Series note: Memories of Ash picks up the story straight after Sunbolt; this review will contain spoilers for Sunbolt.
I glance up, holding tight to the thread of my spell as the mountains throw a thunderous echo back to us. My skin tingles with the brush of magic, as if unseen creatures skitter up my arms, over my back. Across the valley, forest birds take to the air, calling out as they wheel over the lake. I catch the pale white flutter of snow pigeons, the midnight silhouette of ravens, and high up the snow-dusted peaks, the great dark wingspans of a pair of griffon vultures.
Seated cross-legged beside me on the banks of the lake, Brigit Stormwind murmurs, “That was the first ward.”
After casting a powerful fire spell that charred her from the inside out and leaves her fighting for her life, Hitomi is left with only fragmentary memories of her earlier life. Under the care of the mage Stormwind, she is just starting to rebuild her sense of self, and to learn to use her powers in a more predictable manner, when their peaceful valley life is disturbed by the arrival of a rogue hunter.
But he’s not coming for Hitomi. He’s coming to arrest Stormwind on charges of treason.
The story opens with Stormwind’s arrest, and Hitomi’s fierce loyalty to her new mentor sets her quickly onto a rescue quest. She’s still poorly trained and undisciplined in her use of magic, but quick thinking and determination have served her well thus far and she sets out without a backward glance, prepared to risk her own life if that’s the price of Stormwind’s freedom. Hitomi’s personal ethics and strength of character really shine through here, as does the loyalty she inspires in others through her straightforward, fair, and honest manner.
I adored the settings through which Hitomi travels in the course of this book, from the barren, magic-scarred desert, to the vibrant, Turkish-inspired culture of the town where Stormwind is being held. Khanani writes locations beautifully, with a depth of detail that’s easily recognisable if you’ve been to the places that inspired her, and which give a clear sense of place if you haven’t.
Hitomi’s amnesia makes the process of reading Memories of Ash an interesting experience, particularly as the narration is entirely presented in first-person present tense: the reader has information and memories that the narrator lacks, or is only just starting to piece together for herself. Val, the Breather I fell in love with in the first book, is one of the few people she remembers from the time before she cast her sunbolt, and I was hoping he’d be back to play a role in this story — which he does, in an unexpected and intriguing way that I won’t spoil for you!
I loved Sunbolt, so I went into this book with very high expectations, and I wasn’t at all disappointed. Khanani’s expansion of the story to full-length novel format works well, there’s a lot going on here and the pace is breakneck throughout, so it’s still a very quick read. And there are plenty of open questions just begging to be addressed in a third instalment.