From Cold Ashes Risen is the unsettling, vengeance-fueled conclusion to Eskara Helsene’s story that successfully fulfills all the foreshadowed promises of the earlier books while landing many new surprises. Although its slower-paced start stretches longer than necessary, we delve deep into Eska's psyche as she suffers the ramifications of her life's decisions. And although we suffer right along with her, it's a heart-wrenching, wonderful experience.
Once again, I have to tip my hat to the storytelling narrative device that Hayes has tweaked, deciding where and when to let the reader know bits and pieces of key info along the way. You know what’s coming, but not how. And when the how drops, it’s a rush. I’m not using hyperbole, I’ve actually been bodily thrilled at several points while reading this story. How cool is that??
I must admit that the pacing of this story was a bit scattershot, as this one started off slower than the other two. The first act served as a realignment and aftermath from the events of book two’s conclusion, and it took a while to move past it. But once the story (quite literally) hits the ground, it’s full speed ahead and never looks back. It was jolting, but looking back I can see why the pause was necessary.
While the end of this trilogy serves as a good stopping point, there’s still so much more story to tell. Not only of Eska’s life, but of the ripples she’s made throughout the rest of the world(s). That’s a roundabout way of saying “I want more,” which is especially high praise, considering I’ve quickly binged these books and I'm still starved for more from this world.
I’ve mentioned before how Peter McLean’s ‘Tomas Piety’ has such a strong and lasting character voice that lived inside my head, long after I finished those books. Hayes has created a character to rival Piety in Eskara Helsene. She is unique and unforgettable; a rebel, innately defiant, forced to murder as a pre-teen, a tragic antihero that is a flawed human like the rest of us at her core. I think that’s why I’m drawn to her. She makes so many mistakes and I love her for it, because we all screw up. It’s just that she’s so damn powerful that the world breaks whenever she makes a oopsie.
I’ll cut myself off here before I write my own Eskara novel, but if you’ve read this far, then you know how much I recommend this series. The characters and world-building are fantastic even for Hayes' standard of work, the prose is especially tight, and highlighted quotes are abound. The War Eternal is simply essential reading.
Review by Adam Weller
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