An utterly enjoyable read with an ingenious heroine, Ashika Hira
The Unflinching Ash
October 18, 2021
The Unflinching Ash is a novel written by Angela Armstrong and published by Norsou Books in 2021. It depicts the journey of Ash, who has made it her goal to earn the Queen’s Seal after the murder of her parents. It’s the only thing that can guarantee the safety of her and her family, and Ash will stop at nothing to get it. She’s even willing to put her life on the line. She must put on a stunning performance to be commended by a Lord so that she can be in the running for the Queen’s Seal, but Ash isn’t the only one out there wanting to compete.
Queen’s Day quickly approaches and the clock is ticking for Ash to put on a dazzling performance, but this is not all she has to worry about. The Seeker is onto her and she must go on the run to avoid him at all costs, but will she be able to gain the Queen’s favour before being caught?
Ash was brought up by Mystic parents, those who dare to brave the witching hours and put on a show of magical illusions and sleight of hand. She’s followed proudly in her parents’ footsteps, but not everyone is as appreciative of her night-time performances. The Basilica and its strict followers barely tolerate Mystics, to say the least, but they completely despise the female Mystics. According to the Basilica, they are not really Mystics at all, but witches, who must go through trials to determine if they will be accepted by God. There are many others who disagree with the Basilica but don’t have the courage to speak up, instead showing their support by watching these nightly performances.
However it isn’t in Ash’s nature to sit by and watch this injustice. Her parents were killed in one of these trials and this has acted to fuel her resolve. She’s now seeking to avenge their deaths and has had her eyes set on the Queen’s Seal ever since. Ash is finally old enough to compete for the Queen’s Seal, the only thing that can make her immune from the prejudice experienced by women Mystics in that time. She must try to outperform all the other Mystics vying for a chance at the Queen’s Seal as well as escaping capture, drowning and hanging… nothing too challenging!
I thoroughly enjoyed reading this book, as it has a little bit of everything. There is magic, adventure, a sense of danger, and of course some romance as well. The thing I enjoyed most about this book though were the characters, especially the main character. Ash is really well conceived and I enjoyed her resolve and determination, especially when faced with joining forces with a male Mystic. She refuses his offer several times, and even though she may have a better chance at winning with him, she is resolute. Even after multiple attempts on his part Ash holds strong and has faith in herself. She may want to win but she wants to do it by herself and on her own merits, unflinching in her self-belief.
Ash is also quite ingenious, which saves her neck more than once. Only after what she has done is revealed, did I look back and see how all the pieces fit together and I really admire that Angela was able to do that and be two steps ahead of the game. I think that being able to connect little things that happen earlier in the book to something bigger later down the track adds intrigue and excitement, which is something that I really enjoy about this book.
This novel has strong messages of self-confidence and belief, and of not letting others determine your path. If you want something then go for it; don’t let anyone’s thoughts or opinions deter you from getting what you want. It also has some historical elements interwoven into the storyline, and even though this is fiction, it allows the readers to imagine this being a reality in our world.
It’s an utterly enjoyable book and I would recommend it for anyone who enjoys magic, adventure, romance and a chase.
- Ashika is 16 years old and lives in Hastings.