Make your choice, Ember Carter. And make it count.
Ember Carter has escaped the flames of death. But will she ever be free from Chief Titus? When the orchard goes up in smoke and her family turns up missing, Ember returns to Frankfort hoping to find her brother and father, and to get Titus to drop the death wish he has against her.
But Titus is always one step ahead. When Ember faces him head-on, she’s captured, only to receive another death sentence. But on her way to her execution, plans go a little askew, and Ember finds herself traveling to the one place no one dares travel: Louisville. If the outskirts of Ky were a ghost town, the ashen city is the borderline of hell itself, but it’s the one place Ember can find refuge from the people who want her dead.
In the ashen city, Ember must learn that being a hero is more than doing what is right because she can, but doing it for the good of the people. And when plans take a turn for the worst, she must decide if it’s worth risking her life to save her country.
I first discovered Sara Baysinger when I saw that Black Tiger (the first book) advertised as free. I grabbed it, read it, and was gripped.
It wasn’t the strong faith of the main character that gripped me in Black Tiger (cause she hasn’t got one), nor even by the cool world. It was the characters and Ember’s questions that drove it. Who should she trust? How can she help her friends? Is there some greater purpose behind this?
Ashen City continued on perfectly and far surpassed what I hoped for. I love brilliantly executed plot twists and deeply laid secrets that slowly come out through a series. This was delightfully plot-twisty. (I insist that is a word.) I never saw half of it coming. There’s so many lovely surprises that I cannot say a word about here. And less lovely surprises I am equally silent on.
I love how Sara develops the Christian themes. It’s subtle, but has amazing moments of insight. This is a future where Christianity (and most of the past) has almost been forgotten, but she shows how knowledge of God continues despite all efforts to destroy it. Sara also touches on knowing God’s will. There’s this one quote I want to share.
“’Hm. I’m no theologian, Ember. And I’m in no place to be interpreting dreams or visions or whatever, because that’s all I think they are. Do I think God commanded you specifically to rescue Ky? Honestly, no. But I do think that whatever you’re doing, as long as it’s good and right, you’re doing exactly what God wants.’”
I think that’s an interesting way to look at it and much more useful to the ordinary person. Because as far as I’m aware most people don’t have dreams of a voice telling them what to do. We just do our best to figure it out.
Once again, the characters were brilliant. They felt real. Even Titus, one of the most despicable characters ever, has a moment he can almost be pitied. Almost, but not quite. As for the characters I like, they certainly have their bad moments. Sara has a way of making you like a character, breaking off all trust of them, then building it up again. After which she smashes your expectations into bits.
The biggest example of this is Rain. He’s a complete contradiction. At times, he’s despicable, At others friendly. He seems to be the biggest fool in the city, yet under it he loves history and old hymns. He’s the one who talks about God. But Rain has a dark side. He can be cold-hearted, even cruel. There is one person he hates enough to kill. (Or maybe two. But Titus is understandable) Not exactly an example of a Christian. Yet he does have an honourable side, a dependable side, a lovable side. I’d be terrified to meet someone like him in real life.
I am so looking forward to the next book, yet dread it. I will warn that there is a big cliff hanger at the end. And other things at the end I try to forget happened. Another book will cement them in. But it will also complete the story, free the captives, make the world bright again. (And I’m really hoping I’m right about that.)
I am putting a content warning on this. It is a little gritty, a little passionate (though not more than kisses), and is candid about some of the things that are going on. It’s not for the squeamish. It’s only the glimpses of light and hope that make it a story I enjoy.
About the Author
Sara Baysinger grew up in the heart of the Andes Mountains in Ecuador where she spent her childhood exploring uncharted lands and reading all things magical. She now lives among the endless cornfields of Indiana with her husband and two young children. Sara enjoys writing and reading anything out of the ordinary, and has a bad habit of zoning out at the most inopportune moments. She is currently considering seeking medical attention for her potentially life-threatening coffee addiction.
