Today’s second team review is from Barb, she blogs at http://barbtaub.com/
Barb has been reading Rising from the Ashes by Caren J Werlinger
When I started reading Rising From the Ashes, I was skeptical. Dragons in Ireland? I went straight to my favorite Irish myth expert, Ali Isaacs, who didn’t let me down. In her blog post, The Serpent in Irish Mythology, she recounts several stories of heroes battling dragons. And best of all, she mentions their Irish name—péista.
So when the young apprentice mage Ash meets the strange creature who tells her it’s name is Péist, I knew we were in for some fun. The story is an alternate history, a coming of age tale in the best fantasy traditions, complete with authentic historical details reminiscent of Monica Furlong’s classic Wise Child and Juniper, combined with the adventure and heroism of Robin McKinley’s Hero and Crown series.
Adopted by badgers (badgers!) as an infant after her village is destroyed by invaders, Ash survives because of her ability to communicate with animals. Although discovered and accepted as apprentice by mages, Ash and her new friends’ existence is threatened by the increasing influence of the Christianity introduced to Ireland by Saint Patrick in the fifth century.
Author CJ Werlinger treads a delicate path here, balancing between the magic lore taught and practiced by her fictional mages and the reality that we know the Christians were eventually successful. The young heroine isn’t a warrior, and her motives are to protect her friends, her forest, and the mysterious Péist. I admired the way Ash’s acceptance of her own vulnerability is both her protection and her strength. And I particularly liked the way she and Péist bond to form a union that is more than the sum of their parts.
The world building is wonderful. Not only do we get the strong sense of the realities of everyday life, but we also watch Ash grow into her own unique strengths and convictions. The tale begins slowly, and then moves ever faster as the threat grows for her little band of mage teachers and student apprentices. For the most part, characters were well-drawn and memorable. The voices of the various narrators were believable, whether told through the scent-focused badger, the displaced young girl, or the old woman with a lifetime of learning to share. The story arc is wrapped up beautifully, with just enough to introduce the new challenge that awaits in the next volume.
Although I did find it a bit difficult to accept how quickly Ash mastered what seemed complex magical concepts, that is really my only critique of the tale. I wouldn’t hesitate to give it five out of five stars for originality, strong voice, and a terrific concept. If I knew a YA reader looking for a story with a strong heroine, compelling story line, and (best of all!) dragons, I would recommend Rising from the Ashes. I know I’m looking forward to reading more of this promising series.
**I received this book for free from the publisher or author in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.**