Age of Ash (The Kithamar Trilogy, 1)

by Daniel Abraham

Hardcover, 2022



Call number



Orbit (2022), 448 pages


"Kithamar is a center of trade and wealth, an ancient city with a long, bloody history where countless thousands live and their stories unfold. This is Alys's. When her brother is murdered, a petty thief from the slums of Longhill sets out to discover who killed him and why. But the more she discovers about him, the more she learns about herself, and the truths she finds are more dangerous than knives. Swept up in an intrigue as deep as the roots of Kithamar, where the secrets of the lowest born can sometimes topple thrones, the story Alys chooses will have the power to change everything"--

User reviews

LibraryThing member SpaceandSorcery
I received this novel from Orbit Books, through NetGalley, in exchange for an honest review: my thanks to both of them for this opportunity.

I’m quite familiar with Daniel Abraham’s fantasy production, having greatly enjoyed both The Long Price Quartet and The Dagger and the Coin series, and of
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course I know that under the shared pen name of James S.A. Corey he’s the co-author, together with Ty Franck, of the successful SF series The Expanse, so that when the start of this new fantasy saga was announced I was more than eager to see for myself what it was about.

The city of Kithamar has a long history of power and prosperity, but also of violence and strife: as the novel starts, the uneasy peace between the two ethnic groups living in the city is shaken by the death of the former ruler and the ascendance of his successor - many wonder, given the troubled times, how long he will be able to remain in his place. But Age of Ash is not so much the tale of people in power, but rather of the city’s inhabitants: first we meet Alys, a very proficient member in a band of thieves, one of the most lucrative occupations among Kithamar’s underprivileged. The murder of her brother sends her on a very different path, however: searching for answers first and then for vengeance, Alys finds herself enmeshed with convoluted political maneuvers and the dark, ancient secret behind Kithamar’s rule - a secret that might claim her life. Sammish is another member of the dsmr band, her skill in being inconspicuous a very valuable one for thieving, but a hindrance in her desire to be noticed by Alys on whom she has a crush: when Alys’ focus on vengeance becomes all-encompassing and takes her into the orbit of some shady characters, and once the mysterious Saffa - a woman searching desperately for her kidnapped child - opens Sammish’s eyes on the evil undercurrents of powers in Kithamar, the girl will have to deal with conflicting loyalties and a newfound awareness of the world she’s living in. The third main POV comes from Andomaka, a noblewoman with great aspirations to power and the member of a weird religious cult holding the secret behind the workings of the power handout between rulers: she is strong, ambitious and ruthless, the true representative of the caste that has been governing Kithamar throughout the centuries.

The slow burn of Age of Ash might have proved discouraging if I had not been prepared: previous experience with Daniel Abraham’s novels taught me that he likes to carefully prepare the playing field and that the beginnings of his series require a little patience, which is always rewarded in the end. In this particular case, the “preliminary” work serves to create the image of a living, breathing city in all its colorful detail: shopkeepers and artisans plying their trade in the winding streets and alleys of Kithamar, urchins running underfoot and thieves moving like smoke in crowded areas; the various districts, looking like enclaves where the two ethnicities coexist in a delicate balance, giving way to the mansions of the more affluent citizens and of the nobility - these elements are pictured in such a vivid manner that after a while they feel three-dimensional, to the point that it’s almost possible to hear the sounds and perceive the smells. We are led through the city in its better times, like the harvest, which brings abundance of food and a festive atmosphere, when street revelries offer the chance for celebration and great thieving opportunities in the crowded passages; and we see it in the bitter cold of winter, when food is scarce and ice covers the ground and hangs from the roofs in big icicles, when the poorest have to choose between eating or warming their homes, a time when darkness and gloom prey heavily on everyone’s mind.

While I enjoyed such richness in the world-building, I found myself somewhat distanced from the characters, particularly where Alys is concerned: the single-minded focus on her quest leaves little space for any kind of emotional connection or feeling of sympathy. Even her grief at the loss of her brother shows this kind of hard edge (for want of a better definition) that turns it into something cold and soulless, devoid of any spark of humanity. I ended up feeling greater empathy with Sammish, not least because she exhibits a greater capacity for emotional and psychological growth throughout the story and because what looks like childish infatuation morphs, in the end, into a willingness to help her friend and to do the right thing, not just for Alys but for the city as well. The unassuming girl who can move through crowds unnoticed shows more courage and heart, in the end, than the one who should be the main focus of the story, and this comparison did not help me at all in my reflections on Alys’ character: this is however only the first book in a series so I’m also suspending my judgment while waiting to see how the story progresses and what kind of surprises the author has in store for his readers.

And speaking of the plot itself, there are many unresolved threads here - particularly where Andomaka’s actions and her connection with the religious cult are concerned - that will certainly be further explored in the next books: there is a lot of intrigue, with longtime ramifications, that simply begs to be developed more fully. The complex, creepy layers of Kithamar’s power management and its handling through the generations are barely touched here and I can hardly wait to see how the continuation of the story will deal with them, and with Andomaka’s plans, about which I can’t afford to say more because that way lie some massive spoilers.

