Audiobook Review: Ashes of Onyx by Seth Skorkowsky
I received a review copy from the author. This does not affect the contents of my review and all opinions are my own.
Mogsy’s Rating (Overall): 4 of 5 stars
Genre: Urban Fantasy
Series: Book 1
Publisher: Blackstone Publishing (January 28, 2020)
Length: 15 hrs and 10 mins
Narrator: Caroline Shaffer
Seth Skorkowsky is back tackling a little something different from his Valducan series, of which I am a big fan. Ashes of Onyx has a bit of a lighter feel, a tone that is more distinctly urban fantasy and is less heavy on the horror elements, but make no mistake, it still has all the hallmarks of adventure, excitement, and grit that makes the author’s work so enjoyable.
At the center of this novel is a young woman who has had a great wrong done to her. Meet Kate Rossdale, a sorceress whose life is in tatters after her entire coven was killed in an accident that stripped away her powers, and now she spends her days whiling away in a drug-induced haze trying to forget the past. But then one day, a most unexpected offer comes to her in the form of a once-enemy who promises her a way to get her magic back—in exchange for a big favor, of course.
Kate is almost certain she cannot trust Richard Harcourt, formerly of an organization that used to hunt sorcerers like her. And yet, the old man holds the key to restoring her powers, and along with that, the truth of what really happened on that fateful day that changed her life. First of all, Harcourt reveals, what killed her coven was no accident, and second, the person Kate had considered her closest friend had been the one to orchestrate it all.
What’s more, Kate was not the only one this person betrayed. Their enemy has been around for a long time, stealing magic to achieve near-immortality and to become stronger and more powerful. To put an end to this, Kate and fellow members of her new team must journey into the mystical realm of imagination and dreaming to track down their foe in a mission to right a wrong that’s gone on far too long.
Ashes of Onyx is a fascinating book with lots to offer fantasy fans, and without a doubt, its varied elements demonstrate another side of Seth Skorkowsky’s talent. If you need proof of his versatility as a writer, look no further than Kate’s character. She’s by far the most interesting, complex, and dynamic protagonist he has ever created, and that’s saying a lot considering the incredible lineup of memorable characters who have headed the Valducan books. But there’s definitely something different and special about Kate. For one thing, we are introduced to her at one of the lowest, most hopeless points of her life, and one of the biggest challenges she has to overcome in the book takes place even before the adventure starts. She’s motivated by many things—vengeance and loyalty to her friends among them. I also liked that she was so candid with her emotions, which I thought was one of the key reasons why her character came across as so genuine and sympathetic.
Then there was the breathtaking world of Ashes of Onyx. The story opens in Baltimore, beginning the way so many urban fantasy novels do, belying the amazing things to come. For you see, this book is more than just UF; it is also epic fantasy, and also a little bit of portal fantasy, as Kate and her friends make their way to an alternate universe created by the sum of all human thought and vision. As you’d expect, the world-building is top-notch as readers get to encounter sights and sounds, people and places, concept and ideas that are so unique and dazzling that they’ll blow your mind.
The plot was also fast-paced and entertaining. There’s a good mix of humor and action for the adventurous-minded, but keep in mind too that there’s a thread of darkness that runs through the narrative, and this to me is what Seth Skorkowsky is all about. I’ve always loved the horror-tinged stories of the Valducan series, and was glad to see some of that here, especially towards the end when all hell breaks loose. This novel might be lighter in tone, but it’s still certainly not for the faint-hearted, because there are moments that get downright brutal.
So fans of bold, gritty, rollicking urban fantasy take note: Seth Skorkowsky should be on your reading list, and Ashes of Onyx needs to be on your radar yesterday! This book was a nice change of pace from Valducan but it was just as fun and engaging, which was no less than I would have expected from the author. If he decides to expand this world with future books, you can bet I’ll be on board for more.
Audiobook Comments: I must commend the outstanding job by narrator Caroline Shaffer, who brought out the vivid personalities of Kate and the gang. A great listen overall, and highly recommended.