Publication Date: May 16, 2014
In Ashbourne: The First Chronicle by Cas Blomberg, an epidemic is sweeping Sarond killing all in its wake. Joelle, a cleric, is on a journey of faith while Riatha, an Elvin Archmage, is looking to use the illness to her advantage. What better time to rise to the top when those who would fight are weak and dying?
Ashbourne: The First Chronicle starts off really slowly not helped by the weight of flowery prose. There’s a feeling of the author aiming for the epic fantasy classics but not quite hitting the goal. The story shifts between Joelle, Riatha and Sarco in a fairly fluid way. Their story lines are connected but loosely so. Joelle is clearly the author’s focus. She goes full circle in the course of the story. She seems to be meant as the touchstone. Joelle is the character with which the reader will connect and identify. She’s the one tasked with bringing us into her world and introducing us to her peril. The problem with Joelle’s introduction is that her reaction to the customs of her world is in turn strong and cold perhaps as a vehicle to further explain to the reader their structure.
Riatha is the character I found most interesting. She’s an Elvin Archmage who plans to use the distraction of illness to make her move to gain dominance. She’s already something of a big fish before the epidemic hits and is poised and is clearly not one to miss an opportunity. She is brutal. “The survivors will be demoralized. Shattered. Hopeless. Easy to manipulate.” (Page 69). Riatha is a cagey character. The disease is no respecter of species and she’s ready to pounce. Blomberg gives her not so appealing character depth. This is an elf that has seen her people suffer and fall and what she wants is security and a way to hold on to whatever she can get.
Sarco is also a character that has suffered profound loss. His wife, Joelle, within the story seems to him to be facilitating further loss putting him at odds with her. On page 80 he’s holding his sister who has been shaved and the pain in the narrative is palpable. When his path diverges from his wife it’s with a laser focus that he stays on his path that might put some readers off. Janelle is, after all, the purpose of the story, isn’t she?
Ashbourne: The First Chronicle is a story in need of an editor. If you’re someone who reads epic fantasy you’ll love this novel, polished or not. For me, it needed some fine-tuning. There were moments with all characters that could have been pared down in favor of perhaps expanded knowledge in other areas. There’s also a shifting from a formal style to modern vernacular that is perhaps a bit odd with the scope of the Ashbourne: The First Chronicle world.
Overall, Ashbourne: The First Chronicle is a good book with an esoteric appeal. If you like epic fantasy, pick this one up and let me know what you think.
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