Published by Balzer + Bray
Published on 4th August 2020
Genres: Action & Adventure, Fantasy & Magic, Young Adult
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Avatar: The Last Airbender meets Gladiator in the first book in this epic fantasy duology in which two warriors must decide where their loyalties lie as an ancient war between immortals threatens humanity—from Sara Raasch, the New York Times bestselling author of the Snow Like Ashes series, and Kristen Simmons, acclaimed author of Pacifica and The Deceivers. Perfect for fans of An Ember in the Ashes, And I Darken, and The Winner’s Curse.
Ash is descended from a long line of gladiators, and she knows the brutal nature of war firsthand. But after her mother dies in an arena, she vows to avenge her by overthrowing her fire god, whose temper has stripped her country of its resources.
Madoc grew up fighting on the streets to pay his family’s taxes. But he hides a dangerous secret: he doesn’t have the earth god’s powers like his opponents. His elemental gift is something else—something that hasn’t been seen in centuries.
When an attempted revenge plot goes dangerously wrong, Ash inadvertently throws the fire and earth gods into a conflict that can only be settled by deadly, lavish gladiator games, throwing Madoc in Ash’s path. She realizes that his powers are the weapon her rebellion needs—but Madoc won’t jeopardize his family, regardless of how intrigued he is by the beautiful warrior.
But when the gods force Madoc’s hand, he and Ash uncover an ancient war that will threaten more than one immortal—it will unravel the world.
I received a copy of this book from Edelweiss in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.
I have a definite weakness, and it’s when gods appear in something akin to a human form and live among their subjects. It doesn’t matter whether you believe in them, because they’re real whether you have faith or not. It appeals to my atheist heart.
So when this book was announced as Gladiator meets Avatar: The Last Airbender, or more specifically, the sport of pro-bending in The Legend of Korra, with elemental magic being another one of my jams, I was into this concept. I was excited. I asked for – and received an ARC.
And then the Shit Year hit. I got the ARC in February 2020, thinking that I would have plenty of time to read it before its August release date.
I absolutely cannot explain why this took me almost a year to read, starting it just around release date in August 2020, putting it back down when Uni became overwhelming, and picking it back up in January 2021 only to drop it again. I picked it up for a third time in March 2021, determined to finish it, because objectively, there’s nothing wrong with it! it’s literally ON ME that I couldn’t finish it. It was my Everest.
Then I got really sick and almost died, and when I was busy not dying, I was studying at Uni and also working full time and there were other ARCs and I just Could. Not. Finish. This. Book.
And I don’t think that this book was bad, not at all. On paper, it’s stunning. The writing was clear and insightful. I enjoyed the characters, and they all had really great motivations for acting the way they acted. There was lots of mystery and the reveals were perfectly timed, as well as some unexpected twists and some pleasantly predictable ones. I really liked the worldbuilding and find no faults there, and it even had a couple of things that appeal specifically to my niche taste (specifically the gods walking among mortals and elemental magic).
It’s not this book’s fault that I took nearly a year to read it. It’s actually really good. I haven’t read Kristen Simmons before, but I have read and utterly adored Sarah Raasch’s previously book Snow Like Ashes and These Revel Waves. Both writers are competent and enjoyable and while I was reading it, I really enjoyed it. I just had a hard time picking it back up to finish, but I did have a lot of competing priorities at the time and reading just wasn’t one of them.
I also really enjoyed seeing the romance between the fire gladiator and the earth champion developing, because as they were both teens, it was largely built on physical attraction at first. However, they both got to know each other, which I really appreciate. It wasn’t insta-love, and I really like how they developed this genuine friendship, this being able to be dependent on each other, even through the Romeo and Juliet-ness of their situation.
Overall I would really recommend this book, I really wish I hadn’t taken so long to read it because it is very good and I did enjoy it, I just wasn’t able to race through it, and I know it was me and not the book because it happened at the same time with another book by an establish favourite author, so don’t blame the book. Normally I would give up on a book that takes too long to read, but I knew this one was special. Give it a chance.