(Author: Elena May) + (Year: 2016) + (Goodreads)
Disclaimer: I received a copy of the book from the author in exchange for an honest review.
I have been very, very cautious with vampire books in the last couple of years. In fact, I don’t remember the last vampire novel that I read, aside from re-reading The Historian and Dracula two years ago.
However, I read the synopsis of Kingdom of Ashes, and the many positive reviews, and I decided to give it a shot. And I’m glad I did!
This book reminded me why I love YA so much. It was very engaging and it kept me flipping the pages to a point where I skipped lunch with my colleagues in order to read on a bench.
The thing, which, for me, was very original and exciting, was the fact that every step of the way and every part of the narrative was cleverly thought-through. The author took all famous (and silly) vampire cliches and tropes and she turned them into an outspoken joke between the characters. Elena May managed to make everything that could have destroyed the book its exact opposite. For example at one point Myra tried to pull a Scheherazade on the prince and I was sitting there, worried whether this is going to be a real thing, because it was so obvious. And then the prince himself recognized and ridiculed it.
In terms of plot, there was one thing that was a bit of a cliched narrative and that was the fact that (while the book is obviously not doing the Scheherazade) it did go along the lines of Beauty and the Beast. Watching the movie right after finishing the book just made me realize it more clearly. However, I’m not sure that at a time such as ours where we are so over-saturated with pop culture, it’s possible to create anything that doesn’t borrow from absolutely anywhere.
Character-wise, I liked the fact that there was a game of black/white and shades of gray. Myra was on the same boat as me when I was trying to make up my mind about whether the vampires are all evil or all good, or those are concepts that don’t even apply to the situation. For example, many of the points the prince made on humankind were just as challenging as what can be said about vampires in terms of the book. In a world where vampires and humans co-exist and vampires have overtaken the world and wiped out a big part of the population, I think it’s still fair to say that that’s nothing humans haven’t done to other species or even to themselves. The only reason why people generally sympathize with people, and not, say, vampires or werewolves, is simply because we are people. But humans can be just as evil in a completely different way. For example, just yesterday a colony of griffon vultures in Bulgaria was completely destroyed by hunters who poisoned all of the birds. If that’s not monstrous, I don’t know what is.
Having said all of this, while I did sympathize with Myra at certain times, I didn’t necessarily think she was a nice person. Contrary to what I read in the reviews of people who thought she was selfish and self-absorbed, I think that was one of her most likable traits in terms of writing. She was a very realistic person, unlike the perfect/all-I-do-is-effing-magic heroines of other YA books. I wouldn’t like Myra as a friend, but I can read about her and think “Well… that’s true.” And her selfishness is something that can be attributed to most humans. The fact that she is so focused on her book and improving as a writer is to be expected from any person with any artistic capabilities. Then again, she was sometimes obnoxious and she did make stupid decisions, so I’m on the verge with her. But I am also known among my friends as someone who is specifically very demanding of female characters…
As is probably to be expected, I really liked Vlad, because I would say that I both appreciated his attitude, and got where he was coming from. He followed his set of rules and had a reason to act the way he did: I’m a vampire, my nature requires me to drink blood, so I drink blood. I like art, humans make art, I like humans. The end.
I am really excited for the next book in the series, I really hope it comes sooner, rather than later.
* I’m so happy vampires were just vampires, and not vampyrs, vampyres, etc. and magic was just magic instead of magik or magick.