The start of this new series is indeed a very promising one, and I can’t shake the feeling that this first installment barely scratched the surface of a story that holds many more surprises in store for me. Time, of course, will tell what they are…
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LibraryThing member rivkat
New trilogy opener, set in the city of Kithamar, where many races mingle. When Alys’s brother is killed, her revenge quest sets her into affairs magical and political. Meanwhile, the young woman hopelessly in love with Alys is being drawn to the other side of the conflict, in service of a
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foreigner searching for her son. It’s a good starter.
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LibraryThing member aadyer
A solid starter of a new trilogy with some promising elements. Dark throughout, focusing on loss and grief, this is dark, urban fantasy, with conspiracy, and some interesting characters thrown in. Don’t expect elves, hobbits, and light, high Fantasy concepts, this could almost be a noir like
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read, in the vein of Grimdark, Game Of Thrones, or even a darker version of Jonathan Green.
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LibraryThing member texascheeseman
Age of Ash
Author: Daniel Abraham
Publisher: Orbit Books
Publishing Date: 2022
Pgs: 432
Dewey: F ABR
Disposition: Irving Public Library - South Campus - Irving, TX
Kithamar is a center of trade and wealth, an ancient city with a
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long, bloody history where countless thousands live and their stories unfold.

This is Alys's.

When her brother is murdered, a petty thief from the slums of Longhill sets out to discover who killed him and why. But the more she discovers about him, the more she learns about herself, and the truths she finds are more dangerous than knives.

Swept up in an intrigue as deep as the roots of Kithamar, where the secrets of the lowest born can sometimes topple thrones, the story Alys chooses will have the power to change everything.
Dark Fantasy
Action Adventure
Epic Fantasy
Sword and Sorcery
Palace Intrigue

Why this book:
It was in the New Arrivals section at the library and it fell into my to-read pile.
Favorite Character:
Alys started as a likable character but as you progress she becomes less so.

Sammish comes across as sweet. And grows tremendously in the course of the story.

Favorite Scene:
When Andromaka dies and she sees the thing that awaits her soul beneath the city as it rises and snatches her like a fish rising for bait. Andromaka being aware that she has sacrificed herself to something dark swimming in the waters of chaos that tears her soul asunder rather than simply replacing her in the flesh.

Hmm Moments:
There's a good story here. Not sure that there is a trilogy here. I hate it when I get this feeling about what seems a good book.

I like Sammish laying her cards on the table and telling Alys the whole truth even if she doesn't want to hear it. Maybe Sammish is the hero of the story. Of course, the last time I thought someone was the hero of the story he was dead a few pages later.

Was the thing in the dark Darro's spirit or was it another thing from the greater dark...or some manifestation of the Chthulian horror that is Kithamar? IDK. And that's probably not a point that will be brought back up, but it does make an interesting thought.

Uhm Moments:
Deciding to trust the people using black candle smoke magic and blood magic rituals isn't something you'd expect from street kids.

Really don't like Alys and Sammish lining up on different sides. Sammish's siding with who she seems to be siding with makes sense...provided they aren't lying to her. Alys hiding in her grief and rage ad not seeing what's in front of her is off-putting. Of course, they are both punching way, WAY, above their weight class.

Calling the Ball:
Darro trying to double cross both these groups of people rings as foolish and way out of his depth. Curses and all.

Meh / PFFT Moments:
Alys is masking her pain and throwing herself into whatever is in front of her. You expect more from your protagonist.

Turd in the Punchbowl:
I prefer trilogies that are three connected stories, maybe with an underlying through point, rather than one story padded and stretched to 1200 pages. Hopeful that this doesn't end in a cliffhanger.

I wanted Tregarro to stand up and say no at the last minute. But he didn't, he let his love for the real Andromaka die as surely as her flesh did as the thing that is within the boy rose again in her flesh. Still think he might turn on the Brotherhood.

The Unexpected:
I'm deep in the book and it just dawned on me that all the major characters are female. And there hasn't been any frilly BS misogyny, pretty damned cool. No gratuitous sex either. No swooning either. That's badasses.

Missed Opportunity:
Where's the other team at? Where are the ones who stole the dagger the first time? Sammish shouldn't be alone in this.

I expected more palace intrigue. While it is here, it is subsumed as a C-plot behind the scenes largely, moving the other characters about but never claiming center stage.

Get Off My Lawn:
Getting on my soapbox about all trilogies, not just this one. Every story doesn't need to be a trilogy. The end is coming. The pages are running down. And it doesn't feel like the author is setting up an end, more like a "come back next week for another 350+ pages that won't end the story either". Some of it is publishers wanting books stretched out to trilogies and such. Some of it is authors who want to pad and fluff their story into a bigger page count, books worth. It's the idea that streaming services are both getting and not getting. Binge-watching to see the whole story in a short period of time, vs dropping a single episode a week...and then still not finishing the story and leaving it for next time. Watching/reading about paint drying with brief instances where stuff happens isn't a good experience. Sacrificing flow and pace for page count is rubbish. For this reason, the author who really wants to write a trilogy finds themselves in a sea of crap that most readers aren't wading into. The best modern trilogies are three interconnected, complete stories.

Alys's awakening took too long. the payoff for it will probably end up in the second book that based on my feelings about trilogy for trilogy's sake may or may not be read. I like the story. Just wish it had more meat on the bones like a Green Hill steak rather than sucking the marrow from an overused old Longhill bone.
Last Page Sound:
The story may be Alys's, but Sammish is the star as far as I'm concerned. Good story.

Not the ending I was expecting, but a real ending. Very nice.

Conclusions I’ve Drawn:
And so, Samish was the hero of the story. Even though Alys was probably supposed to be.

Author Assessment:
I will definitely look at more of this author’s work.
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LibraryThing member majkia
I'll definitely have to re-read this when the rest of the series comes out. Complex plot, as well as character development.
LibraryThing member macha
first in a trilogy by an author i've been enjoying. Kithamar is a city in this medieval fantasy, and also Kithamar is something else. a quite unconventional setup, once you get into it, with a standard save-the-city plot, but written around character studies in which small changes over time in a
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few ordinary citizens act to change the city they walk.
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Dragon Award (Finalist — 2022)


Original language


Original publication date


Physical description

448 p.; 9.65 inches


0316421847 / 9780316421843
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