Red Rising meets The Scorpio Races in this epic fantasy following three phoenix horse ridersskilled at alchemywho must compete at The Racesthe modern spectacle that has replaced warfare within their empire.
Every year since the Ashlords were gifted phoenix horses by their gods, they've raced them. First into battle, then on great hunts, and finally for the pure sport of seeing who rode the fastest. Centuries of blood and fire carved their competition into a more modern spectacle: The Races.
Over the course of a multi-day event, elite riders from clashing cultures vie to be crowned champion. But the modern version of the sport requires more than good riding. Competitors must be skilled at creating and controlling phoenix horses made of ash and alchemy, which are summoned back to life each sunrise with uniquely crafted powers to cover impossible distances and challenges before bursting into flames at sunset. But good alchemy only matters if a rider knows how to defend their phoenix horse at night. Murder is outlawed, but breaking bones and poisoning ashes? That's all legal and encouraged.
In this year's Races, eleven riders will compete, but three of them have more to lose than the resta champion's daughter, a scholarship entrant, and a revolutionary's son. Who will attain their own dream of glory? Or will they all flame out in defeat?
|Publisher:||Random House Children's Books|
|Product dimensions:||5.70(w) x 8.30(h) x 1.40(d)|
|Age Range:||12 - 17 Years|
About the Author
Scott Reintgen is the author of the Nyxia Triad series and the middle-grade novel Saving Fable. He is a former teacher in the North Carolina public school system and is always trying to write books for the deserving students who he had the honor of teaching. Currently, he lives in North Carolina, surviving mostly on cookie dough, his son's smiles, and the love of his wife, Katie. You can follow him on Facebook, on Instagram, and on Twitter at @Scott_Thought.
Read an Excerpt
Farian wakes me at some ungodly hour.
He comes in like he lives here, drags me out of bed, and gets me into a pair of boots. My corner candle’s out, so I can’t even see which cloak he throws around my shoulders or which hat he slaps on my head. Farian would say that’s for the best. According to him, fashion and I were never properly introduced. He’s always threatening to throw away my favorite dresses. It is a point of contention between us.
We stumble through the dark. Someone’s asleep on the couch. An uncle, but I couldn’t say which one. They all snore the same. Empty bottles spin away from my clumsy steps. Farian keeps a steady hand on my back until we’re in the candlelight of the kitchen. He sets a cup of coffee in my hands, lets me take a few sips, and then pushes me out the door.
It should be black at this hour, but the sky’s cloud-clear, and the stars recognize a stage when it’s there. Dueling nebulas slash over the dark, rolling mesas. I hear Doctor Vass explain, “Each light is a sun. To each sun, planets. To each planet, moons. How endless it all is. . . .”
Farian looks back. “You awake yet?”
“No talking until I can see what color your clothes are.”
He laughs. Farian has always laughed easily. Doesn’t know his way around a joke, but he always makes you feel like you do. My best friend and confidant lopes ahead, his limp barely noticeable, a satchel full of camera gear tucked under one thick arm. He’s always been big. Fourth son in a family of farmers, with three older brothers that have all grown even bigger than he is. But that’s because Farian’s made his world more than digging irrigation pits. He skips out on his chores to enhance photographs or edit our film series. He’s bound for an education if he keeps at it, as long as his parents don’t disown him before he can get there.
We’re not the only ones awake at this hour. The door to Amaya’s bar bangs open, and three ranch hands slide out into the slick shadows, laughing and singing the wrong words to “The March of Ashes.” Farian hums the tune long after we’ve passed them.
Down the road, a pair of postmen trot past on slender mounts. Both tip their brims, looking like any other riders but for the government-issued gloves threaded with gold and the sacks full of letters strung to their saddles. We arrive at the ranch well before sunrise. It’s dead and dark, quiet-like. The stars are fading.
“Looks empty,” Farian says. “Only Martial is out there.”
I squint, but Farian’s eyes have always been better than mine. I can’t make out much beyond the nearest row of fence posts, but there’s nothing surprising about the quiet. It’s a holy day. “The Ashlords only bow to the gods,” I remind him.
He snorts but says nothing. We’ve caught hell for skipping Gathering the past few years, but we both know it’s the only way to get any respectable riding time. Martial owns the only Dividian-friendly ranch in the district. He won the Races about twenty years ago and used the prize money to build his own ranch and buy his own herd of phoenixes. He promised it would be a training ground to hopeful Dividian riders who couldn’t afford their own horses. Like him.
It was a stunning kindness.
Until the money started running out. It always does. Gold is worth less when it’s in Dividian pockets. Not to mention they tax Dividian landowners twice as much. A few years back, Martial opened the ranch to some of the lesser Ashlord nobles. Carved out just a few days of the week at first, but it wasn’t long until he was booked solid. I don’t blame him, either. Ruling-class gold pays too well to turn down.
“What’s it going to be today?” Farian asks, glancing back again. “Something new?”
“Something old,” I reply with a smile. “Something long forgotten.”
We head in different directions. Farian strides out to talk with Martial. He’s been working up to asking the old champ to do a biopic, but Farian’s about as careful as thunder. Won’t make any noise until he’s sure lightning’s already struck. I leave them to it, heading for the stalls.
Martial might have sold out to the Ashlords, but there’s still no ranch like his. As a Dividian, I get to ride his phoenixes free of charge. And he slashes component prices by half. He even lets us pay off all the expenses through a little side work. I’m pretty sure there’s no better setup in the Empire, at least not for a Dividian like me.
