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An Inheritance of Ashes Hardcover – October 6, 2015
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From the Publisher
A conversation with Leah Bobet
The bookseller, editor, and author answers a few questions about her acclaimed new novel, An Inheritance of Ashes.
Talk a bit about Hallie as a character and what makes her a unique and important YA heroine.
Hallie is a character who’s very kind and loving—but has been backed into a corner by having had an abusive parent, a few runs of hard luck, and one very bad coping mechanism: if someone lets her down, she just stops trusting them and takes on more work herself. When we meet her, she’s in crisis mode, and it makes her mean, resentful, and messy—because that’s what endless crises can do to people.
I think it’s important to show people at their most human in books, whether that’s pretty or not. Young women in YA don’t often get a lot of space to be imperfect, or if they do, there are very specific ways they’re allowed to be imperfect. They don’t get a lot of space for rage. But real girls have crises, and real girls rage. Hallie’s a character for them: one who heals.
Who is your favorite minor character?
Oh—that’s hard! I’m very, very fond of a lot of the secondary characters in An Inheritance of Ashes, but if I absolutely had to pick, I’d probably say Ada Chandler. She’s one of the younger members of a big, sprawling family-of-choice that lives by the ruins of the city to research its past and technology—a clan that’s viewed with serious suspicion by the townspeople.
I love her because she’s a true scientist. She absolutely can’t understand why anyone around her is happy with goats and jam instead of figuring out how the artifacts of their lost civilization worked—and bringing that technology back. She’s got this amazing, impatient, hungry intellectual curiosity, and yet she’s very patient and loving with her little cousins; she loves to see people learn and grow. She’s the kind of character who almost hijacked the book, and might well get her own stories someday.
Is the terrain based on a real location?
It is: The book’s set in the area around Windsor and Detroit, after an economic apocalypse emptied the cities a hundred years before these characters were born.
Roadstead and Lakewood Farms are on the Detroit River, in the string of parks on the waterfront—they would have been great places to break ground and grow food in the first days after a collapse. Windstown, across the river, is a corruption of Windsor, and the Ambassador Bridge, Belle Isle, and some locations both northward and south all make appearances.
That meant, for me, making sure the birds, crops, and animals of An Inheritance of Ashes reflected what the modern-day area looks like—and that the people who show up reflect how the area looks now too. There are a lot of black and Hmong families in Windstown and its farms, and a few Italian and Hispanic characters.
What in this story do you think appeals to the more casual reader, and what can fantasy fans expect?
An Inheritance of Ashes comes out of a few of my reading loves: Windswept dust-bowl stories, Lovecraftian horror, smart YA, and big fat epic fantasy where you tramp all over the map to kill gods with shiny things. It’s got something of all four folded into the mix.
For readers who haven’t dipped toes into fantasy novels before, there’s a romance that isn’t a love triangle or fraught with drama, but two people who love each other trying to build something good. Dystopian readers will probably recognize a few thoughts on how a world would look after a fall, and how people would really solve their problems.
Epic fantasy lovers will recognize a whole lot of the tropes Ashes turns on their heads: David Eddings–style gods, the Campbellian Hero’s Journey, black-and-white ideas of good and evil. If you read fantasy, you’ll see the conversation Ashes has with all those ideas.
What is the biggest thing you hope readers take away from this novel?
That people—and families—are very complicated organisms. I’m not sure we give people enough credit for being complicated a lot of the time. That understanding, of how complicated and messy we all really are when times get bad, can save a friendship—or a life.
That, and the knowledge that if you’re scared and unhappy, you don’t need to go it alone. We’re always stronger together, and there is always someone who loves us—usually more than we know.
"War, community, long-festering anger, and forgiveness—all thoughtfully and deliberately conveyed."
* "Bobet is an accomplished stylist...and she insightfully examines the corrosive dangers of sibling rivalry in a story filled with impossible choices and unknowable ambiguities."
