All That’s Left Behind
Empire of Ash #1
Miri C. Golden
I’ve waited for this book since July last year. The prequel, Land of Perpetual Night, was one of my favourite books of 2020, and one of the most memorable fantasy books I’ve read in a long time.
After a few late nights and some bad decisions on the topic of sleep, I’m happy to say the wait was worth it. All That’s Left Behind is everything I hoped it would be. It’s dark, messy, and intense, and sometimes, it’s very, very funny.
What sets these two books apart from everything else is the realness of the characters – even when they’re bloody idiots who refuse to talk to each other because they’re unable to deal with their own shit, or perhaps, maybe, just because of that…
It’s gritty and dirty and complicated. Like people are.
It’s also exciting, endearing, and awe inspiring.
There’s jumping onto giant flying monsters and clubbing them to death in mid-air. There’s calling storms and lightning, and riding tidal surges through underground tunnels. There’s foolhardy rescue missions and mind-blowing sex.
It’s a lot of things, and one of the biggest things of the story can’t even be mentioned, or whoever reads about it will think that this is a slapstick comedy, when it really isn’t. It could have been, and it sometimes toes the line, but it never steps across. What seems like something out of a farce becomes a real and serious problems for the people involved. It’s masterful.
What I’ll whine about:
Troa Travay, the main character of the story, has one goal in mind and which drives her to do what she does. Unfortunately, this goal is quite distant and far off, and it’s often overshadowed by what’s happening at the moment. It’s brought up once in a while, and my reaction to it was usually something along the lines of “nope, that’s never going to happen,” simply because it’s so far off and distant.
A lot of the supporting characters in the book seem to have a really strong aversion to answering direct questions about what’s going on.
What I’ll gush about:
The characters. Like I mentioned earlier, there’s a realness to Troa and her friends that goes deeper than I’m used to. Sure, sometimes their bullheaded stupidity makes me groan in frustration, but at the same time, I can’t just put down the book and leave them there. I need to keep reading and make sure they’re okay.
The writing. It’s spotless. At one point, I was confused by the word “does” until I realized it was in reference to female deer, but other than that, I didn’t notice a single thing.
The world. Just like the characters, the world feels real. It’s a living, breathing place, where people live and thrive and wonder over how stupid people in other parts of the world must be to believe the stupid things they do. There are definite parallels to the real world of today, in the kind of way that sometimes makes you stop and think for a moment. That said, it doesn’t feel obtrusive, but is rather just a part of the story.
The pacing. I wouldn’t call this a fast-paced or action-packed story, but even then, there’s a constant urge to just keep reading. Just one more chapter, just a little further, just to the end of this scene, and then it’s 4 am and I’ve got work in the morning.
It’s only January, and I just finished the book last night, but even so, I don’t expect this year to hold many books better than this one.