His barn is a fine thing, too. All stone, with slightly sloping roofs and lamps dangling every few paces. I walk the outer courtyard, hearing horses occasionally stomp in their stalls on my left, seeing columns and arches running on my right. Martial sank most of his winnings into the place. People called it a mistake, but the quality of the facility is the only reason gold keeps moving from Ashlord pockets into his accounts. He has seven city-bred families boarding horses here, and more on the waiting list. I’m just glad he hasn’t turned the whole place in that direction. He’s still got about eight of his own horses, and they’re the closest I’ll ever come to calling one my own.
At the end of the yard, a great red door waits. I lift both latches and put my whole body into a shove. The door opens into the dark. I smile as a great smash of scents carry through the opening. I follow them inside. Practiced hands find the lamp thread and I give it a pull. The bulb takes its time, warming the room with light, brightening until I can see the endless containers with all their precious powders. All those possibilities . . .
I remove a half-ripped theater poster from the pocket of my riding jacket. Proper paper is too expensive, but street litter and old playbills are always free. I copy ingredients from the poster to one of Martial’s inventory forms. I cringe, though, when I see the price he has listed for unborn ash.
“Seventy legions. Pick my pockets, why don’t you, Martial.”
After a second, I scribble the component down. I know today’s video will make up for the cost eventually. It still stings to use anything that costs that much. I haven’t taken on a component with a price that steep since my disaster last year with powdered gold. Burned through a hundred fifty legions in less than two clockturns. But I won’t make that mistake again.
After noting each component, I take five racing containers and link them up. Martial’s cubes are a cheaper version, about a fourth the size of the Race-regulation ones, but I’m only doing one rebirth anyway.
It takes a few minutes to locate each component, measure out what I’ve purchased, and strap the cubes to my riding belt. I lock the door behind me and find Martial rolling a cigarette outside. He keeps his thinning hair long and pulled back in a knot. His eyes are bright and blue, so shockingly Dividian that it’s like looking across oceans, a few hundred years into our past. I can almost see our ancestors arriving on the shores of the Empire for the first time, eyes bright with desire.
He nods once. “Imelda Beru,” he says. “The Alchemist.”
“That name was Farian’s choice. He says we need a brand if we want it to sell.”
Martial taps the end of his cigarette. Dissatisfied, he starts rolling it again.
“Smart kid,” he says. “I watched your last video. Some twelve thousand views, no?”
“Enough to pay you back, and buy Farian a new lens.”
“What an age,” Martial says. “Getting paid for people to click on a box.”
“The modern world has its charms,” I reply. “Speaking of which, sun’s rising.”
He glances out, nods once. “Seventh stall. Your ashes are waiting.”
I thank him and head that way. He and I both know the sun won’t touch the ranch for another twenty minutes, but talking with Martial makes me nervous these days. He’s a man of hints. Idle comments intended to stir me up. Too often he talks about the Races with Farian. He thinks I have a chance to be chosen as this year’s Qualifier. There’s also a chance I’ll be devoured by wolves, but I’m not betting on either one. Martial was chosen all those years ago, and a man who’s been struck by lightning always thinks it’s likely to happen again.
Opening the seventh stall, I find the ashes piled neatly in a metal box. I lift them up, careful with the lid, and start my search for Farian.
The land stretches north and south of the barns, and even though the estate’s massive, Farian’s been complaining about the shots getting stale. Like me, though, he knows we’re lucky to even have this option. I find him at the south end of the property, navigating the low limbs of Martial’s lonely shoestring tree. He doesn’t like climbing, but by the time I reach him, he’s wedged fifteen feet in the air. The mountains glow with coming gold. I frown up at him.
“You’re going through all this trouble to film a Stoneside rebirth?”
Farian shoots me a furious look. “You serious? Why would you do Stoneside again?”
I grin at him. “Just snacking on you, Farian.”
He flicks me off, laughs, then almost drops his camera. We both gasp, then laugh again when he catches it to his chest. He shakes his head, like I’m the one who almost dropped the thing.
“I hope you have something good for me,” he says, glancing back through the branches. “I think this lighting will be flawless. It’s the only time we’ve ever done a camera angle this high, you know? I’m thinking of doing some crosscutting for this one, if you ride well.”
“Crosscutting,” I say. “Glad to hear that. I was going to suggest . . . crosscutting.”
He makes a face. “It’s when you”
When he sees my face, though, he goes quiet. We’ve played this game too many times. He talks like a textbook and I end up . . . distracted. He gets annoyed; I get mad.
“You film. I ride. It’s simple.”
“Gods below,” he says, eyeing the light again. “Get me to a university already. I’d like to have a proper conversation about montages and backlighting with someone.”
I smile up at him. “I thought you talked about all that stuff with Doctor Vass.”
“For fifteen minutes.” Farian shrugs. “Not his area of expertise.”
“Guess you’ll have to go to university.”
“Guess so,” he says, but his voice is full of doubt.
His family doesn’t send off to school. Neither does mine. Every uncle and cousin is proof enough of that. Education is reserved for Ashlords and city-born Dividian with deep pockets. Out in the rural villages, we’re more likely to inherit trades. Both Farian and I spend most of our time ignoring the trade we’ve been pegged for since birth. Farian knows as much about farming as a chicken. And I know even less about charming and getting married to a boy. My parents are already hinting that I can’t spend my life riding other people’s horses. One day they’ll shrug and say that all we can do is make the best of the world the Ashlords offer us.
But on holy dayswhile the Ashlords worship their godsI forget all of that. I walk out to greet the sunrise and become who I really am.
He jams an elbow into his lap, turning the lens slightly. At his signal, I start spreading the ashes out over the ground. They’re still warm, so I take quick handfuls and sweep them out in a flat, even circle. I don’t flinch away from the heat, not after Farian claimed my cowardice ruined his shot a few months ago. I am as bright and fiery as the creature I will summon.
Once that’s done, I unclip the cubes from my belt, flipping the individual lids so Farian has a good angle on each stored component. Sunrise isn’t far off. I lift my eyes to Farian, focused on the camera. He’s been walking me through the acting cues, but I always need a deep breath before we start, no matter how many videos we’ve made. He signals, and I begin.
