This week’s Musings review comes from my first accepted ARC from Edelweiss! I’m still trying to get to grips with the system and formatting of the site but I was so thrilled to finally get off the mark with A Curse of Ash and Embers by Jo Spurrier. Many thanks to Edelweiss and the publishers at Harper Voyager for providing me with a complimentary e-ARC in exchange for an honest review.
Book: A Curse of Ash and Embers by Jo Spurrier
Series: Tales of the Blackbone Witches (#1)
Genre: YA / Fantasy
Publication Date: November 3rd 2020
Publisher: Harper Collins
Synopsis (from Goodreads)
A dead witch. A bitter curse. A battle of magic.
Some people knit socks by the fire at night. Gyssha Blackbone made monsters.
But the old witch is dead now, and somehow it’s Elodie’s job to clean up the mess.
When she was hired at Black Oak Cottage, Elodie had no idea she’d find herself working for a witch; and her acid-tongued new mistress, Aleida, was not expecting a housemaid to turn up on her doorstep.
Gyssha’s final curse left Aleida practically dead on her feet, and now, with huge monsters roaming the woods, a demonic tree lurking in the orchard and an angry warlock demanding repayment of a debt, Aleida needs Elodie’s help, whether she likes it or not.
And no matter what the old witch throws at her, to Elodie it’s still better than going back home.
Originally published in 2018 and set for rerelease on 3rd November 2020, A Curse of Ash and Embers forms as the first novel in The Blackbone Witches series by Jo Spurrier.
The world of the Blackbone Witches is by far my favourite part of this book. It is so cleverly created and is filled with really imaginative and fascinating forms of magic. I absolutely loved the wicked creatures and demons that were constructed out of bits of nature and old broken bones. They were ominously sinister, like something leaping right out of the horror genre and what’s more, they were believably scary and made me want to hide behind the sofa when our main characters were confronted by them. There is also a freakishly demonic tree (which I hope never to come across in my life!) and an adorably intriguing group of sprites which built up a wonderfully multi-layered world in my head.
The story is told from Elodie’s perspective, however I was much more interested in the parts of the story which were filled with Aleida, Attwater and Laurel. These are the magical creatures/beings around which much of the drama, action and magical elements within the story unfold. Aleida is mysterious and reminds me of those morally grey characters who aren’t necessarily good but aren’t all that bad either. Her presence offered a stark contrast to the rather homely and naive Elodie, through whose perspective the story is told. I felt like I was waiting for the arrivals and interactions of the otherworldly characters to brighten up the storyline and incorporate that fabulous world-building and magical antics into the plot, rather than just living through Elodie’s rather provincial life as housekeeper/assistant.
Because of that, I much preferred the final half of the book to the second half. At about halfway through, the plot and characters seemed to be fully established enough that the pace of the novel lifted as the drama and magic began to snowball. Beasts came out of the woodwork (literally), ghosts came back from the past with a vengeance and we were catapulted forward into what was really quite a darkly interesting and exciting magical world.
Overall, there were many things I enjoyed whilst reading A Curse of Ash and Embers. It offered me a rather different, enchanting world to explore with some really quite grizzly, foreboding villains. The struggle and harsh realities of the battle between good and evil was definitely felt through the storytelling and the wide range of magics and characters woven between the pages.
Why Should I Read This?
For an intriguing magical world filled with steampunk-esque ‘constructs’, a hellish witch-villain and ethereal sprites.
For the morally-grey Aleida who brings a new style to the idea of witch-kind.
For a cleverly crafted plot.