Tuesday, October 25, 2011

"The Hour of Dust and Ashes" by Kelly Gay (Reviewed by Mihir Wanchoo)

AUTHOR INFORMATION: Kelly Gay is the author of the Charlie Madigan series. She also writes under the name of Kelly Keaton for her Young Adult series Gods & Monsters. She has held many previous jobs in construction, waitressing, Film theatre, Horse farms etc. before turning a new leaf as a writer. She is also a 2010 double RITA finalist, a three-time RWA Golden Heart finalist, and a recipient of an NC Arts Council Fellowship grant in Literature. She has also considerable experience as a screenwriter winning several final place slots in screenwriting contests such as the Austin Film Festival, Red Inkworks, Hollywood Symposium, Disney Fellowship, etc. She resides in North Carolina with her family.
OFFICIAL SYNOPSIS: To save her sister, she must stop a silent killer. . . .
Protecting Atlanta from the off-world criminals of Underground is tough enough, but now Detective Charlie Madigan and her siren partner, Hank, learn that the addicts of the offworld drug ash have begun taking their own lives. Ash makes humans the perfect vessels for possession, and something or someone is leading them to their deaths. Charlie is desperate to save her addicted sister, Bryn, from a similar fate.
As New Year’s Eve approaches, Charlie makes a deadly bargain with an ancient race of beings and embarks on a dangerous journey into hellish Charbydon with Hank and the Revenant Rex to save Bryn and make it back before time runs out. Only, for one of them, coming home means facing a fate worse than death. . . .
FORMAT/INFO: The Hour of Dust and Ashes is 324 pages long divided over twenty-two numbered chapters. Also included is page # 621 from the Officers Off-World manual (14th Edition). Narration is entirely in the first-person, via the protagonist Charlie Madigan. The Hour of Dust and Ashes is the third volume in the Charlie Madigan series. At this point it’s unadvisable to start reading from this volume as the plot builds up from events occurring in the previous books.
August 30, 2011 marked the North American Paperback publication of The Hour of Dust and Ashes via Pocket. Cover art is provided by Chris McGrath.
ANALYSIS: The Charlie Madigan series was one which was introduced to me by my friend Bastard, he had praised it in regards to its procedural qualities and dark nature of the stories. So this year before the third book was about to be released, I bought the first two to see what the fuss was about. The two books The Better Part of Darkness and The Darkest Edge of Dawn were surprisingly dark and well written stories. I’ll be describing the world situation briefly before starting the review, however be warned since this is the third book, there will be mild spoilers for the first two books as certain plot points of this book directly reference the past events.
The world in this series is one wherein twin worlds of Elysia and Charybdon have been discovered besides our world more than thirteen years ago. Since then there’s been a steady influx of visitors from these alien worlds to ours. However the reverse is almost strictly controlled. Since the events of the past few weeks Atlanta has changed in many more ways than possibly imaginable, it has now gained a new climate courtesy the climatic events of the first book. Charlie and Hank have become their own team within the ATF and now operate under a specific party. They are trying to find out the trail of the banned drug “Ash” and it leads to the Charbdonian underworld however before they can go there they also have to deal with the events of the previous books, namely the Jinn who have been selling the drug and their overlord Grigori Tennin. Despite their previous battles with him, he still survives and is actively trying to further his agenda in finding out what Charlie, Hank & the rest recovered at the bottom of the lake in the climax of the second book.
In the previous two book reviews I had noted that the series does not lack in action and intrigue but even so the action sequences in this volume are completely amped up and the story opens with a mystery which soon goes on to encompass the previous book’s plot arcs. This was a rather strong move on the author’s part as it keeps up the continuity of the story and also is inline with the timeline of the story wherein only a few weeks have passed. The urgency and determination felt by the characters really comes to the fore.
I’ve had some previous reservations about the main character which I’ve noted in my previous book reviews. However there’s some drastic character development in this one as previously I felt Charlie’s character was a bit abrasive and annoying however in this book she been learning vital lessons in humility, patience and understanding. This was a great way to increase her vulnerability as well as showcasing tremendous character growth. All my previous notions about the character were slowly reversed and this book triumphs because of that. Not to focus only on Charlie but there are strong revelations and developments in relation to the other main characters (Hank, Rex, Bryn, etc.) all of which propel the story forward and give the reader an inkling of what the next book is going to be about.
The biggest plus point in this book is the aforementioned trip to the otherworld of Charybdon, there have been certain revelations about the Ash victims in regards to their addiction which plays an important role in the events of this book. There’s also the personal chemistry between the two primary characters Charlie and Hank, and in this book things come to fruition as events have been building between them since the past novels. There’s some huge potential information revealed about Hank which totally changes the current equation and informs the reader about a certain other realm. I believe this book is a lot about resolutions to character arcs which had started from the first book. Readers who have been anticipating certain events will get their wishes fulfilled and get to see terrific scenes as well.
I couldn’t find any negatives to say about this book as my perceived notions about the main character were reversed. The issues I had about the alien worlds were also addressed in this book and lastly it seems the author is leading up to a terrific finale with next year’s book. All in all this is the best book (for me) in the Charlie Madigan series.
CONCLUSION: A dark and violent story, The Hour of Dust and Ashes does what the series has been promising so far. It gives the reader an excellent story with twists, an ending which will leave the reader hungering for the next volume and with the amount of revelations loaded, it will completely blow the socks of most fans of the series. Kelly Gay has to be lauded for giving the readers a different type of read via her books in this semi-jaded sub genre.