My lovely interview with Sara
Imagine the inside of a tent. It’s small and rough. the air is cool, still and damp. Through the slit of a doorway an enormous cavern is visible by lantern. Sara and I are sitting together on a mattress. She has coffee. I don’t.
Sara: Hello and thank you so much for hosting me!
Me: I’m very glad to have you. I’ve loved seeing you share snippets from your books on Twitter and I’m really excited to have you here. Now into the questions.
What made you become a writer?
Sara: I was an avid reader throughout high school. I loved escaping dull high school life to my story worlds, and I wanted to be able to create stories for other teens to get lost in. My biggest inspiration was the book A Voice in the Wind by Francine Rivers. I loved how she was able to draw me into this story she created, how she moved me to cry and feel joy for her characters. When I finished reading it for—oh, I don’t know, the tenth time?—I starting writing spinoffs and that’s when I discovered my love for writing.
A Voice in the Wind is a good book. I haven’t read it quite so many times, but it’s not one to easily forget.
What’s your favourite part of writing?
Creating. I’m a pantser, so there’s little plotting I do before hand. I love discovering the story as I write it. Writing is similar to the reading experience for me, just a lot more work. I love creating my own rules. I love having control of where the story goes. Seriously, what’s not to like in writing? 😉
Revisions, maybe? Or writer’s block? But I suppose that isn’t really writing.
Are you a city or country person?
Definitely a country person. I grew up in a very small indigenous village in Ecuador (South America). My family moved to the city my middle school/high school years and it crushed me. I’ve always been drawn to the countryside, and just a year ago was finally was able to buy a house far away from civilization. I love it here. I also know I’ll be safer here than in town during the zombiepocalypse. 😉
I’m a country girl too. Haven’t lived in the suburbs since I was a toddler. And Ecuador is cool. I’ve wanted to visit South America, and it’s one of my top countries.
Which of your characters is the most fun to write?
Rain, hands-down. Rain was not a planned character, and he didn’t even exist in the book until the third draft. He popped up as a very minor character who was there as a conveying-information-through-dialogue pawn. But then he sort of took over the story. Typical Rain.
I’ll admit I anticipated Rain being your answer. I can’t imagine the books without him.
If it’s not too much of a spoiler, what element in Black Tiger or Ashen City was the first idea?
A few years ago my family and I went to Louisville, KY for the day and got a chance to tour the mega caverns below the city. There was a simulation camp there showing us how the caverns would have been used during the cold war—as a shelter for people during a catastrophic event. From that simulation camp, this story was borne. 🙂
What is your greatest hope for your writing?
My hope with Black Tiger was originally to give people a thirst for God—to open themselves up to the Spirit when they felt that Presence—without me being preachy or pushy. However, Black Tiger ended up being too edgy for a lot of Christian readers and too religious for non-believers, so I don’t think I really accomplish that goal. 😉 I guess now I just want to provide an entertaining story while also showing people that God can’t be defined or pinned down, and that He can present Himself a lot of different ways to different people, depending on what speaks to them.
Well on that count, God can speak though your books if he chooses to. I pray he will. I understand how difficult that balance is. Am I saying enough? Too much? Is it heavy handed and clumsy? I just have to trust and do my best.
Anyway, I enjoyed this interview and I’m really looking forward to the next book so I can get over the suspense.
Sara has generously offered to give away a paperback of either BLACK TIGER or ASHEN CITY with a Louisville skyline bookmark (two winners) as well as a grand prize of a paperback of either BLACK TIGER or ASHEN CITY, Louisville skyline bookmark, adjustable ring that says “inhale/exhale,” and journal (one winner). Open to US only.
Check out the rest of the blog tour below.
April 6th – Holly’s Little Book Reviews – Book Review
April 10th – Brie Donning – Book Review & Interview
April 12th Quills and Inkblotts– Book Spotlight
April 14th – Hope Perch – Book Review
April 17th – Somewhere Between the Nebulae – Book Review
April 18th Jannette Fuller – Book Spotlight