Title: Ember Boys
Series: Flint and Tinder: Book One
Author: Gregory Ashe
Length: 213 Pages
Category: Fantasy, Paranormal, New Adult
At a Glance: Fans of the Hollow Folk series will not want to miss this dangerous and emotionally volatile new chapter in that -verse.
Reviewed By: Lisa
Blurb: Emmett Bradley thinks his adventures are over. Together with his friends, he stopped an ancient evil and lived to tell about it. But life as a survivor, even as a survivor of a victory, isn’t easy, and when Emmett runs away from Vehpese, Wyoming, he takes a few things with him: a battered ego, a broken heart, and his addictions. He’s lucky that Jim Spencer, his former English teacher, happens to have ended up in the same small, coastal town. He’s even luckier that Jim is doing everything he can to help Emmett hold himself together.
When Emmett’s parents commit him to the psychiatric ward of an infamous hospital, though, Emmett finds himself struggling day to day to remember that the life he’s lived—a life with monsters and psychics—is real. Every day, he finds himself a little less certain that he can trust any of his memories.
A chance encounter with a strange girl, though, forces Emmett to confront the possibility that things around him aren’t quite what they seem. The hospital may not actually be a hospital. His adventures may not be over. And the ancient evil he stopped in Wyoming might have been only one strand in a larger web.
Then Emmett is attacked by a dead man, and he realizes that he’s caught up in a war he doesn’t understand. He must hurry to learn the truth about what’s going on, and he’ll need Jim’s help to do it. He just has to convince his old teacher that things between them aren’t too complicated already—but first, Emmett will have to convince himself.
Review: I, for one, had zero expectations of a return to the Hollow Folk -verse when Gregory Ashe put paid to that series with the release of The Mortal Sleep last year. Things in Vehpese, Wyoming, had wrapped up in a way that resolved the most critical issues, but it also left some issues as undone as they needed to be for its teenage protagonist Vie Elliot, and for Austin Miller and Emmett Bradley too, the two boys Vie loved.
Never let it be said that I don’t love a little unfinished business, especially now that it’s resulted in Ember Boys.
This first novel in the new Flint and Tinder series picks up with Emmett, eighteen and out of rehab, but now in the psych ward of a hospital in northern California, and still battling an opioid addiction. Jim Spencer, former high school teacher and resident fire mage (for lack of a better word), ends up in San Elredo as well…by choice, by coincidence, by fate, it doesn’t really matter. What does matter is that he’s Emmett’s one connection to the outside world, and to a past Emmett is working to leave behind where it belongs.
Jim is also lying to Emmett about a few things, one of those false narratives being that he’s ready to leave San Elredo and, more significantly, Emmett, behind. As Ashe has a habit of accomplishing so effortlessly, he capitalizes on the emotional currency exchanged by his characters, and that, coupled with the action, the trauma, the supernatural, the brewing war between factions with abilities that Emmett has learned the hard way not to speak of, is the ultimate payoff. Was I expecting the emotional bond that’s grown between Jim and Emmett? Nope. But now that it’s out there, I love it.
Ashe excels at writing damaged characters, strong yet fragile, cracked but not shattered, scarred in both the physical and emotional sense, with a host of coping mechanisms (mostly unhealthy ones) they use to attempt to deal with all of it. Emmett, for those of us who know and love him from the Hollow Folk series, hasn’t changed much in the past year or so since the defeat of the evil that attempted to devour Vehpese. He’s still a little shit who hides his vulnerability behind a veneer of insolence. And when that doesn’t work, he resorts to the tried and true come-on to keep Jim wrong-footed. And it works. It’s all about the buttons Emmett can push.
There’s a lot of internal conflict—for both Jim and Emmett—going on in this book, and neither of them handles it well. Lots of harsh words and missed opportunities, lots of things left unsaid that will move forward into the next book(s). Add to this the external conflict a girl named Chloe brings to the table, then multiply it by someone from the past showing up in a big cliffhanger moment at the end of the book, and the sum of all the factors in the equation is that I am ready for book two to drop right now.
Fans of the Hollow Folk series will not want to miss this new and exciting chapter in the danger and intrigue.
You can buy Ember Boys here:
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