“Good morning.” I offer the camera an unnatural smile. “My name is Imelda Beru, also known as the Alchemist. First, I wanted to thank all of you for watching our recent videos. If you missed our Stoneside or Fearless rebirths, you’ll find the link to those videos below.
“Today, we’re staying with the theme of vintage rebirths. Everyone knows the standard resurrections these days. Those are tired. They’re boring. All we have to do is look back at the pages of history to see just how inventive phoenix rebirths used to be. Since you don’t have time to wade through codices and scrolls, I’ve done your homework for you. Here’s a rebirth I like to call Trust Fall.”
Farian leans out from behind his camera long enough to roll his eyes at my chosen title. I kneel down, hiding my laughter as I take a healthy pinch of locust dust.
“You’re going to start with an outer ring of locust,” I explain, letting the powder feed between my fingers and highlighting the circle’s border with a deep tan color. “Keep the circle unbroken. You want your locust to burn hard and quick. You’ll know you did it right if there’s the faintest trace of sandstone coloring just as sunrise hits.
“Next: gypsum and limestone.” I empty those containers into a central pile on my ashes, mixing them slowly with both fingers. “You’ll want to lightly mix them, but don’t spread them out too far. Three fingers of height will guarantee your mixture doesn’t burn away.”
As I hold up the last cube, I throw a wicked grin at the camera.
“Now, unborn ashes are as vintage as it gets. Our ancestors lived in a crueler world. Blood sacrifices every month and gods roaming the land. Unborn ashes aren’t the cheapest component in the storeroom, but they’re what you need if you want to call on the powers of old. Make another circle.” I take a handful of the dead ashes. They’re so cold that the hairs on that arm start to rise. “Place them inside the locust powder, but ringed outside the mixture of gypsum and limestone. Make the circle thick and add them just before sunlight hits.”
I stand back, wiping my hands clean and gesturing past the camera.
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
Thanks to Net Galley and the publisher for this ARC! Ashlords by Scott Reintgen has it in it to become the next Hunger Games. It combines the obsession with social media (riders make videos of their phoenix-back stunts) with a dangerous trial (the Races) and a background of oppression and revolution. The Ashlords rule their kingdom and run the races, a deadly sporting event that takes place on the back of phoenixes that must be summoned through alchemy, created to survive the challenges of the course, and killed at the end of the day. Reintgen's strengths include a thorough knowledge of horses, giving readers a sophisticated, hard-headed glimpse of what war costs, and the creation of a rich and vivid world. (I can't prove it, but in that world I thought I sensed the influence of Hamilton and She-Ra Princess of Power...) The work isn't without its share of weaknesses though. Despite using interesting methods (like second person) to distinguish the narrators, I had to rely on the chapter titles to tell who was narrating each section. And while I knew who the author wanted me to root for, everyone felt a bit too flawed (or distant) to win my respect. The world and the horses really held my attention though, so I hope a next installment will introduce new characters (or solidify these ones) and keep building on the Ashlords' imperiled realm. A unique read to kick off the new year!
This was such a fun, unique read! As a lover of fantasy, dystopian books, and high-stakes competitions, I was so impressed with the way all of these were combined together. The world Reintgen created was so fascinating and rich, the characters were well written, and the plot was great! All in all, this is definitely a book worth reading. I loved the mix of magic and technology. Normally when you have a book that involves magic and deities, you don't also have a world that's also full of more modern advances. When I first started reading, I wasn't sure how all of that would work together, but now I can honestly say it made for a great book! The characters were also so well done. This book is primarily told from the perspective of three young adults and it was fascinating to get to know each of them. I grew to like all three in their own way and I appreciated how each had their own unique personality. This book definitely had some major Hunger Games feels to it, which was great. But I also appreciated that even though there were similarities to that series, it really did feel like it's own story. You all should give this book a read!
Reintgen has done it again! Ashlords is one exhilarating, unpredictable ride of a book, and is perfect if you're looking for YA fantasy that's fresh and a little bit edgy. It follows three protagonists from different backgrounds as they compete in the Races, a deadly phoenix horse race in which the riders must kill their horses and resurrect them each night to reach the finish line. To me, the worldbuilding felt very inspired by the Hunger Games, but with alchemy, magic, and some Wild West vibes. Each perspective felt totally fleshed out and interwoven with one another, so that I had no idea what would happen next and couldn't stop turning pages. It's pretty rare these days for me to find a book that totally captures my attention, but Reintgen seriously knows how to write a competition with unexpected twists. The romance in this book is very subtle but nicely blended into the action, and I have a feeling we'll get to see some steamier moments in the sequel. The wait for Blood Sworn is definitely going to be a long one!
Thank you to NetGalley for giving me an ARC in exchange for an honest review. Love for Ashlords! I have red Scott's previous Nyxia series, and let me say that this book lives up to what you would expect from a Scott Reintgen series. The world building, and fantasy element of it all is amazing. This is a book that is a page turner you will not want to put down. You read to be taken away from the worries of reality, and that is what this book did for me. This is a superbly written novel. This book was fast paced, edge of your seat, must finish from the start. I cannot wait to read more from Scott, as he never lets down his audience.
