Fantasy | Epic | Young Adult
Reasons to Love
Loyalty | Betrayal | Family | Redemption
When you think “epic,” if magical horses with a dash of Lord of the Rings and a pinch of Braveheart vibes doesn’t come to mind, then Gillian Bronte Adams’s first book in the Fireborn Saga, Of Fire and Ash, might just change that.
The story bookends with fire and destruction, devastation and hope, longing and belonging. On the first page, a string of knowing and understanding and empathy and compassion for Ceridwen hooks itself into your heart, and it never lets go. On the last page of this epic—and oh, it is an epic epic—that string pulls taut and invites the reader to chant “More!” until the next book comes out. (Thankfully, it should sit in my greedy little book-fiend hands sometime this year.)
Aside from my near-immediate emotional investment in Ceridwen (and later the side-story characters, Rafi and Jakim), the horses got to me. I mean, what horse-obsessed girl doesn’t long for a story about steeds with a touch of magic? And far from the fanciful unicorns, these steeds have power and when connected with the right rider, they can be almost unstoppable. Almost.
A few times, I reached the end of a breath-stealing, heart-still-pounding kind of scene and imagined the book to be over, but it continued. How in the world Adams pulled that off without making me feel like the story just dragged on and on, I don’t know. And this feeling, to me, encompasses the wonder of an epic—a thousand smaller stories and heroes journeys that flow together seamlessly to tell a tale of grand adventure. Adams did that so well in Of Fire and Ash.
Each of the POV characters—Ceridwen, Rafi, and Jakim—at first seem unrelated, but Adams cleverly pulls each story thread together. All these characters have embarked on a quest for redemption, forgiveness, and freedom. Each character has flaws the size of their grand personalities, whether it’s rushing headlong into danger with little concern for their safety, hiding while others fall on their behalf, or doubting their purpose and the bigger idea that there’s a purpose to all of life. Yet, they endear us to them with these flaws, showing us the things we might not like to believe rest within our own hearts and souls. We battle them just as these characters did. And let me tell you, the inner battles our heroine and heroes face are some of the most challenging of all.
Of course, our story wouldn’t be complete without stand-out secondary characters like Finnian and his rescue pup Cú; Ceridwen’s fireborn, Mindar; outrider Markham; Iakki; Iona; Liam; Khilamook; and so many others. Adams keeps the story moving with her remarkable, loveable (and loathable) characters.
And then there’s the setting. Soldonia, Ceridwen’s homeland, made me think of the clans in Braveheart and the chiefdoms of early Irish history and the rolling scenery brought to mind flashes of Lord of the Rings. I could feel the chill of the sea and the heat under the open sky and the exhaustion of hiking through the mountains. Adams’s sharp descriptions of the various settings and the way the characters interacted with each one helped connect me to each storyline—and see the bigger picture.
When I turned the last page, I felt like I could breathe. I felt like I’d been through battle with these characters. I felt sad to leave them behind at all and so thankful I would only have to leave them behind for a little while until book two, Of Sea and Smoke, releases later this year.
Fantastic writer. Fantastic book. And I’m sure it will be a fantastic series.
Ceridwen p. 31
It was the soul of battle. When plans failed, the ability to change leads was life or death.
Rafi p. 54
Life was cruel. It pitted the weak against the strong and never even blinked when the weak were crushed.
Jakim p. 140
Maybe if men could hear the weeping of the stars, war and oppression would cease.
Redemption doesn’t always look the way we expect. Forgiveness doesn’t always come from whom we expect either. And in the middle of both, in the middle of ashes and victory, we find our people and our purpose.
(None | Mild | Medium | Harsh)
No foul language in this book.
⚔️ ⚔️ ⚔️
As with many fantasy novels, and books in the epic genre, this one takes on a good vs. evil theme. The theme of the book lends itself to some violence. Adams describes battle scenes in vivid detail, though she does leave some to the imagination (like, when someone is beheaded, it’s not fully “seen” by the eyewitness who’s telling us that part of the story). This story takes place in a war-torn land; there are betrayals and back-stabbings galore.
🌶️ – There are a few hints of romance here and there but nothing has happened yet. (The slowest of slow burns? Maybe that’s a thing in epics.)
⭐️ ⭐️ ⭐️ ⭐️ ⭐️
She rides a fireborn, a steed of fire and ash, trained for destruction.
Ceridwen tal Desmond dreams of ruling like her father over the nation of Soldonia, where warriors ride to battle on magical steeds—soaring on storm winds, vanishing in shadow, quaking the earth, and summoning the sea. After a tragic accident claims her twin brother, she is exiled and sworn to atonement by spending her life—or death—for her people.
But when invaders spill onto Soldonia’s shores and traitors seize upon the chaos to murder her father, Ceridwen claims the crown to keep the nation from splintering. Combatting overwhelming odds and looming civil war, she begins to wonder if the greatest threat to the kingdom may, in fact, be her.
With fire before her and ash in her wake, how can she hope to unite instead of destroy?
Flames rage and oceans rise in this explosive first installment of The Fireborn Epic as the exiled heir, a novice priest, and a reluctant rebel wage war against a hidden power that threatens to shake the world.
About the Author
Gillian Bronte Adams writes epic fantasy novels, including the award-winning Of Fire and Ash and The Songkeeper Chronicles, and loves strong coffee, desert hikes, and trying out new soup recipes on crisp fall nights. Her favorite books are the ones that make your heart ache and soar in turn. When she’s not creating vibrant new worlds or dreaming up stories that ring with the echoes of eternity, she enjoys bringing life to the words on the page as an audiobook narrator. At the end of the day, she can be found off chasing sunsets with her horse or her dog, Took.
I’d like to check out Of Fire and Ash—where can I buy it?
Scroll over to the book page on the author’s website for links. While you’re there, look around and get to know Gillian and her work!
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