Kingdom of Ashes - Elena May,Nadica Bosk...
Myra was born after nightfall – after humanity’s Weatherwizard was taken by the vampires, the world was plunged in darkness and the vampires emerged from the shadows, led by their prince
Vampires now rule the world. Humans are a remnant of a remnant, or bred in captivity to feed the vampires. Myra is part of the resistance but with numbers and supplies dwindling all seems lost
They have only one last chance to save themselves – a desperate mission to kill he prince and even that last hope goes terribly wrong when she ends up the prince’s captive and tool in his own driven mission.
I felt a lot that this book has a story/theme it wants to push. So that is what is going to be pushed – we will be going down that path even when it feels forced or awkward.
Part of this is an ongoing theme that art is important, creation is important. And it is an interesting one to develop, especially since we have a whole lot of dystopias where survival is the be all and end all. Often we question, in a dystopian, whether survival really is what we should aim for – especially if we give up things like conscience and law. But it’s rare for dystopians to discuss things like art – one of the big elements of human existence that is lost when we’re reduced to mere survival.
This could be a really interesting conflict to explore. What makes humans humans? What makes our civilisations, our cultures and what is lost when we lose these?
To also have the vampires, glorious overlords of the world they have no conquered, begin to realise this lack as well – to realise the clothes they wear, the books they read, the music they listen to are all created by humans and that, with humanity subjugated, there will never be anything new created again.
But I think this story felt very forced in pushing these themes – it kept them central too often and pushed them in ways that made Myra look rather unsympathetic. She constantly struggles with the conflict over trying to help her people and pursue the war against vampires, or keeping the vampire king’s guidance in making her a better author.
And, really, you need to include a lot of careful development to sell the conflict of “survival of my people” vs “writing tips” and I don’t think it worked. Myra seemed horrendously self absorbed. And yes she agonised over it – but, really – is it something you agonise over? Is your need for a muse really that important that it becomes a difficult choice?
I think if more had been made of the alternative to the King’s rule, that, bad as he was there were alternatives that were far worse – if that had been more emphasised, more prevalent or more powerful then Myra’s conflict may have been more real and understandable.
This is a whole issue with this character that begins from the very opening pages of the book which kind of set the tone. She’s writing in a book and concerned that lack of resources means she only has 6 candles to write by in the cellar. 6 candles? I don’t care how big the cellar is, you don’t need 6 candles to write with – and the fact the opening scene of this book is her disappointment she can’t have yet another candle in her resource poor, desperate survivor group so she can write her stories. That’s the opening scene and it sets Myra up as being really self absorbed.
We follow with a small child, Thea, telling Myra that their leader had asked her come see a captured vampire and within the first 2 pages we have Myra poor scorn on that General – Zach, on their resistance effort, undermining this child doing as she’s told, openly being sarcastic about the resistance and generally being, well, stroppy
This is a first impression and though she doesn’t continue in the same way, the fact she started like this becomes a lens through which I kept reading her. This is why the first pages of your book matter – because after setting her up as this incredibly petty, self-absorbed character it’s hard not to view the entire book through this impression. Especially when she does things like insert herself in a mission to which she’s objectively not qualified – all so she can have “experiences” and improve her writing and then goes on to become almost a collaborator (and no almost about it – actively saving him) with the Prince because – in her own words – he is teaching her to be a better writer. Especially since the author does an excellent job of truly making it clear, no matter how useful the prince is that he is still vicious, a murderer, torturer with no regard for human life. This is absolutely excellently done and would really do well in an agonising story about choosing hat best to do: having to preserve this monster, who is such a complete monster. Except, again, the reason not to murder this monster is “art” which, if anything, means the increasingly portrayed monstrousness of the prince makes Myra seem more awful.