4 Stars The Hunger Games meets The Scorpio Races in book one of Scott Reintgen’s new fantasy duology, Ashlords. Warrior phoenix horses were made to race, and that is what the Ashlords have done annually since they received these creatures from their gods. But, more than speed is required to determine a winner. Contestants must use specific blends of ash and alchemy to summon unique talents and skills within their phoenix horses each day until they burst into flame at sunset and then protect those ashes from their competitors because the looming threat of violence and sabotage is always lurking in the battle to crown a champion. It is a contest for more than pride and the purse money, it is a showcase of three competing cultures, and only one can be the winner. This year is no exception, but a few of the characters have more to lose and gain than most. Pippa, the daughter of two former champions, who was born and bred to race as well as a natural favorite as an Ashlord, the ruling class. Adrian, a Longhand and son of a revolutionary, who hopes to become the symbol of freedom for his people to rise against the Ashlords. And Imelda, a Dividian, the lowest class and there only as a scholarship entry, but her fame as “The Alchemist” from her online videos makes her a compelling entrant and wildcard. Told in alternating chapters by each of the characters, the race is only the beginning. Reintgen does a create job building individual characters with finesse and flaws that make them connectable. You will join the crowd, rooting for your favorite as they race. The only downside is, that because you become invested, the race itself seems rushed and segmented. As a reader, I wanted more details, more descriptions, more everything and it came to an end too quickly. Ashlords lays a great foundation for the next book, providing a conclusion, but also setting the stage. Hopefully, Reintgen will explore and flesh out some of the things that were only hinted at and touched on in book 1- particularly the background histories, the gods, and the magic. Solid 4 stars and looking forward to book 2. Valerie Smith @baseball_val
Well, this confirms it. Scott Reintgen is one of my favorite authors. The Nyxia Triad was great. Saving Fable was great. And now, with Ashlords, he's done it again. This book has one of the coolest concepts I've ever read. Phoenix horses? Alchemy involved in resurrecting them? With a competition aspect thrown in, there was no way I wasn't going to love this one. The story was so fun and unique, actually managing to live up to the hype in my mind. Engaging from start to finish, I couldn't put it down. And while it didn't have any big twists like some of Reintgen's other books, the story itself went in directions I wasn't expecting, making it feel fresh and exciting. The characters were really great! Ashlords alternates between three points-of-view and doing so helped to make it a really quick read. I felt that they all three had unique voices and compelling stories that didn't make me dread reading any of them, which is a problem I sometimes have with multiple point-of-view books. One this that really stood out to me was that one character's point-of-view was written in second person. At first I was super iffy about it. I mean, second person is pretty uncommon, at least for me, and what I have read of it was really tricky to pull off well. So yeah, I was worried. Once I was a ways into the book though, I began looking forward to those chapters, and by the end Pippa was my favorite character to read. I would absolutely love to know exactly why Reintgen chose to write Pippa in second person, and I'm really glad he did as it's one thing that will always make this book stand out for me. I always hesitate to compare books in any way to The Hunger Games, but one of my favorite aspects of Ashlords was how much it reminded me of the Capitol from those books. I've always wished I could read about more of the Capitol, and I feel like this book finally gave me that in some ways. The people, the fashions, the class differences, it all just gave me Capitol vibes and I really loved it as a setting. Overall, I think Ashlords will end up being on of my favorite reads of 2020. It's a really fun, unique read. The story and characters are both compelling. It leaves just enough open at the end to make a sequel very welcome. I can't wait to read more in the world that Reintgen has created, and I will be highly recommending this one for a really long time.
Wow!! I really loved this YA Fantasy book! It's sort of a mixture of The Hunger Games and the Kentucky Derby - and though the magical phoenix horses that rise and die each day don't have much in the way of their own personalities (much to the disappointment of my inner-ten-year-old), I completely enjoyed this from start to finish! For the most part, the book is divided between three narrators, each one a very competent racer of these phoenix horses. Imelda, known as the Alchemist, excels in the trickier compositions of elements to create unique phoenix horses from the ashes. But as a lower-class citizen (a Dividian), with no hope of putting together the steep entrance fees, her only hope of racing is as the Qualifier (a charity spot) in the 140th year of these races. Adrian is also an outcast to society, a Longhander, and member of a rebellious faction of their people and has spent his life training for this moment, The third perspective, Pippa, is from the very privileged favorite - the daughter of two champions and the only Ashlord perspective, one favored by the gods in this desert landscape. Reintgen's choice of using second-person for her sections rather than first like for Imelda and Adrian, makes it harder to identify with Pippa and naturally leads to distaste for her overall (well, for me at any rate because I just hate this perspective!). It's a fast-paced and exciting book - I am really looking forward to the sequel! I think Reintgen did a wonderful job in creating a unique landscape and societal setting. The world-building is very strong! And the idea of these magical horses certainly feels fresh! There are other YA fantasy that share similar elements to the races themselves, but this one overall feels so original. I liked the characters a lot - they each have their moments where I genuinely rooted for each to win. The plot includes some genuine surprises, too - and the ending certainly sets up the groundwork for an exciting sequel. I am definitely intrigued and am thirsty for more to be set here! And I am definitely going to pick up Reintgen's first fantasy trilogy! He's a talented writer!
