Welcome to my stop on the blog tour for the amazingly awesome NA fantasy novel, Shadows of Asphodel by Karen Kincy. The tour is hosted by Candace's Book Blog, and you can follow along with the tour on her blog here. This book was SO GOOD, and I hope you will all run out (or, er, open up Amazon on your computer) and buy it right away!
When Ardis discovers a man bleeding to death on the battlefield, she knows she has to walk away.
1913. In her work as a mercenary for Austria-Hungary, Ardis has killed many men without hesitation. One more man shouldn’t matter, even if he manages to be a charming bastard while he stands dying in the snow.
But when he raises the dead to fight for him, she realizes she must save his life.
If a necromancer like Wendel dies, he will return as a monster—or so the rumors say. Ardis decides to play it safe and rescues him. What she doesn’t expect is Wendel falling to one knee and swearing fealty. Ardis never asked for the undying loyalty of a necromancer, but it’s too late now.
Ardis and Wendel forge an uneasy alliance underscored with sexual tension. Together, they confront rebels, assassins, and a conspiracy involving a military secret: robotically-enhanced soldiers for a world on the brink of war. But as Ardis starts to fall for Wendel, she realizes the scars from his past run more deeply than she ever imagined. Can Ardis stop Wendel before his thirst for revenge destroys him and everyone else around him?
Add it on Goodreads and purchase on Amazon and Barnes and Noble.
I decided to join the Shadows of Asphodel blog tour because the book sounded interesting and different, and I was curious to read a self-published novel from an author who had previously been traditionally published, since more often the process goes the other way. I did not expect the book and characters to completely capture my heart the way they did—this novel is definitely one of my top reads of the year!
Shadows of Asphodel is a dieselpunk novel, which as I understand it is similar to steampunk, but set in a world where diesel rather than steam is the main power behind machinery. (A quick internet search tells me I may be wrong about this, but it makes sense to me, so I’m keeping it in my review…) Shadows of Asphodel’s dieselpunk world is an alternate-history version of the World War I era, where magic exists and is often combined with technology, leading to things like “technomancy.” Sound confusing? Well, it’s actually not, and that’s one of the first things I loved about this book—the stellar world-building. Karen Kincy managed to work the details of the world almost seamlessly into her narrative, with absolutely no info-dumping, yet I was never confused or left with unanswered questions. I still don’t really know how she did this!
The creative and clear world-building really impressed me in the first part of the book, but as I got deeper into the story, what made me fall in love was the characters. Our heroine, Ardis, is a mercenary and a very strong character, both mentally and physically; she’s not someone I’d usually identify with, but the writing was so good that I felt really connected to her and cared what happened to her throughout the story. And then, of course, there was Wendel. Like Ardis, I fell in love with the charming but broken, haunted necromancer Wendel immediately, despite his secrecy and mood swings and moral ambiguity. I like to read other reviews before writing my own, and I was surprised to see that some readers who otherwise liked the book weren’t crazy about Wendel. My response to that was, How can you not love Wendel?! Seriously, though, Wendel is a prime example of the tortured anti-hero, and your feelings for him will probably depend on your attitude toward that type of character. Oh, and if you want some more convincing, the author has very helpfully compiled this pinterest board: http://www.pinterest.com/karenkincy/wendel/
I think that Ardis and Wendel made a great pair to read about because, in her own way, Ardis was as closed off and emotionally distant as Wendel, while in another sense she was almost too trusting and giving. I really cared about these two and would have followed them through almost any plotline, but luckily Karen Kincy gives us an exciting, fast-paced one with a richly imagined European setting. I have to add that the love scenes were much steamier than I expected, and they were very, very well done! Finally, I also liked the minor character Konstantin a lot (especially after I saw his pinterest board http://www.pinterest.com/karenkincy/konstantin/) , and I hope he shows up again in the next installment. Yes, this is a series, although the author gives us a satisfying and surprising ending to the novel and it definitely feels complete. However, I think there’s a lot left to learn about Ardis, Wendel, and their world, and I’m really looking forward to the next book!
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ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Karen Kincy (Redmond, Washington) can be found lurking in her writing cave, though sunshine will lure her outside. When not writing, she stays busy gardening, tinkering with aquariums, or running just one more mile. Karen has a BA in Linguistics and Literature from The Evergreen State College.