Title: Circle of Ash
Author: Sterling Magleby
Series: The Solace Cycle Book #1
Publisher: Independently published
Genre: Fantasy, Adventure
First Publication: 2022
Book Summary: Circle of Ash by Sterling Magleby
By the churning banks of the Ashlit Mire and the crumbled black of a sprawling ruin, the town of Kualabu stands an uneasy watch. As the daughter of one of its most prominent families, Dayang Marchadesch trains to face the dangers of the world beyond the walls while contending with the realities of growing up behind them.
Down the southern stretch of the Caustlands there runs a river, and on an island that splits the water’s flow there sits a monastery, centuries old: the Presilyo, training ground for certain followers of the Triune Path, raised almost from birth in its service. It is not an easy place to come of age, but Sanyago and his brother Laris will have to find their way through and face the dangers of the life set out for them.
Out in the furthest reaches of Earthmarch, Juliaen Draecsl works alongside her family, helping to push the boundaries of her Nation further out into the quartzwood wilds, dreaming of duty and deeper purpose. Lives often collide in unpredictable ways…
Book Review: Circle of Ash by Sterling Magleby
Storytelling isn’t something that should be taken lightly; it should be done so with attention and finesse. In Circle of Ash, Sterling Magleby has invested a significant amount of time in setting up this world and putting everything together. The unpredictability of Magleby’s narrative style is one of the many factors that contribute to the author’s formidable strengths. He does not adhere to the typical norms of conventional fantasy.
The plot of Circle of Ash is centred on a group of unique main characters from a variety of backgrounds. Dayang Marchadesch, a young girl of twelve years old who lives in Kualabu with her affluent family, has spent her whole life honing her fighting skills in order to defend her community from the terrifying creatures that lurk in the shadows outside the guarded walls of the city. However, when she is forced to fight a giant Abwaild creature that is assaulting the village, she discovers a vast plot that has the potential to wipe out the whole Caustlands.
Then there are Sanyago and his brother Laris, both of whom are students at the Presilyo monastery, which is the training ground for the warrior monks who follow the Triune Path religious group. After being subjected to years of rigorous training and manipulation, the two finally come to the conclusion that what they’ve been taught may not be true. No matter how difficult it is, Sanyago and his younger brother Laris must navigate their way through it and confront the challenges of the life they have been given.
Juliaen Draecsl works with her family in the Sovereign Nations on the other side of the Siinlan, dreaming of responsibility and a higher meaning while helping in expanding the nation’s borders into the quartzwood wilderness. A holy vision is revealed to Juliaen Draecsl, instructing her to cleanse and reclaim the Caustlands for a radical and dissident branch of the Triune Path known as the Carvers. With each new discovery, there is a deeper mystery to be unearthed as the plots come together in a climactic explosion.
In the very first book of the series, ‘The Solace Cycle’, author Sterling Magleby was able to construct a universe that is both fascinating and intricate. The story has an enchanting setting, a complex and convoluted narrative, a riveting romance, and a large number of multi-faceted and evil antagonists. The mind-boggling and shockingly creative universe of Circle of Ash delves into themes such as Machiavellian intrigue, mythology, religion, politics, imperialism, and the nature of power.
Although it takes some time to really get into Magleby’s writing style, once you do, you’ll appreciate how incredibly wonderful it is. It requires a great level of attention and concentration, so you can’t just skim through the pages here; everything is crucial, and the payoff is tremendous. Almost from the very beginning, I became deeply invested in this great work of epic fantasy and in all of the numerous characters who inhabit the pages. I was sucked into a lengthy, fascinating, and amazing journey that would take me deep into these people’s histories and explore their lands; their suffering, pride, and love roughshod over my own emotions.
The writing is absolutely brilliant, so much so that it is almost completely transparent, giving you the impression that you are actually there, living and feeling indirectly through its characters. Even with the staggering cast of characters, Sterling Magleby was able to imbue them with enough personality and individuality to make them memorable and, most of the time, relatable and likeable.
It seems that the best kinds of development always occur when people are thrown into a situation of conflict. These characters in the book are so well-written and their personalities are so expertly revealed via their individual points of view that it is easy to forget that I have only met them through the author’s creative hand. The characters have come a long way in this novel, and I do look forward to seeing how far this series will take them. The Solace Cycle gets off to a fantastic and unforgettable start with Circle of Ash, the first book in this great epic fantasy series. The magnitude of this series is quite astounding.