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    K. M. Szpara follows his explosive debut novel Docile with First, Become Ashes, a fantastic standalone adventure that explores self-discovery after trauma and outgrowing abusive origins over the course of an American road trip.

    The Fellowship raised Lark to kill monsters.
    His partner betrayed them to the Feds.
    But Lark knows his magic is real, and he’ll do anything to complete his quest.

    For 30 years, the Fellowship of the Anointed isolated its members, conditioning them to believe that pain is power. That magic is suffering. That the world beyond the fence has fallen prey to monsters. But when their leader is arrested, all her teachings come into question.  

    Those touched by the Fellowship face a choice: How will they adjust to the world they were taught to fear, and how will they relate to the cult's last crusader, Lark? For Kane, survival means rejecting the magic he and his lover suffered for. For Deryn, the cult's collapse is an opportunity to prove they are worth as much as their Anointed brother. For Calvin, lark is the alluring embodiment of the magic he's been seeking his entire life.

    But for Lark, the Fellowship isn’t over. Before he can begin to discover himself and heal a lifetime of traumas, he has a monster to slay.

    First, Become Ashes contains explicit sadomasochism and sexual content, as well as abuse and consent violations, including rape.

    A Macmillan Audio production from Tor.com

    ©2021 K.M. Szpara (P)2021 Macmillan Audio

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    • Global
      3 out of 5 stars
    • Interprétation
      4 out of 5 stars
    • Histoire
      3 out of 5 stars
    Image de profile pour LbsZ
    • LbsZ
    • 19/04/2021

    Missed Opportunity

    It was a really interesting premise to use cosplay/larping as the basis for a cult! It frees readers from the baggage of picking on a specific religion or real world cult and points out how ANY set of ideas could become a cult. This is thrown away, though, when the book refuses to answer the question, is magic real or not? That, combined with weak character development and no Inception-esque big-idea made this a really hard book to enjoy. It is a missed opportunity to identify what makes a cult a cult and how people can be resilient against those tactics.

    Docile was exceptional at character development and making me empathize with the characters’ circumstances (poverty, oppression, survival, family, etc.). Ashes made me hate every single character, none of whom really develop. It had a lot of potential and the voice actors are great, though.

    • Global
      3 out of 5 stars
    • Interprétation
      5 out of 5 stars
    • Histoire
      3 out of 5 stars
    Image de profile pour Jenn
    • Jenn
    • 10/04/2021

    Great, unique concept, but execution fell flat.

    K.M. Szpara is an inclusive author who is masterful at taking on difficult topics and presenting them in a way that is wholly unique. That said, I'm not sure we will ever see a warm, fuzzy, "feel good" novel from him, and I think that's absolutely fine. He isn't for everyone, and this book isn't for everyone.

    Stated trigger warnings: Contains explicit sadomasochism, sexual content, abuse and consent violations. Reviewer Note: The trigger warnings as stated should be preceded by the word "extreme" and explicitly state rape. If these topics are in the vicinity of triggering for you, please do not read this book. I cannot emphasize that enough.

    Review: I found myself shaking throughout this novel, shaking with anticipation, anger/rage, anxiety, frustration, grief/sadness. I wanted to scream, cry, and, on occasion, smile. It's a very emotionally exhausting read/listen.

    Set in present day, this is the story of what happens when faith is used to manipulate and commit atrocities that are nearly beyond comprehension. It's about people who are left in the wake of those atrocities and what they discover about themselves while discovering the world. This is a story about reconciling realities, about wanting so desperately to believe, and believing because the alternative is unfathomable. It's also about recognizing that reality isn't always an either/or.

    This story largely follows:
    1./ 24 year old Lark as he goes on a quest/road trip after being freed from a cult and subsequently breaking out of FBI custody.

    2./ Lark's brave, amazing 25 year old partner Kane whose actions led to the arrest of cult leader Nova and the destruction of the cult. He is chasing his love, Lark, with FBI Detective Miller and Lark's brother Deryn in tow.

    3./ Cosplay Calvin, the "outsider" who meets a Lark on the run and decides to help him with best friend Lillian in tow. He does it because of his own desire to believe/see that there is magic in the world and that Lark can show it to him... that and apparently Lark is hot.

    Are there monsters in the world? Yes, but they come in all forms and aren't equally recognizable by all.

    Is there magic in the world? Maybe, but magic doesn't mean the same thing to everyone. If it exists and comes at a cost, is it a price worth paying?

    For those that are expecting a book like Docile, this isn't it. For those that haven't read Docile, I highly recommend it. Each book is very unique, and the only similarities are the far ranging list of trigger warnings eliciting wide ranging emotions. I loved Docile, and while I appreciated this book, I didn't find the characters to have as much depth or evolve as much as they did in that novel. I couldn't fully appreciate these characters. Some (Calvin and Deryn) were just downright annoying.

    I didn't find the end satisfying. Allllll the Kane and Lark throughout the novel, and what we're given in the end was just... meh. There's a lot of backstory, but so little detail about what happened to these characters "later" (as the end chapters are so aptly titled... not a spoiler this is in the table of contents) that it drove my star rating from a 4 to a 3. Calvin, not Kane, is given the last chapter (also in the table of contents)... seriously? It was not sufficient at all and did a disservice to the reader who spent quite a lot of time and emotional investment on the journey.

    Format: I listened to this book on Audible, in one sitting. The narrator delivers an engaging performance worthy of this complex and highly emotional work.