—Publishers Weekly, starred review
“A compelling interrogation of faith versus science . . . readers with an interest in either will find this to be an elevation from the run-of-the-mill dystopia.”
About the Author
- Publisher : Clarion Books (October 6, 2015)
- Language : English
- Hardcover : 400 pages
- ISBN-10 : 054428111X
- ISBN-13 : 978-0544281110
- Reading age : 12 years and up
- Lexile measure : 670L
- Grade level : 7 - 9
- Item Weight : 1.1 pounds
- Dimensions : 5.5 x 1.38 x 8.25 inches
- Best Sellers Rank: #2,171,629 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
- Customer Reviews:
Top reviews from the United States
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So why has a Twisted One just fallen against Hallie's farmhouse window? And does she dare trust the half-starved veteran who begs for shelter at the farm?
There's a story here of war and monsters, but more important is the story that goes along with it, of families and wounds, failure of trust, misunderstandings, hidden suffering ... but also friendship, love in all its flavors, redemption, and profound healing.
I loved Hallie--all her angles and anxieties, her rages and her hurts, but also her bravery and her kindness. She's an excellent protagonist. I also loved all the supporting characters--and I mean all of them. There was no one who appeared in the story who didn't give the impression of a whole, complete person--you could imagine stories for every one of them. Hallie and Marthe have a complicated, painful family history but their world, rural and isolated as it is, isn't only their family: there are neighbors, there's the town. This world is rich and broad.
Tension builds: there's the threat from the monsters; there's the threat from wandering regiments, who are searching for the missing hero of the war; there's the threat from the mayor of the town, who doesn't believe two young women can manage a whole farm alone.
Against these threats are our characters, armed with compassion, common sense, and doggedness. Sometimes they make bad decisions or things go wrong, but they keep trying. I couldn't put the book down, and the last parts moved me to tears. No one's completely beyond the pale, no one is abandoned--that message spoke to me at a deep level.
This was an interesting book, and one of the rare standalone books I have read in awhile. This story takes place in a very bleak and grey world, one where devastation has already rolled through like thunder and left communities of struggling farmers behind. This isn't a land with prospering farms and girls in plaid and pigtails (well, there is plaid supposedly). This is the story of Hallie and her older sister, Marthe, as they struggle to maintain a massive farm on their own. Oh and they are doing it in the wake of a war with a twisted god that allowed "Twisted Things" into their world, burning and rusting all the things they touch before they die. Where do these creepy, mysterious beasts come from? Holes in the sky, obviously but I'll get more into that later. Despite this book's bleak exterior and moody lead characters, I really enjoyed the world building, the imagery and prose, and the conflict the two sisters share.
I wasn't kidding about the bleak and dreary setting of this book. Everything about it from the world to it's main characters feels grey and on the cusp of dying and sometimes that's ok. If you don't like books that are generally a bit more melancholy, this one is going to bum you out for sure, but the writing is full of beautiful prose and as someone who does like stories a bit more bittersweet at times, this was a breath of fresh air to me.
Hallie's world is an interesting one... something happened that caused the great machines to stop working. Holes appear in the sky where monsters that look like crossbreeds between crows and spiders etc. pour through the holes, burning and rusting anything they touch. An army marched to put an end to the evil god and few make the return journey home. Hallie and Marthe maintain their farm and hope that Marthe's husband will make his way home in time to see his daughter born. All the while these sisters struggle to maintain their farm, a rift blooming between them as they struggle to understand one another following such a loss. Their sibling squabbles are put on hold as, through a series of coincidences, a mysterious stranger offers to help them maintain the farm, Marthe thinks she sees the ghost of her husband stalking the land, and Hallie begins to fall for the boy next door who was left crippled by the door. Oh, and then the sky begins to tear open and countless Twisted Things fall from the sky right on their farm, threatening to destroy everything these sisters worked so hard to keep after their father died.
