Recipe for a thrilling read, Sasha Maclean
October 26, 2021
By night, Ash is held in awe for her talents, but by day she is scorned and shamed for being a witch. The Unflinching Ash tells her story as she tries to make her way in the world as a mystic.
The only way for Ash to achieve her dreams and be accepted in society is to earn the Queen’s Seal – a badge of honour and immunity. Getting the Seal will not be easy, though. Ash must avoid the witch-hunting, and find a way to not get hung, burned, or drowned before she can earn it.
Take multiple points of view, alternate history, witch trials, magicians, a girl who you could fire a bullet at, and she would never flinch, and a boy who flirts by pilfering and pickpocketing. Put said ingredients in a bowl, give it a mix, and there you have it: The Unflinching Ash. Armstrong combines these elements in such a fantastic and unique way that it makes the whole book sizzle and sparkle with magic and oomph.
Once I got my head around the first few chapters of world-building, The Unflinching Ash gripped me hard by the shoulders and didn’t let go. I found myself soaring through pages and chapters, immersed into the world Armstrong so perfectly creates.
There are two main reasons I love the heroine, Ash. One: she is the stubborn and strong female lead we need in every book, just as amazing and free-willed as Clary Fray, Anne Shirley, and Hermione Granger. Two: she is not just the standard model of a strong female lead. Ash is a mystic, an illusionist, a magician, a performer. She is clever, resourceful, and determined, with wills of steel. Also, you could fire a bullet at her, and she would not flinch…
The Unflinching Ash is not only amazing characters and a beautiful world, though. It brings up a prominent issue: sexism. In the world of The Unflinching Ash, male mystics are free to perform and show their talents and are applauded for it. However, female mystics are hunted like witches. They are hung, burned, and drowned to stop them from displaying their talents. In her story, Ash fights the unfair system and is set on ridding the world of sexism towards women. This shows that Armstrong has created not only a fascinating story but also some things to think about in our world.
Something that makes The Unflinching Ash unique is the world-building. Technically speaking, this isn’t a fantasy novel, but an alternative historical. But the unique world makes it feel like a fantasy. There is no magic used, but Harry Houdini-style illusions and trickery.
I would recommend this book for anyone in the YA age range (12-17), but I can see adults loving it too. Fans of Sarah J. Maas, Leigh Bardugo and Cassandra Clare are sure to love this book, because of the similar themes and writing styles.
The Unflinching Ash is a fantastic whirlwind of a book and once you start reading, you won’t be able to stop.
- Sasha Maclean lives in New Plymouth.