As a lover of science fiction, I can appreciate the breaking of the status quo. Every so often, genres like cyberpunk or post-apocalyptic fiction came in to stir shit up and make it messier, so to say. But fantasy, I’ve found, is much more comfortable resting on its laurels—challenges to foundational fantasy conventions have been slower, and few and far between. In the last decade or so, though, the intention from authors to actively challenge fantasy’s history has been growing.
Daniel Abraham’s newest novel Age of Ash, book one in The Kithamar Trilogy, seems to do just that. It tackles the notion of “epic fantasy,” questioning the epic-ness of it all and how big battles and a fast pace have dominated that landscape. But beyond that, Age of Ash is a heartfelt story that grounds itself in genuine characters in grim circumstances. What follows is a novel that is epic in its ideas and execution, but relatable in its perspectives and emotions.