My biggest issue with this book is mainly that the author made such a complex world and, because this was a standalone story, never really explored it. I wanted to know more about this evil god and what these Twisted Things were. I wanted to know what happened to make the machines stop working and what they all plan to do about this other world that bleeds into theirs. This is a world rich for the exploring but... there is no more exploring to be done. Just felt a bit like a waste to me.
There were other issues that kept me from giving the book a higher rating as well. The author liked to overuse italics for emphasizing words. It's a good tactic to let the reader know someone is really serious about something. But when every character does it in almost every piece of dialogue it loses its impact. And realistically, no one talks like that where every word is just so important that you need to italicize all the things. If it was just one character who did that as just their speech pattern then ok, I give it a pass. But when everyone does it, it becomes so obvious that it takes me out of the moment and gets annoying. Outside of that, at times I grew frustrated with Hallie and Marthe's squabbling. I have an older sister and we are about the same age difference as Hallie and Marthe and the kinds of issues they had... I know everyone is different but it just got to a point where you wanted both of them to get over themselves. They do, but not till the end so the pay off is very slow.
Other than that the imagery that the author uses, the prose, the feelings... they are melancholy and bittersweet but beautiful. If you are in the mood for something a little dark, a little creepy but not scary, this is a great and quick read!
A great story for adults and YA readers, 15 years or older. No sex. Mild language. Strong messages about family, love, and coming of age.
Top reviews from other countries
La protagonista di questo libro è proprio imprigionata in quel momento. Si tratta di un fantasy, ma diciamo che sono i personaggi, due di loro, a essere il fulcro della storia. Storia che sembra ricalcare quella di mille altri romanzi fantastici, non fosse che è remota e del tutto lisergica, se vista dagli occhi di una ragazza normale. C'è stata la guerra contro il dio del male, c'è stato il solito prescelto che l'ha risolta, ma a Hallie, 16 anni, e a Marthe, sua sorella di 26, si tratta di una faccenda incomprensibile e lontana, che le ha colpite solo quando s'è portata via il marito di Marthe, andato in guerra non più tornato, lasciando Marthe incinta e in grado di contare solo su una povera sedicenne esaurita per fare tutto quello che si dovrebbe fare in un grande ranch.
Hallie è una sorella minore confusa da se stessa e pronta a giudicare la maggiore (super incinta, in pieno cordoglio per il marito e preoccupata dalla fattoria) come una donna inacidita e remota. Ma Hallie è davvero piena di cicatrici psicologiche causate dagli spettri del passato di un genitore contorto e violento e uno zio rinunciatario, che le hanno messo in testa la fondamentale futilità dei rapporti familiari - Marthe non può desiderare che sbarazzarsi di un'adolescente incapace e buona a nulla, vero? Ma il cuore di Hallie corre in un senso opposto a quello delle sue fredde paure - vorrebbe tanto - e senza saperlo - essere capace di superare la distanza creata istintivamente dal suo desiderio di essere accettata in quanto adulta indipendente. Purtroppo è un ostacolo impossibile da valutare oggettivamente, che si impone in mezzo al rapporto tra lei e Marthe.
Come se non fosse abbastanza duro avere 16 anni e dover fare metà del lavoro in una fattoria di 50 acri, il Dio Maligno sembra non essere del tutto morto, e uno strano veterano accolto come lavoratore sembra essere coinvolto nell'apparizione di orrende creature d'un altro mondo, serve di suddetto blasfemo e cthuloide divinità. Se Hallie risolvesse in qualche modo il problema, forse dimostrerebbe a Marthe di essere ancora degna di rispetto e amore...
Difetti? Uno o due - certi personaggi secondari sono veramente fumettosi e inseriti chiaramente per spingere avanti la trama. Hallie e Marthe, tuttavia, reagiscono in maniera perfettamente credibile e comprensibile di fronte a ogni avversità e sconvoglimento. Certe volte le cose strambe succedono, badate bene, e quindi tocca affrontare il problema.