, one which; Danne is posing as the beast from the prologue in return for food namely oatcakes while the small group moves in the underground tunnels. While I still didn’t completely understand the social system just yet I was intriguing and eager to continue on with the novel.

Jorun and her friends are tunnellers and are trying to keep them a secret as they are more of a myth within their community but Jorun finds it hard to tunnel by night and keep up with her day job as a childminder without sacrifices like sleep. Torgny is Jorun’s closest friend but she may also harbour some romantic feeling towards him which already gives the book a love triangle which I wasn’t thrilled with, but Jorun and the group seems to love terrorizing the village with their worst fears and scariest legends, so I didn’t actually like the main characters at all. Another thing that added to the confusion was the orlog – a mark everyone receives at sixteen although at this point it isn’t too well explained but on the bright side Jorun receives her desperately wanted kiss for Torgny. At the orlog ceremony each person is mark with a word representing what they are or what they will give to the world and unfortunately for Jorun she is marked with murder, now things begin to get interesting and I was eager to see how this would play out. During one night down the tunnels the group find Fridrik from a neighbouring island who has been wounded by what I believed to be a very crude version of a bullet, this worries Jorun in particular as she knows someone has been making and using new weapons.

As we approach the 1/4 mark in the novel Fridrik tells Jorun are men coming for the sky and all but destroying the 3 neighbouring islands and warns her that they will be coming to her island but she doesn’t believe him even though he has a gun as proof of their advances weapons and ruthless tactics. Fridrik outs the groups in a moment of panic and no there is no telling what lies ahead for them especially Jorun and her unusual orlog. Jorun is quickly thrown into a world of chaos when Fridriks’ words of madness soon become reality. Many people are killed in the chaos and no one on the island besides Fridrik has any clue of what to do in this situation. When the invaders present Jorun with an opportunity to meet their leader with a few others and even medical assistance for her brother Ari, she is torn between standing with her people and self-preservation. After some arguing Jorun, Ari, Nil, Danne and Fridrik are leaving the island to meet with the one called the Empress from Great Britain which was fascinating for me and as we approach the half way mark in the novel I was hopeful that things were only going to get better after the slow and slightly confusing start to the novel.

When the group arrive in Britain they marvel at how many people there are and everything else around them which is completely different to what they were used to on the island. While a bit dumbstruck they ask very little questions which surprised me, and I was very curious to see what would happen and whether the group would ever return to their island. By the time we actually enter the second half of the novel the group are being settled into the castle in Edinburgh where they are being educated of the customs of this land compared to their own although it is very hard for them to grasp politics especially Fridrik. By this point they are becoming used to the city and will be taught basic English, it almost feels like the group of islanders is being groomed to like in this new, strange country and become part of its people. The tunnellers eventually learns on a tunnel system of sewers running underneath them, and while they won’t be going home anytime soon they decide to rebel from the inside.

As they continue with their scheme they become more integrated with this new society, but the others apart for Jorun are causing devastation even resorting to murder and they all but abandon her because she believes it is wrong. As Jorun does what she feels is right by going back to Carrie she is scared of what will happen to her and what has become of her once friends, I sympathize with her but she is still partly to blame even though she grew a conscious when it was needed. Despite her efforts Jorun in thrown in jail after an unfortunate mistake which may cost Jorun her life. As we cross the 3/4 mark in the novel Jorun life has gone from bad to worse, now with her friends gone and Carrie in possession of her brother Ari there is little she can do but run and run she does. By the time Jorun reunites with Danne, Fridrik has gone mad causing chaos, death and destruction all over the city. As a sibling rivalry draws the city further into chaos, the city itself becomes a chess board and inhabitants pawns to be used and discarded at will. Jorun and her friends are now the only people that can save the city and themselves, they have to end the uprising and restore the balance of power.

After a long and bloody battle all is set right and the gang find themselves on a flight home before they know it with a banished princess in tow. In the end the devastation remains at home for Jorun with her true love dead and many homes destroyed but rather than focusing on the ashes of the past they look to the sparks of hope that lie in the future. I highly recommend this to all despite the slow start and slightly confusing parts it is well worth sticking with it.

This book was sent to me for review consideration by YA Bound Book Tours

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