[Book review] Ascension by Sable Grace

Ascension by Sable GraceOne of the cornerstones of a good supernatural fantasy is a convincing mythology.  Since most of them include such creatures as vampires, werewolves and witches, it behooves the author to make sure that these critters have their backstories straight.  An overly complicated mythos can burden a tale.  Such is the case with Ascension, a rather muddled story that nonetheless contains a lot of potential.

Kyana is half Vampyre and half Lychen (werewolf), and she’s the only one left of her kind.  She works for the Order of Ancients, hunting the Dark Breed who have escaped from Tartarus and are now terrorizing humanity.  Apparently, the pit was opened with a long-lost key, and only this key will shut the gates again.  Kyana is tasked with finding the key and returning it to the gods.

Her partner on this mission is Ryker, a demigod descended from Ares, the Greek god of war.  Although there is no love lost between them, they must cooperate for their mission to succeed.  And the mission is deadly indeed.  A powerful being older than the gods may be behind the opening of Tartarus, and its followers will stop at nothing to keep Kyana and Ryker from completing their task.

As with quite a few books recently, I have mixed feelings about Ascension.  For one thing, the mythology aspect that I mentioned at this review’s outset is fairly muddled.  There are Greek gods, Vampyres, werewolves (here called Lychen), demons, monsters, and witches.  Vampires and werewolves play no part in Greek mythology, and the denizens are Tartarus are classically not demonic creatures, but the Titans (parents to the Greek gods) and a small amount of monsters.  Personally, I think there are too many mythologies running around this plotline.

The other major problem that I had was that the novel starts so firmly in media res that I went looking on Amazon to see if this series had more books to it than I was aware of.  Judging by the opening chapters, I would have pegged Ascension as the second, or possibly even third, book in a series.  But it is indeed the first.  I feel that by jumping into the story after Tartarus has opened deprives readers of the chance to see the world as it was before the disaster.  Kyana has supposedly been around for a few hundred years, and seeing her in the “normal” world before everything blows up would have given the plot some framework to work with.

However, once I got past those issues and got further into the book, I found it very enjoyable.  The secondary characters especially strengthen the tale.  My favorite was Haven, Kyana’s roommate and a powerful Witch.  She has a significant plot arc of her own to go through, one that will carry over into the next novel.  It’s a series of events that I found surprising in a first novel, but I have to admire the authors’ moxie in dumping a secondary character so far into the deep end right off the bat.

The plot certainly doesn’t lag, with Kyana getting thrown into situation after situation with very little downtime.  Woven through the action is a lot about Kyana’s past, and about her past with Ryker.  Her backstory comes out in a well-paced fashion and offers some insights into why the character acts the way she does.  My wish for her and Ryker was the same as it was for the setting—I wish that I’d seen how things were before everything went to Hell, but as it stands, their relationship remains filled with enough tension to cover that lack.

Sable Grace is actually a pen name for Heather Waters and Laura Barone, and their writing styles mesh pretty well.  I couldn’t tell where one author left off and the other one picked up, or if one did the plot and the other most of the writing, or how it was done.  And that’s good—I shouldn’t be able to tell.  Although admittedly, I do have to wonder if the dual authorship is responsible for the mix of Greek myths and vampire/werewolf myth.  Still, judging purely by writing style, the two are a good match, and I have no complaints in that department.

By the end of the novel, I was invested in the story and wanting to see how events played out.  The book ends with something of a cliffhanger, and readers will be impatient for the next novel to see what happens next.  I’ll be picking up the sequel (tentatively titled Salvation) when it comes out as well.  Despite what I see as a few shaky points, Ascension ultimately delivers an interesting and action-packed supernatural fantasy spiced with romance.  If you like Christine Warren or Lilith Saintcrow, give this one a try.

This book was provided by the publisher as an e-ARC through NetGalley.


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