Review: An Inheritance of Ashes by Leah Bobet

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Hardcover, 400 pages
Published October 1st 2015 by Scholastic Canada
Source: ARC from Publisher

The strange war down south—with its rumors of gods and monsters—is over. And while sixteen-year-old Hallie and her sister wait to see who will return from the distant battlefield, they struggle to maintain their family farm.

When Hallie hires a veteran to help them, the war comes home in ways no one could have imagined, and soon Hallie is taking dangerous risks—and keeping desperate secrets. But even as she slowly learns more about the war and the men who fought it, ugly truths about Hallie’s own family are emerging. And while monsters and armies are converging on the small farm, the greatest threat to her home may be Hallie herself.

  1. What we have here is really excellent Canadian speculative fiction.
  2. A much rarer occurrence than you would think.
  3. Or maybe I just don’t read widely enough. You can’t blame me. I’m still scarred from all the CanLit classes I was made to take while an English Lit major in my undergrad.
  4. Okay, I will start the review proper now. *clears throat*

Leah Bobet’s An Inheritance of Ashes contains the more noticeable elements of Canadian literature, namely, a preoccupation with the landscape, weather, and snow. And unlike other novels that I will not name, the characters in An Inheritance of Ashes have good reason to be concerned with things mentioned previously.

The synopsis does not really say much about what the book is about. Hallie’s earliest memories are of her dad and his brother, her uncle, fighting until her uncle leaves after selling his share of the farm to Hallie’s dad. Before he leaves, Hallie’s uncle warns her that there may come a day when she will be in the very position he is right now and she, too, will have no choice but to leave the only home she knows. So Hallie grows up clinging to her older sister and loving her but knowing that one day she will have to leave the farm.

The father dies and hurray for that because he was an abusive *bleep* and things get better for a while. Hallie’s sister marries someone Hallie considers her brother and they run the farm as best as they know how. Then comes the war and like all wars do, draws all able men and boys to it including Hallie’s brother in law. The story is set a little after the war is over; Hallie’s side won but it was a pyrrhic victory. Soldiers pass their farm but none of the faces are familiar and Hallie fears that no matter how long they wait, they will never see Hallie’s brother-in-law ever again. The farm is too big for Hallie and her sister, who is about seven months or so pregnant, to manage alone and the relationship between them sours (more on this later).

Things, however, aren’t as dire as they seem (at least initially). Hallie and Marthe (Hallie’s sister) have awesome neighbours, the Blakelys, who will drop everything to come and help them in their hour of need. Hallie has a best friend in Nat Blakely who was one of my favourite characters and she has chemistry with Nat’s brother, Tyler, who has issues of his own after he returned from the war broken. But as I said, the farm needs a lot of work and the Blakelys, while awesome, cannot spend all their time away from their own farm. So when a passing soldier who introduces himself simply as Heron asks for food and shelter in exchange for work, Hallie agrees. He’s hale and hearty and his presence will help them get through winter.

This seems rather realistic, no? Cuz it is. We’ve all (hopefully) read farm stories. Now for the supernatural aspect–the war was fought against a Southern God who (that?) was creating desert where green fields once stood. As the reach of the “God” grew, monstrous creatures that spontaneously combusted (it is a word now) appeared over all over Hallie’s side of the world. They created destruction and left desert land wherever they appeared but once the “God” was defeated, their numbers decreased. Until Hallie discovers a monstrous thing on her farm and it coincides far too neatly with the arrival of the stranger, Heron, and all sorts of questions start popping up about his identity and the war and this so called “God” that the soldiers defeated.

Oh and if this is not all enough for you, Hallie and Marthe’s relationship deteriorate at a crazy rate until things seem to be reaching breaking point.

So, there’s a lot going on and Bobet manages to make it all work fantastically. Hallie is a difficult person to lie but I don’t dislike her. She is constructed by the landscape she lives in. Her wiry and prickly nature and the insecurity with which she approaches her sister are all understandable. But you know, if only they had talked it out, if only Hallie hadn’t been so ridiculous about the way she wouldn’t talk to Marthe, we would have all been spared a lot of angst. I won’t lie, I was more often than not frustrated by Hallie’s inability to just…talk.

The side characters are brilliant and I do so love how the camaraderie and cohesion of the Blakely family is a juxtaposition to Hallie’s two-personed family. An Inheritance of Ashes ruminates on the nature of war, the cost of it, and the true meaning of victory. The romance is sweet and Tyler was a pleasant surprise. I liked how Hallie and Tyler go about discovering what it means to be in love when the world is so uncertain around them. I liked the friendship between Nat and Hallie.

Unlike the usual YA thriller which sets a lone female warrior type against the world, An Inheritance of Ashes pitches one world against another; it discusses unity of two sisters, two families, and a town. In order to regain what was theirs they will need to put aside differences and fight for it together using their wit and their strength.

What I’m saying is An Inheritance of Ashes by Leah Bobet is a wonderfully fun and you should read it.

2 responses to “Review: An Inheritance of Ashes by Leah Bobet

  1. I second this review!

    Great Canadian fantasy/sci-fi/spec fic . . . whatever genre you want to call it, read it, it’s simply a good read :)

  2. Really enjoyed this; it was so original. Had way more relationship angst than most spec fic and I liked that; Hallie’s difficulty with her sister—and with the town—played into the whole saving-the-world plot in a very realistic way, I thought.

    Thanks for the review. I’ve been struggling with my own review, because it’s hard to put this book’s impact into words. I liked what you said about it not being a lone heroine’s story; it’s about people coming together to face a threat.

    *Goes away thoughtfully . . .*

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