When I got the chance to read and review Ashlords I jumped at the opportunity. I’ve read several books from Scott Reintgen and I’ve truly loved all of them. As I stared reading Ashlords, I had no idea what this book was about. I hadn’t read a single thing about it, nor did I read the blurb, all I did was begin at page one. The first thing I noticed was how unusual this world was, and I really fell in love with the whole concept of riding horses that had died and burned to ashes every night and had to be revived at sunrise. It was so fascinating to see the alchemy and what could be done with it, and the girl we got to know in the first chapter was so lovable that I couldn’t stop reading. And before I knew it, the book was over, and I had finished all of it. That’s how much I enjoyed it. What I loved about the book the most was the horses and how the characters used alchemy and different components to give their horses different abilities each time. It was so interesting and unusal, and I think Reintgen did an amazing job at explaining all of it in a way that made it feel so natural and normal. I also liked the characters for the most part, even though I had different issues with each one of the three. Imelda, the poor alchemist protégé who was never meant to stand a chance at winning the race because she’s not an Ashlord, was an instant love for me. I wanted to hear her story, and when her chapters ended, I couldn’t wait to get back to her. That is until the race began. Not only did she get a little lost there and her chapters all of a sudden stopped coming. I didn’t like where the story brought her, and I didn’t like how we didn’t get to follow her anymore. She was the character at the beginning, she was the one I fell in love with and what made me want to read the story, so it makes little sense for me that she should take the back seat after half the story has been told. Adrian, the revolutionary's son who’s supposed to win so his father can start the revolution that will give their people the freedom and revenge they’ve longed for, was a tough start for me. I didn’t care for him at all in the beginning, and I found his POV to be boring and unnecessary. But as the race began, something happened to Adrian and he was interesting and fun to follow. I have a feeling it was because at that point we saw Adrian and not his father working to put ideas into Adrian’s head. So, as the story progressed, Adrian grew on me to the point I was rooting for him. I wanted him to make it. Then we have Pippa, the Ashlord “princess” who was born to win the race. Her POV is written in 2nd person, which honestly threw me off so much at first. Every sentence I read just sounded wrong to me, and I had a really hard time getting into. Then, all of a sudden, I realize that I’ve read a whole chapter with Pippa without even noticing all of those “you”. I had become her. Pippa and I were the same person and from that moment on, I enjoyed her POV so much. The only thing I didn’t like was that it's like reading Hunger Games. Ashlords didn’t have to be like that, it is so unique in its own way, but then I got the Hunger Games plot all over again. It would have been better without it. Still, I read this book in one day and I really enjoyed it, and I’m still going to give this five stars because you all need to read it. This is the best book I’ve read in a long time and I’m so thankful that I got the opportunity to read it.
Thank you to NetGalley and the publishers for the free copy of this book in exchange for an honest review. My opinion was not affected by the free copy. I'm a simple girl: I see a horse on the cover, I request it. Though the idea of phoenix horses did propel my interest in this book even more. It's an amazingly cool idea, and I think for the most part the world was established well. I got a pretty good sense of who all three of the main characters were-- their personalities, how they saw themselves and the world around them, their goals, et cetera. I usually do my critiques first, so let's get on with it. The book is broken down into three main POVs: Pippa, Adrian, and Imelda. Except for some reason Pippa is in second person while the other two are in first person. It always bugs me a little when authors single out one of the POVs like this; there never seems to be a purpose and only makes that one narrative stand out. There's no reason or purpose behind Pippa's section being in second person. It's constantly distracting whenever it cuts to her. Also, this is going to sound weird, but I feel like there was too much plot going on. It's pitched as a mesh between Red Rising and The Scorpio Races. I've only read a few pages of Red Rising, so I was seeing more Hunger Games, but it's still the same idea: some group is being suppressed by the ruling class, there's a violent competition that is entered every year where people pay big money to watch and gamble on the winner, someone from the suppressed class enters said game, there's talk of revolution and war... I don't want to spoil, but there are definitely a lot of comparisons. My problem is that this book would've been just fine if it was a cool race between these athletes from different walks of life. The rebellion and war was adding stuff that wasn't needed, nor did I really get why it would spark war if Adrian won. There are some pretty big plot holes with the world created here. As much as I loved the gods being involved, it feels like there could be a lot of bad consequences. Murder is treated like a non-issue if it's handled in the right way. There's actually a scene where someone is poisoned during a party and nobody even bats an eye. Yet things like that are not really explored in depth. I admit I was wanting to see the bond between rider and horse a bit more. Since this is all about the horses needing to die and be reborn every day, I was hoping the book would show the connection. But we don't really get that. I don't mind the focus on the race since it was cool and exciting, and all the creative ways the phoenix horses were used was really fun to imagine. Also, all the characters are interesting but their arcs feel like they all happened very suddenly. They each reach a moment where their thinking shifts, but it's very quick. Also, the climax and resolution happened very quick as well. It honestly felt rushed. Again, if it'd just been about the race, we wouldn't have that problem. But the world-building is very cool. All the different gods are interesting and I'm very intrigued by how involved they are in the world. They actually go down in "person" to interact with people. I would honestly read another book just about the gods. The phoenix horses are extremely creative and the race itself is exciting. My heart was actually pounding when I read through those parts. I really wanted to see who won and what would happen next.
The best description of this book would probably be the action and suspense of The Hunger Games with the excitement and stakes of The Scorpio Races. Which means I thoroughly enjoyed it, a bit of some cracktacular fun. Each character, and there are three, were distinct and while it took me a bit to warm up to them, once I got to know them better the enjoyment of my story improved immensely. I really loved the interactions the characters had with their phoenix horses and the racing scenes. There are some twists in here too that I didn't see coming or I should have but I was just so wrapped up in the events that were unfolding. For a book that's meant to be pure fun I did encounter some parts that didn't sit well with me. I hid them under a spoiler. **SPOILER STARTS HERE** The biggest thing that bothered me was that one of the competitors (Capri?) was pushed off a hill or a ledge of some sorts by one of the main characters and became paralyzed from his waist down in the fall. Sure they are all competing for victory and Adrian didn't mean to seriously injure him but it was done out of retaliation from an attack that was done to him previously. Also, a competitor can't be murdered during the races or they will be immediately disqualified so Adrian takes Capri with him to ensure he doesn't die until after he finishes the race. Along the way, Capri tries to escape and finish the race by stealing Adrian's horse but if you steal another rider's horse they'll erupt in flames - which is what happened to him. The only disabled character (and made so by a main character!) in the book died horribly by being burned alive. I don't know about you but that is a big yikes from me. Also, the way the phoenixes are reborn from dust is that they have to die first, right? Well, some of the scenes might be a too much. It made me a little squeamish when there were mentions of horses legs snapping and things like that. Not recommended for people who dislike animals being harmed in their books. **SPOILER ENDS HERE** I'm curious how this book will continue in this series because it seems there will be only people going to war? I wonder how the races and horses will fit into it since they don't seem as pivotal to the plot as they are in here.
