Soul of Ash (Death’s Embrace #2), H L Moore
Rating: 4.5 Stars
Publisher: Self Published
Tags: Fantasy, Alt-World, Series, Mythology, Spirituality, Atonement, Romance. TW/CW: Some Gore, Some Violence. Addiction
Length: 337 Pages
Purchase At: amazon
‘You can run, but you will never be free.’
Half a year after the events of Heart Of Dust, Doran Ó Seanáin now finds himself trapped between two worlds while belonging to neither. Held in contempt by the upper class for the turmoil he caused during Archon Bryson’s reign and resented by the miners for selling out, Leonora Darkwater’s bid to purchase the mines from the crown may be his salvation. But the offer is far more complicated than it appears, and the only person Doran trusts is the same man who threw his life into chaos.
Haunted by his past, held hostage by his debt to the Archon, and a slave to the poison that keeps him alive, atonement feels perpetually out of reach for Nathaniel Morgenstern. Too much damage has been done and too much has gone unsaid for time alone to heal the wounds between him and Doran.
Unfortunately, time is the one thing they don’t have as their lives collide once more. There are vipers in Arajon; the mines aren’t finished with Doran, and the sand in Nathaniel’s hourglass is running out.
**All my reviews are to the point right now. I’m just giving bullet points as my review for Soul of Ash – I have to squint to type as one of my eyes heals.
The diversity of book #1, Heart of Dust, is built upon further in Soul of Ash. So many cultures, plenty of relevant spirituality and mythology. There are xenophobic thoughts and words from some, but then there are those who transcend this behaviour as well and work as one. It feels real in a spec fic/fantasy setting.
The world building is excellent. Vivid and visceral, you can see it so clearly, almost touch and taste it. H.L. Moore gives good world.
The series has two distinct MCs but is very much an ensemble cast. There are many players in this world. Some are likeable, some are not, and some have grey-shades where you can vacillate on how you feel about them – pretty typical of people.
There is a mystery element, why are there so many accidents going on in the mines? Is someone in particular being targeted? If so, why and by whom? And who do you trust? Beware of Satan in a Sunday hat.
I really, really like Doran. I think he’s a loyal, kind, decent man. He works his arse off for the miners, and quite frankly this reader feels they often don’t deserve his thought and consideration. He’s damned for being the leader of the Black Lung Gang, now he isn’t anymore he’s damned for being the father of the Lady Archon of Arajon. I truly love that Doran can feel as he does for Nathaniel, and that he has a high capacity for forgiveness and empathy. It’s admirable and complex.
Nathaniel is giving and self-flagellating all at once. He has a deep seated (understandable) need for penance, and has a tough backstory. It’s not always good to be the child of a high-achieving parent, one who tried their best, but with little understanding of how to raise a child age appropriately.
The relationship between Doran and Nathaniel is the slowest of burns and there is no sex… but there is certainly romance. It’s actually perfect for the story. Doran and Nathaniel’s story, while not the same, is not unlike Lincoln and Jay’s in Sloan Parker’s wonderful Breathe.
Gerald, Nathaniel’s assistant, a teen who was living on the streets before Nathaniel, is adorable in this book. His familial style of love and admiration for Nathaniel is touching and on open display throughout.
Tsa Lien, the Broker, and Nathaniel, the Nameless, have an interesting relationship. Not high on empathy yet full of shared understanding.
Addiction is well written within a spec-fic/fantasy world. Nathaniel uses to (not have to ) deal with his feelings of pain, shame, and self-recrimination.
I enjoyed book #1 but I liked this book even more, it’s nice to have the next book in a series build strongly off the back of the first. Doran and Nathaniel are under my skin now. I can’t say much more than that, can’t give much more of a compliment.
If you like queer fantasy/spec-fic then this series is one you should pick up. 4.5 Stars!