“Ashael is a hunter-gatherer woman, apprenticed to Bhearra, the healer and spiritual leader of their tribe.
The Zanthar are invaders from another world who extend their own lives by stealing the life-force of everything around them. They were last seen on KalaDene 200 years ago. They have returned, looking for The Vessel, a being prophesied to hold the life-force of the land.
Iwan is a slave to the Zanthar, descendant of the folk that were taken as slaves the last time the Zanthar visited this world. He is sent out as a spy, while his mother is held hostage to ensure his compliance.
When Iwan and Ashael meet and she invites him to stay in Oak Cam, neither of them realise that she is the one the Zanthar seek. The fate of KalaDene and all of its people rests on Ashael’s shoulders.”
Ashael Rising is the strong debut high fantasy novel by Shona Kinsella. I received an unfinished ARC from the author in exchange for an honest review.
While Ashael Rising follows several view points, the main POVs are Ashael herself, and Iwan – a slave sent by the enemy to spy on her people. Ashael’s people, a group of hunter-gatherers, are very trusting and offer Iwan a place in their cam when he asks for shelter, not realising the trouble he brings with him.
While I was a little frustrated with them at first for just letting a stranger stay with them (and showing him the secret way into their home within minutes of his arrival) it’s actually that difference between the people I loved the most. Ashael’s people are very primitive. They love peace above all else, and don’t suspect Iwan to have ulterior motives because it’s in their nature to help each other. They haven’t developed to a point where they carve weapons or form a military. Their lives revolve around living together in harmony with each other and nature. Iwan’s masters, however, are the very opposite.
She had no idea what was supposed to happen when The Baby, the smallest of Kala’Dene’s three moons, joined the others in the sky, but she had no doubt that it would be big.
The Zanthar are an ancient race who arrived long ago to invade and enslave the planet. They are incredibly advanced, travel between worlds to suck the life out of each to extend their own lives, and await the arrival of The Vessel – a being powerful enough to stop them once and for all. The difference between the two races is a great example of Kinsella’s excellent world building.
Meanwhile, a mysterious power Ashael never knew she possessed slowly awakens inside her. It’s this power the Zanthar want to destroy, and it’s this power that can stop them – if only Ashael knew how to use it.
Her rage had disappeared with the life of the young guard and Ashael knew she would not survive another confrontation. With the last of her strength, she called to the water that she sensed earlier, rushing below them in its own secret course.
It was interesting to see how her power developed, and as things progressed the closer the plot came to the one night prophecy says the Zanthar can stop Ashael before she becomes too strong.
Ashael Rising is a strong debut, with lots of promise for the future! Shona Kinsella is definitely an author to watch – if you’re a fan of high fantasy you’ll enjoy Ashael Rising!
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