Scott Reintgen’s ASHLORDS is a literary powerhouse of imagination! Race along the elite riders in an annual race on phoenix horses that die each sunset, only to be reborn with alchemy the next sunrise. Deceit, treachery, and the need to win at any cost will test three riders from three different walks of life. Who will keep their honor and integrity? Who will fall to the lowest of lows? A brilliantly told tale that invites readers to ride alongside, peek into the characters’ minds and thrill at every step of the way! Scott Reintgen holds nothing back as he fires off a tale that will grab the attention of all readers, while targeting young adults with something they can sink their hearts, souls and minds into! I received a complimentary ARC edition from Crown Books for Young Readers! This is my honest and voluntary review.
This book is fabulous. I loved the characters and the world building was fantastic. The combination of alchemy and horse racing was brilliant. The characters are diverse in a way that doesn't feel forced and I loved their development throughout the book. The book is told in three different POV's and while I don't normally love that, I was happy to find that each of the POV's was equally captivating. One of the POV's is told in second person and while that initially through me off, I came to love her story line and reading it that way really draws the reader into the story. Overall I loved it and highly recommend picking up a copy!
For all the books I’ve read, I’m not sure I’ve read one like Ashlords and I. Am. A Fan. This book is fast-paced and exciting and packed with twists and turns much like the very race it’s centered around. I was initially intrigued by the concept of the phoenixes. In this world, they take the form of horses that rise with the sun and die each night, with each rebirth different based on what’s mixed with their ashes. Such a cool idea and brings together two things I’m personally a fan of. Well, three if you count the science/magic aspect of it all. We’re immediately introduced to the phoenixes early on with Imelda, the Alchemist, one of the three point-of-view characters. The alternating perspectives was definitely one of the strengths of this book. Two points of view, Imelda’s and Adrian’s, are in first person but so distinct that it’s obvious without needing to read the chapter headings who’s speaking. The third, Pippa, is told in the uncommon second person which caught me off guard at first but I quickly fell into it and hers became one of my favorites. I’m not sure why Pippa was picked as the odd one out but I’m not sure it would have worked for the other two characters nearly as well. All three castes of the empire are represented by these three racers and I loved seeing the world from each perspective, what they have to gain… and what they’ll lose if they fail. While I loved Pippa’s voice, likely because of the distinctive second person style, I think Imelda was my favorite character. She’s the one that surprised me the most with her decisions and her story didn’t follow the direction I expected at all. Which was fantastic because what ultimately happens fits so much better. Plus her alchemy is pretty badass. I didn’t dislike Adrian but he was my least favorite of the three (though since I liked them all, it required some nitpicking to rank them in any way). He’s all about the rebellion his father wants to stage but how he changes by the end… I hope to see more of that in the sequel. Because yes, this book needs a sequel. The story isn’t done in Ashlords by any means. At the same time, this is a contained story. This book is about the race, the time leading up to it and everything from the starting gate to the finish line. I feared that might become predictable or copycat-ish of other competition stories but while I think readers of The Hunger Games (as I haven’t read the two books Ashlords is actually compared to) but it’s not Hunger Games 2.0. It stands on its own and the uniqueness of the world and way it’s written definitely made it memorable for me. Honestly, I couldn’t put Ashlords down. It’s action-packed with a story that ebbs and flows much like a marathon. Although this was the first book by Reintgen that I’ve read, it will absolutely not be the last. Get Ashlords on your radar. You won’t want to miss this YA fantasy competition filled with the path of ambition, the consequences of rebellion, and the impact of choice. A must-read for the year!
This book caught my eye because, honestly, any book that is compared to Scorpio Races is going to be one that I just have to read. I loved that story! Luckily, Ashlords did not disappoint. It was an imaginative fantasy and I loved the inclusion of the phoenix horses. I also appreciated that the alchemy involved with the resurrections of the horses was complicated and at the same time fallible. It made every resurrection a bit of a nail biter because there was never any guarantee that things were going to go right for the rider. In addition to a fierce competition, Ashlords was also about an empire that was on the cusp of a revolution, filled with corruption, and had an underworld filled with blood and fire. There are three main competitors in this story: Imelda Beru – a Dividian, Adrian Ford – a Longhand cowboy, and Pippa – an Ashlord. They come from three different walks of life and the story is told through their alternating viewpoints. There is much riding on this competition for these riders and it is more than the simple desire to win. The competition itself is brutal and it is every rider for themselves. Alliances are made and alliances are broken. There are some rules and the entire competition is monitored, except for certain areas, but there is a lot of room for bringing other competitors low. The race is available to watch for anyone outside of the competitors, so they want to be entertained, and seeing a rider fail or encounter challenges gives a better viewing experience. You can imagine how intense this competition can get. It is one wild ride for the reader. Ashlords is a wonderful reading experience with an imaginative world that really grabbed my interest, although it took a little time for me to fully immerse myself in. What initially threw me off was that this is a fantasy world with gods, spirits, and alchemy but they have their version of YouTube? I was not expecting that. They also have wristlets that keep the riders appraised of standings, hmmmm, this is a fantasy world but it shares much with our contemporary world and that took some getting used to. I was expecting a 100% fantasy setting not a dystopian blend. I am not saying that it was bad, just a bit of a surprise. Also, the voices of the characters are voiced differently, first, second, and third person, an unusual choice in my mind. Overall, Ashlords was a story that kept me on the edge of my seat. The pacing was fast and the ending will have you eagerly anticipating the sequel! This review is based on a complimentary book I received from NetGalley. It is an honest and voluntary review. The complimentary receipt of it in no way affected my review or rating.
