You may remember that about a year ago, I was given the opportunity to preview a copy of F.T. Lukens’s first YA SF novel, The Star Host. I was thrilled when she contacted me to ask if I’d like to review the sequel, Ghosts & Ashes. My response was an enthusiastic YES!! The book is coming out this Thursday, on March 9th, from the Duet Books imprint of Interlude Press. You’ll want to go check that out right away (both books, if you haven’t yet read The Star Host–check out my review here).
While you do that, let me see if I can flail properly about Ghosts & Ashes.
the blurb: Three months have passed since the events of The Star Host, and Ren is living aboard the Star Stream under the watchful eyes of the Phoenix Corps. Plagued by vivid nightmares that ravage the ship in his sleep, he struggles to prove he isn’t a threat and fears he has traded one captor for another. His relationship with Asher, whose efforts to balance his personal loyalty to Ren with his professional duties to the Corps are failing, fractures.
Adrift without an anchor, Ren must return to his home planet of Erden if he has any chance of reversing his dangerous descent into madness. There, he hopes to search for his missing brother and salvage his relationship with Asher. What he finds is knowledge that puts everyone’s allegiance to the test.
Ghosts & Ashes is a very different book from The Star Host. In the first novel in the series, Ren was new to everything. He was discovering. He was reaching out, touching things, escaping, running, rushing from one thing to another. He was driven by new energy, new talents, and a new relationship. By the time Ghosts & Ashes Ren is mired within this new life, but he still doesn’t know everything.
And that makes his life difficult. He’s drowning inside of a power that both feels right, but seems to be destroying everything around him. He doesn’t know if he can trust himself, and he doesn’t know if he can trust the person he’s fallen for. He’s flailing, falling, going under with every breath he takes.
The opening to this book is a tough one. F.T. is a skilled author, and through her, Ren came alive as I read. I felt his pain deeply, and I admit, I shivered through the opening chapters. I kept wanting to pet Ren, to hug him, to wrap him up in a blanket burrito and fix all of his problems. And as things came together (and they do, so beautifully) to the point where he could start to move forward again, I cheered. From the moment Ren arrives on Erden, things start to rush forward. Once again, the pacing is excellent; I couldn’t stop reading, needing to know what happened next!
The book is worth it. This is very much a middle story, the second book in a three book arc. It’s The Empire Strikes Back, taking us from the opening events of that new hope, through the deeper events that break Ren down, allowing him to find the space where he will emerge stronger.
My quick little side note: I am a huge, huge fan of word play, and this title… I love this title so much for the layers of meaning within it. I’ll leave that to the reader to discover and to think about what it means as you read, but it really is just so, so beautifully perfect.
I was absolutely thrilled to be able to drop back into this world. I love Ren so much, and I love everyone around him (with a few notable exceptions that I cannot explain because spoilers), and in particular, I love Asher. F.T. is so good at creating this world, and these characters, that my heart aches for them every step of the way. Her characters have wormed their way into my heart, and I will be waiting with bated breath for the next installment in this series.
Ghosts & Ashes is a wonderful sequel to The Star Host and the story is building to a climax that I am dying to read. This continues to be a wonderful series that will appeal to adults and young adults alike. Ghosts & Ashes releases on March 9th, from Duet Books, an imprint of Interlude Press. My grade? A- and highly recommended!