Thursday, March 6, 2014

Shadows of Asphodel by Karen Kincy

The Basics:
Shadows of Asphodel by Karen Kincy
Book One in Shadows of Asphodel series
Dieselpunk, Romance
Published September 13, 2013
Source: Received direct from author in exchange for an honest review.

Why I picked up this book:

I love steampunk, and haven't consciously read a dieselpunk book, so I thought I'd check one out. Also a romance with a necromancer... come on!


When Ardis discovers a man bleeding to death on the battlefield, she knows she has to walk away.

1913. In her work as a mercenary for Austria-Hungary, Ardis has killed many men without hesitation. One more man shouldn't matter, even if he manages to be a charming bastard while he stands dying in the snow.

But when he raises the dead to fight for him, she realizes she must save his life.

If a necromancer like Wendel dies, he will return as a monster--or so the rumors say. Ardis decides to play it safe and rescues him. What she doesn't expect is Wendel falling to one knee and swearing fealty. Ardis never asked for the undying loyalty of a necromancer, but it's too late now.

Ardis and Wendel forge an uneasy alliance underscored with sexual tension. Together, they confront rebels, assassins, and a conspiracy involving a military secret: robotically-enhanced soldiers for a world on the brink of war. But as Ardis starts to fall for Wendel, she realizes the scars from his past run more deeply than she ever imagined. Can Ardis stop Wendel before his thirst for revenge destroys him and everyone else around him?

My thoughts:

My overall assessment of Shadows of Asphodel is that it was a good book, even though it felt a little unpolished at times.

I enjoyed the arc of the book. Ardis and Wendel are engaging characters with complicated back stories and the way they fit into their world is complex and intriguing. Their romance comes a little out of left field early in the book, but it develops nicely over the rest of the story.

I loved the play between magic, technology and swords. I don`t spoil any potential surprises, so I won't go into too much detail, but I loved this play between innate talent and book-learned magic. Konstantin's display on the (first) train ride amused me but also gave a real sense of the perception of magic in the world. 

There's also a real sense of travel in this story, and I liked that too. The idea of movement in many contrasting and complimentary forms - in shadows, on trains, the grace of swordplay, the clunkiness of mechanical motion - really stuck with me through the story. I also think that my fixation on all the movement amplified the horror and frustration when movement wasn't possible.

My problems with Shadows of Asphodel were with some of the details. For example, in the mid-point of chapter twenty-one, Ardis agrees to do something, and then in the next scene, she seems to not have realized what she agreed to - as in Konstantin prompts her that it is time to do it, and she's surprised as though she didn't realize she had agreed to it. That instance really irked me. Because I wasn't able to sit and read this book in one or two sittings, and had to keep coming back to it, I really was counting on consistency to keep everything fresh in my mind.

There was also an abruptness to the way that some transitions and connections occurred. I think that easing these a little bit, sometimes drawing out the motivation for things or the teasing the emotional connections out slightly more might have helped smooth things over.

I also thought that Konstantin was a little inconsistent - his early entry into the book didn't really jive with his personality later (or so I thought). That said, I really liked where his character ended up, and I`d love to read more about him specifically.

Regardless of these points, there's a lot going for Shadows. The writing is solid, the main characters are very well developed, and I want to read more.

There's a density to the plot of Shadows that I appreciate - it gives a sense of fullness to the overall experience. Sometimes the elements don't always come together with as much gravitas as I wanted, but there were some interesting connections and the main thrust of the plot always had me on board. 

Bottom line:

This was a promising start to the series. I enjoyed the story overall, though I had a few nitpicks. Ardis is kick-ass and I liked that a lot. I'd love to read more about the Hex, the discontent caused by it, the role of the assassins, and where Ardis finds herself in the world moving forward from the book's conclusion.

** The author is Kickstarting a sequel to this book, check it out here: Kickstarter for Storms of Lazarus

4 stars
For fans of steampunk/dieselpunk, assassins, unusual magic, magic and tech mash-ups.

1 comment:

  1. This book sounds like it needed another round of editing. :(