Thanks so much to NetGalley and Random House Children's Publishing for letting me read and review this fantastic book. I've read The Nyxia Triad by Scott Reintgen and knew from reading that series that he was a great writer with wonderful stories. I am so excited I got to read this book and can't wait for the next book after this one because I have questions that need answers. I'm super curious about some things after reading Ashlords with the characters and their stories, what's going to happen to them and with everything, but I'm also super curious to know about some side stories and characters like Quinn for example. This is pitched as Red Rising meets The Scorpio Races and while I don't know about Red Rising because I haven't read that yet, I can see the similarities with The Scorpio Races. What I kept thinking and being reminded of when I was reading this are The Scorpio Races as mentioned and The Hunger Games. I kept having lots of memories and flashbacks to things/ideas from The Hunger Games. It's about three phoenix horse riders - yes phoenix horses! and the riders are skilled in alchemy, which you have to be to know how to create the best horse for riding in The Races. In The Races, you have to defend the ashes of your horse at night, but you aren't allowed to kill only maim, injure or poison the ashes of the horse. There are 11 riders in The Races, but only a few that have something to gain or lose. The Ashlords follow these few characters and what happens with them during The Races. There's Pippa who is a favorite, one they expect to win and her parents were winners in previous years of The Races, The guy she wants to be with, Bravos, who's all about winning. Then there are the others who I was more interested in, Adrian, the Longhand, from one of the other groups/races of people there that are ruled over by the Ashlords and Imelda Beru, the Alchemist, who's the one who gets in on scholarship and is part of one of the other races that's ruled over by the Ashlords as well so these two characters have more to lose. It's an emotional and intense ride through the book with the characters and you get to understand a lot by the end of this book that sets it up well and leaves you hanging with wanting to know what will happen next. This is one you need to have on your radar and make sure to read!
Do you like YA Fantasy? Have you encountered a Scott Reintgen book yet? Oh boy, this teacher can write! I’ve read all his books to date. This is one badass book! Medival-like times meet Horseracing meets Alchemy. What more could you want in a book? Once again, Mr. Reintgen has given his young (and old) readers the adventure not to be forgotten. I don't even want to give a "this is what the book is about" summary because I don't want to ruin the journey for anyone! I just suggest that if you love fantasy, if you love strongly developed characters and out of this world writing that you read this book. You will not regret it! Thanks to Netgalley, Scott Reintgen and Randomhouse Childrens for the great opportunity to read Ashlords in lieu of my honest review. It has been an honor and a pleasure to read it and recommend it!
Da-aang! This book pretty much has it all. There are terrific characters, a unique plot, and a fascinating setting. First, the main characters, who come from three different groups--Adrian, the Longhand who is entering the Races to incite his people to revolt against the domineering Ashlords, Imelda, the Dividian who wants the chance to win but is a longshot because of how disadvantaged her people are, and Pippa, the Ashlord daughter of two former Race champions who is the easy favorite to win. Adrian is a strong, confident character, and it's easy to want to cheer for him as he fights the oppression of the Ashlords, while Imelda is such an underdog that I really found myself pulling for her. While Pippa's privileged life could make her an easy character to dislike, the way the story plays out and the things she starts to learn along the way make her a really interesting character, and I'm definitely looking forward to seeing how things play out for her in the rest of the series. Next, the plot. As other reviewers have mentioned, this is kind of like Hunger Games meets The Scorpio Races--but it totally holds its own. I really liked seeing the different strategies that each rider had and how they faced the challenges of the race and the other competitors. Interweaving that with the unrest and brewing revolution made this an action-packed, fast-moving thrill of a read. There were some pretty awesome twists in the plot, too. Finally, the setting. It took me a little bit to get a grasp on this fantasy world, but once I did, I found it to be really cool. The idea of phoenixes regenerating each day--and the ability of the riders to give them certain characteristics by their use of alchemy--is awesome. The society with the ruling Ashlords, rebel Longhands, and oppressed Dividians was really compelling. This was a terrific start to a new series, and I can't wait for the next book! 4.5 stars. I read an ARC provided by the publisher via NetGalley. All opinions are my own.
