Title: Air and Ash
Author: Alex Lidell
Published by: Danger Bearing Press
About the Book
“True balance is striven for but never achieved…The journey itself is the greatest of things.”
The first in the Tides series, this YA fantasy book follows (in first POV) the young princess of the Ashing Kingdom, Nile Greysik, as she sails out to sea under the guise of a common sailor, escaping an unwanted arranged marriage and in search for a cure to her twin’s magical gifts and the ailment they come with. As she leaves her kingdom and identity behind, she finds herself face to face with a ship that wants nothing to do with her, a first officer determined to see her fail despite the constant concern in his eyes, a corrupt captain and worse yet: the symptoms of what she comes to recognize as air calling, something she must keep secret and learn to control if she wants to survive long enough to see land again.
Alex Lidell’s writing is absolutely spectacular. Her story telling and character-building so wonderfully achieved, Nile’s journey had me enthralled from start to finish. The pace was just fast enough to make you feel like there was action or something happening at every turn, but not too much to overwhelm you. Her description of the frigate (I learned this term with this book haha), the sea, the herierchy among the seamen and all the sailor jargon was a clear sign of Liddell’s vast knowledge on the subject and it had the capacity of making you feel like you were just another character on the ship.
The magic system in this book is wild, really rare and completely the opposite from what I’m used to. A person who is Gifted by an elemental affinity is racked with a serious and terminal condition that can ultimately leave them with a physical or mental disability.
The world building was great, although the kingdoms and their systems a little complex at times; I had to pause and re-read some things in the first few chapters to make sure I got it all. Each kingdom had extremely unique and completely different cultures and religion, which sometimes made it seem like Lidell wasn’t only building one world – the one where the main character mostly develops in – but many different worlds, expressing and achieving an amazing sub-plot of diversity and also: feminism and gender roles. Ashing’s neighboring kingdom, Felielle, has completely different views on women and these issues are addressed constantly throughout the book, which I loved.
“Yes, Nile, we are different. You’ve a warrior’s heart and I’ve a mother’s. But the world needs us both in it. And different and friends are not mutually exclusive states.”
The plot was really awesome, with great twists and great characters to make it all even richer. Nile meets and befriends an unlikely group of people that couldn’t be any more different from her and the clash of opinions and beliefs is something she has to work through.
I did feel like maybe we were missing some more of the squad members’ backgrounds and a bit of character depth, but this is only the first book. I’m looking forward to knowing more about Catsper and his group of Spades, Domenic and even the twins, Sand and Song.
The romance in this book was reaaaally slow-burning, but it was sweet and achieved tastefully. It wasn’t by any means the central focus of the story; it was more of a side thing, but it added tension to the plot. The chemistry between stubborn and brave Nile and hot, intriguing and brutal Domenic is enough of a page-turner without all the added bonuses: great writing, good world-building, awesome dialogue, a deadly magical system, a princess’ hidden identity and so much more.
Definitely a must read for all fantasy lovers and anyone who ever dreamed of being a sailor/pirate as a kid… I know I did ever since Pirates of the Caribbean.
B & L