Written by recent college graduate (and former classmate) Garret Forsman, Ashes of Silver is an introduction to the world of Hearthstead and its many inhabitants. Certainly a fantasy novel by any stretch, this self-published novel unfortunately falls short on a number of levels.
An excerpt from the back cover reads:
In the aftermath of a bitter war, the reclusive mage Xlynx takes the time to write down what he can of the history of Hearthstead. Before he can get far, though, he is called upon to enlist a scattered group of tortured souls at the behest of an enigmatic ally.
A large flaw lies is revealed in that first sentence, in which the protagonist’s first action is to write. The novel opens up with the former archmage chronicling the past, and doing so for the first twenty or so pages. Another character breaks the writer from his work for a couple of pages, but then he’s back to his records once again.
In fact, the expository quality of the first sixth of the book doesn’t stop there. Another character, Kyron, relates his tale to Xlynx by leaving him a message scorched on stone slabs, only to appear standing in the doorway once he’s finished reading it. Yet another character, when confronted, lapses into a tale which goes on for two pages, explaining further the complex backstory of the world.
Magic and its origins are elaborated upon, as well as many wars, and the depth of the worldbuilding done is apparent. A lot of work was clearly put into the novel, but while the world feels a real, tangible place, the pieces on this chessboard are in dire need of direction.
The “scattered group of tortured souls” is in fact the titular Ashes of Silver, a guild of Xlynx’s making. For the first half of the novel its members are found here and there, what little we know about them revealed through stories of the past as opposed to their direct actions. As to what the guild’s function is, p.109 states that “It stung to know that Virol had given Ashes of Silver a sense of purpose Xlynx could never have offered himself.” It’s not until halfway through that the reader is even made aware of what threat the guild is meant to eliminate.
There are close to a dozen members in the guild, yet there’s little I could tell you about any one of them. The few that spring to mind are a woman with wings, another constantly wearing a magical suit of armour, a vampire of sorts, and a teleporting warrior. Of these four characters only one is explored in any capacity, and that is through Xlynx’s writings.
Where most fantasy novels might seek to sate their audiences with gripping battles or well-choreographed fight scenes, Ashes of Silver mostly attempts to teach magical lore and history. Conflicts are few and far between, and a months-long bloody trek to reach their destination is once again summed up as a story, this time by a character I can’t even remember being introduced.
The actual writing itself is clunky at times, with passages such as the following:
My understanding is limited. I could not tell you the distribution of elements required to prepare a spell, let alone the spell-syntax that enacts it. I cannot even explain to you what it does, really. I know more about the biology of Hydra than I do about Infusion, but what I do know is enough. [p.11]
Use of italics for emphasis is overused in places, and dialogue between characters falls flat more often than not. A race of creatures called Tempus are mentioned in a flashback only for their origins to be revealed a few pages later. Many places and magical beings are yanked straight from existing mythology with names such “Valhalla,” “Marduk,” and “Atlas.” This wouldn’t be so distracting if the tales the names originated from weren’t so much more interesting.
All in all, Ashes of Silver is not the ideal venture into the publication industry that it could be. At only 200 pages this fantasy novel says quite a lot about the world it takes place in, and not enough about what the genre has its foundations in: adventure.
Ashes of Silver
Written by Garret Forsman