Thank you to Netgalley for this ARC! I am a huge fan of The Scorpio Races, and when I saw this book's description mention that it was that meets Red Rising, I was immediately interested. I've went most of my adult life trying to dispute the fact that I might be a horse girl, but y'all, I think I always have been. From collecting horse figurines to getting a dapple grey stallion as my patronus on Pottermore-- the signs have always been there. There is just something about these giant, strong, and majestic animals that instill both love and fear in me, and these phoenix ponies in the world of Ashlords are no exception. The outside of this novel will reel you in with the promise of fierce, burning beasts and the lore inside DELIVERS. This is a good time to judge a book by its cover! I am a sucker for a story with a good and unique mythos. Ashlords throws you into a dystopian universe where the land has been divided, and the only time they converge is for The Races. Riders from all over the country vie for the opportunity to participate, but only the craftiest and most compelling make it in. Most years, it is just a collection of Ashlords (the current group in power, rich and cunning) and one Dividian representative, who comes from an outlying city on a 'scholarship' of sorts with equipment and a horse provided to them to show the goodwill of the Ashlords to their lessers. However, this year is special as they have allowed a Longhand into the mix, who are known for a failed revolution and have not been trusted ever since. What these eleven riders have in common is a shared proficiency in alchemy. Why alchemy, you ask? Well, with these Races, normal horses would never make it, and it would make for boring viewing for all the watchers at home. No, the equines in this race are phoenixes. Hands down the coolest part of this story is learning about how the phoenix horses work. The animals are brought to life each morning by sunlight; their ashes are expertly crafted with magical components that enhance their abilities. For instance, there is one called Latchlock that will make the horse grow spikes that are invaluable when in close quarters with other riders. There are offensive moves as well as defensive ones like that, and in addition, there are poisons that can ruin a horse's chances to survive until sundown, which is when the creature must be ended to start all over again the next day. A rider can use any of these things at their disposal and are even equipped with a weapon that can be used to shatter an opponent's bones so they are rendered unable to ride-- but the only unforgivable thing is murder. Riders are even often approached by Ashlord gods such as Madness or Dread, promising help in return for a favor. These races are ugly and unfair, but god do they make for good entertainment. Speaking of entertainment, the characters we follow are all so diverse in their motivations and even how they are written; for example Pippa, a daughter of two previous champions, is a celebrity of sorts, and her chapters are told in second person and makes the feel of her POV that much more personal and hard-hitting, because such a character might be hard to sympathize with (as so many of the other Riders have a tough time discerning her true goals and feelings) without an inner dialogue. Imelda, otherwise known as the Alchemist, is a strong first person that you follow breathlessly, almost looking at her through her brother's eyes as he watches her rise
4.25 stars. After reading and loving this author's first series, Nyxia, I knew I'd need more from him. Ashlords was exactly what I was waiting for! This book centers around horses called Phoenixes that die each night in a burst of flames and are raised from their ashes each morning using alchemy and magic. The alchemists choose what strengths and features their horse will have based on the chemicals used. It's such a unique premise and I loved it. Ashlords is The Scorpio Races meets The Hunger Games meets Hidalgo. There's a major race every year and this year Pippa, Adrian, and Imelda are 3 of the riders. Each teen comes from a different background and the story is told from their alternating points of view. The race is grueling, and extremely dangerous, especially since the racers try to knock each other out of the competition. What I really liked was the YouTubing aspect and how 2 of the protagonists film everything for the fans. The race itself is also live reality TV similar to The Hunger Games. This book kept me up late into the night and now I can't wait for the sequel!! *Thank you so much to NetGalley and Random House Childrens for the advance copy!*
With comp titles like Red Rising and The Scorpio Races, combined with a stunning cover and intriguing description, I jumped at the invitation to read and review Ashlords. Being a fan of Reintgen's Nyxia Triad series, I anticipated an exciting read, but this? Completely above and beyond my expectations. Phoenix horses - what an outstanding concept. Toss in alchemy, a Hunger Games-ish race, gods, spirits, a brewing war, and you've got an addictive read. I have to admit, the world-building overwhelmed me a bit at first, but I settled in by the second chapter. And the characters! Three POVs: Imelda - a talented alchemist and underdog, Adrian - probably the biggest threat to the Ashlords and the face of the rebellion, and Pippa - the daughter of two champions and favorite to win. Pippa's POV is in second person, something I haven't come across in YA fiction. You may start out rooting for one, but will likely change your mind more than once before it's over. Don't underestimate any of them. There's more than the race going on in this novel. With war, rebellion, and unrest stirring, the next book in this duology promises to be just as compelling. From nearly the first page, this action-packed, intense plot races (almost literally) to the finish. I can't wait for the next book - bring on the next rebirth! I received a complimentary copy of this book from the publisher through NetGalley. Opinions expressed in this review are completely my own.
Ahoy there me mateys! I received this young adult fantasy eARC from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. So here be me honest musings . . . To those new to the crew, ye should know that horses were me first love before the sea stole me heart. So obviously the flaming horse cover drew me in. I have enjoyed this author's work in the past and I just had to read this. Me favorite part of this book was of course the horses, known as phoenixes, in this particular world. Basically these horses were gifts from the gods, are powered by the sun, and last a day before bursting into flames and turning into ashes. The riders save the ashes and when they are set back out in the rising sun, the phoenix horse is reborn. Of course there be a catch. If ye mix certain chemicals into the ashes, the phoenix's properties can change. They can become faster, grow armor, etc. This phoenix magic was so very cool. The plot involves a yearly competition called The Races. Eleven riders participate to see who will be champion. The winner receives fame and money. But the race is dangerous, sabotage is expected, and people have been known to die. The ashlords are the ruling elite and have the best chance of winning. But there are two other groups of people - the middle class Longhorns and the Dividians at the bottom. This story has three points of view - racers from each of the three classes. Pippa is the daughter of two racing champions and belongs to the ashlords. She was born to win. Adrian is a Longhorn, a splinter branch of ashlords that doesn't worship the gods. Adrian is part of a group that be plotting rebellion and winning the race is part of the plot. And then there is Imelda, a Dividian, who has always dreamed of being in the Races but doesn't truly believe she will. Her goal is to spend as much time with the phoenixes as possible. One thing to note about the points of view are that they change tenses: third person, first person, second person present tense. It was a little odd at first but I got used to it. This was a quick one setting read that I enjoyed overall. I loved Imelda from the beginning and found her choices in the race to be the most interesting. Pippa was a character that has fantastic development. I hated her in the beginning and she grew on me. Seriously, it was surprising. Adrian was the weak link for me and I didn't really like him much. I never got excited to read his POV. The other thing I really enjoyed were the gods and how they impacted the race. I would like to know more about them and how they work. The main reason I only liked and didn't love this one was the ending of both the race and the book in general. How the race ended was a bit ridiculous. As for the book's ending, well I didn't know it was part of a duology when I read it. The set-up for book two was rushed and the tone felt completely different from the rest of the book. The author's endnotes discuss the changes made to the story from its initial inception. I wonder if the redirection led to the strange ending. I wonder what the story would have been if he had kept the original POV. She was me favourite in the book and I was sad she was only a side character. I am not sure if I will like book two's rebellion (that I saw coming from the get-go) or the love interests that seem to be developing. But I will be reading the next one because horses!