Review: Memories of Ash, Intisar Khanani

AT LAST I have read the sequel to the wonderful Sunbolt! Intisar Khanani is a fantasy author who really deserves a good, let’s say, 75% more fame than she is currently receiving, so let’s all get on spreading the word far and wide, okay, team? Read the novella Sunbolt if you haven’t yet, and then get straight on to the superb sequel, Memories of Ash.

Memories of Ash

Our protagonist, Hitomi, is learning magic from the secretive, kindly mage Stormwind, with whom her vampire friend Val left her at the end of Sunbolt. Many of her memories of her former life are gone, and she is focused primarily on cultivating her powers and staying under the radar. All of her peace is shattered when the High Council (led by Hitomi’s old enemy Blackflame) summons Stormwind to stand trial for treason. Though Stormwind accepts her fate, Hitomi is determined to go after her and save her from unjust imprisonment and possible death.

If you are needing (as I am) some straight-ahead fantasy adventure stories, I can’t recommend Intisar Khanani’s work enough. Her worldbuilding here, as in the last book, is superb, everything from the limitations to Hitomi’s look-away charm to the differing societal norms for the desert nomads as opposed to the people of the Mekteb (the school where magicians get trained). Possibly my favorite thing about watching Hitomi travel to so many different locations is that Khanani seems to believe in the fundamental goodness of people. Wherever Hitomi goes and however slim her chances seem of rescuing Stormwind, she always meets people who are kind and good. At a time when the world feels less and less hospitable to strangers, Memories of Ash was a balm.

As with Sunbolt, this book ends in a satisfying way that nevertheless leaves the door open for many more adventures to come. Hitomi finds herself, at one point, in a land that’s been shattered by vicious magics, and she makes a promise to come back someday to try her hand at fixing it. Part of this is my current state of mind, but most of it is Khanani’s gorgeous world- and character-building: I absolutely cannot goddamn wait to see Hitomi throw her considerable energy and talent into healing the whole world.

  • Thank you so much for this wonderful review. I am so thrilled that you enjoyed Memories of Ash so much. And yes–I do believe in the fundamental goodness of people. If you’ve ever seen/read A Streetcar Named Desire, you might remember the heartbreaking moment at the end when Blanche says, “I have always depended on the kindness of strangers.” I remember being struck by these words. They resonated with me deeply–I too have often depended on the kindness of strangers, and they have always come through for me. I could also see how sometimes strangers are kinder to us than those we know well. So yes, Hitomi travels through a world where one can rely on the kindness of strangers, but perhaps not the kindness of a parent. And that’s heartbreaking but true, in its way. I am so very glad that it worked for you.

  • Sold! I am always in the mood for some straight-up fantasy, and then you threw in vampires. It sounds just about perfect.

  • Kailana

    I definitely need to read this. I really like her, but then I don’t get around to reading her!

  • I loved Intisar’s retelling of the goose girl, but I didn’t realize she’d written anything else! I should definitely check this series out.

  • Not heard of Intisar before – one to look out for! 🙂

  • I’ve got Thorn sitting on my bedside table – I really should read it!

  • I LOVED Sunbolt, which I read after seeing your review (thank you very much!) I had been waiting for this one for a while but I have not been keeping up with releases, so let me see how I can get hold of this one.