Avarin tumbles into madness through the shattered ruin of a centuries-old peace.
As griffin riders clash against airships above and hordes of madmen below, Lynn finds herself surrounded by enemies. Ones that will test the limits of her faith. To defeat them, she must risk everything… including her sanity.
Adrian has lost the Legion, but new magics on foreign shores might be the answer he needs to rebuild his army. His return to the Domain will bring vengeance, and the hope that he will finally prove himself to his father.
Nasha’s curse has taken on a new, terrifying shape. She dreads it could be just what the dead goddess needs to escape from Her prison within the Silent Earth. Will she be strong enough to resist, or will Nasha’s curse give rise to the monster she fears to become?
Madness is spreading and it cares not for the borders of men.
A Shade of Madness is the second book in the Ashes of Avarin series, picking up straight after the exciting conclusion of A Touch of Light.
To say I went into A Shade of Madness with incredibly high expectations would be the understatement of the year. I adored A Touch of Light, but we have all heard of middle book syndrome…. Well, rest assured friends, because Abdalla is back and better than ever in this epic second installment of The Ashes of Avarin series.
A Shade of Madness starts with a wonderful and in-depth ‘the story so far’ section (THANK YOU), but even without that, the author does a masterful job of subtly reminding you of the important events of book 1 in the text itself. No time is wasted and we pick up right where we left off, so we finally get to see the fall-out of the explosive and jaw-dropping events at the end of book 1.
The plot is less action-packed and the pacing is considerably slower
than in the first installment, which I was personally very happy with. We
reconnect with our favourite characters from book 1 and now we get to see how
they act when they aren’t in life-or-death situations, which allowed for some
amazing character development.
These characters are extremely morally complex, which is exactly what makes their journeys so compelling to follow. They have all lived through immensely traumatic events and I really appreciate the deep and nuanced exploration of mental health here. We really dive deep into how their experiences are shaping and guiding their lives right now and see that everyone copes in their own unique ways, some of them better and healthier than others.
I was surprised by the paths that some of these characters seem to be going down, and yet none of their actions here ever felt out of character. You might not agree with all of their actions, but the character work is so solid that you can see what drives them and it’s nearly impossible not to sympathise with them and their situations.
There is also a new POV introduced and I was pleasantly surprised with how quickly I latched onto that new character. His stakes are much more intimate, personal, and emotionally driven, and I thought his storyline added a really nice new perspective on the whole conflict.
Now, less action and slower pacing do not equal a less engaging
story, as the stakes only continue to get raised. Book 1 set up a very
interesting world and introduced us to a lot of intriguing concepts and
mysteries, but I don’t think I was alone in feeling a little confused while
reading, intentional though that may have been. These characters had no idea
what was going on, so we as the readers were stumbling in the dark as well.
I am happy to say that we do get some really satisfying reveals here as the characters start to actively dig for answers about the crazy situations they have found themselves in. The expansion of the world-building was absolutely astounding and the level of intrigue is cranked up to unimaginable heights.
That said, for all the answers and implications we get, we are left with a whole heap of new questions. I personally really enjoy reveling in the confusion and mystery, but if you are not willing to have patience and trust the author, then I can see this being a very frustrating series to read. I think Abdalla is a masterful storyteller who knows exactly what he is doing, so I am willing to stumble around in the dark for as long as necessary and make up my own crazy theories along the way.
The prose also continues to be pleasant to read and I really appreciate that it’s so clear and approachable, because the story itself is complex enough as it is. The descriptions are clear and concise, the dialogue is excellent and the inner monologue of the characters is compelling. There are some poignant lines that veer into the philosophical side though, which perfectly fits with the deep and complex themes that are explored in this story.
Overall, I had an absolute blast with this book and I am already dying
for the next installment. I really think that everything that was so enthralling
and captivating about book 1 is just expanded and improved upon in this sequel.
The cutthroat political intrigue, the thought-provoking questions of death,
faith, and religion, the compelling characters with their questionable morals,
the deep and rich lore, the riveting action scenes, the mystifying magic system, and of course the mysterious plague ravaging the world… I was just utterly
captivated by it all once again. Oh, and for anyone who was hungering for more
griffins, you will not be disappointed here ;)
This series is shaping up to be one of my all-time favourites and I truly think Abdalla is an author to watch. Needless to say that I highly recommend you join the hype train as soon as possible because this is a wild ride you don't want to miss out on!
Thank you to the author for providing me with an eARC in exchange for an honest review. All opinions are my own.
About the reviewer
Hi! I’m Esmay, a 20-year-old bookworm from the Netherlands. My main hobbies are reading books, talking about books, reviewing books, and watching videos of people talking about books. Fantasy is my favourite genre, but I will honestly read anything if the premise intrigues me. Also, over the past year, I’ve become a huge (SFF) indie/self-pub enthusiast and it’s been a wonderful experience to discover all the hidden gems. I’m forever exploring stranger worlds.
Thiago was born in Brazil but grew up in the fantasy worlds from the stories he kept in his mind. He has inhabited everywhere from Middle-Earth and Azeroth to the planes of Dominaria, Ravnica and Tarkir. No matter the medium, what kept him coming back was always his love for story.
He could never wait for the next world to dive into, so, after being (indirectly) urged on by the (printed) words of Joe Abercrombie, Mark Lawrence, Patrick Rothfuss, N. K. Jemisin, and many, many others, decided to create his own.
That smile on his face is the look he gets when in the presence of his lovely wife.