October 17, 2015

An Inheritance of Ashes

by Leah Bobet
Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Books for Young Readers
388 pp.
Ages 12+
October 2015
Reviewed from advance reading copy

An Inheritance of Ashes is a dark tale.  A dark, dark tale. And, though it has supernatural elements, An Inheritance of Ashes is a familiar tale of fears and love and heroes and isolation and pride, and family.  And it has a force within.  A force that good may come from evil.
The emptiness grew, and split, and ate the whole world in its wake.  It was never going to be all right again. (pg. 126)
Hallie, 16, and her sister, Marthe, 26, both inherited Roadstead Farm from their abusive father, and now run it–raising barley, goats, poultry, etc.–with Marthe’s husband, Thom Clarlund, or they did until Thom went to war against the Wicked God and his general and prophet Asphodel Jones and army of irregulars, and their creatures, nay monsters, everyone calls Twisted Things.  Though the two young women are cautiously hopeful of Thom’s return, now that a man named John Balsam who “by magic, skill or cunning killed the Wicked God” (pg. 23), Hallie and Marthe take on a vet named Heron for whom “No one’s waiting for me to turn life normal again” (pg. 13) to help with the harvest and running the farm.  

But things are far from normal at the farm. Twisted Things begin to appear, one here, another there, killing the air, burning whatever they touch, contaminating the remnants of their lives.  And Hallie worries that the Great Army, desperately searching for John Balsam, will quarantine the farm, if not take it away from them.  Though Hallie is reluctant to ask for help, Heron and their neighbours, the Blakeley’s, come to their assistance.  Moreover, even though Hallie recognizes that, because of the abuse of their father, “We were ruined for loving people.  We were ruined for being loved” (pg. 244), Tyler Blakely who has his own war ghosts begins to court her and, with his sister Nat and Heron, help her recognize that she doesn’t have to take on the evil alone, or hide or run from that which seems too much. “We made each other less alone.” (pg. 272)

There are things not of our world in An Inheritance of Ashes, and there are things that were never of their world either, including a Wicked God that is more storm than substance and bird- and lizard-like creatures that burn and kill that which they touch, and a violent purple and green world that is evident only through a hole in the air.  But fighting evil and finding strength with others and holding onto that which is everything–a home, family, friends–are our world, and Leah Bobet easily supplants readers from their comforts into the darkness of Hallie’s world.  Rife with atmosphere and Hallie’s longing for rightness, An Inheritance of Ashes demonstrates that what we get from family is not always what is expected.  If might be an inheritance of a family farm, or of fear, or isolation, but it can be the fortitude to continue on, when all expect failure to reverberate.  And, with powerfully evocative text, Leah Bobet allows Hallie and others in An Inheritance of Ashes to sift through the cinders and residue after a horror and find something worth keeping.

No comments:

Post a Comment