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Leah Bobet: An Inheritance of Ashes [Jul. 24th, 2016|04:53 pm]

I refused to get up this morning until I had finished reading An Inheritance of Ashes: I don't often do that.

I remember this book when it was called On Roadstead Farm, and leahbobet was posting daily wordcounts and the occasional darling: does that give me a proprietorial bias in its favour, or does it mean I am coming to it with impossibly high standards? Let's assume they cancel out, and that I am, if not a perfect and impartial critic, swayed only by my own tastes and preferences. On that basis, this is an amazing book, and I don't know why I haven't been hearing more noise about it all over the internet.

I've never read Laura Ingalls Wilder, but if that change of title suggests some sort of collision between post-apocalyptic YA and the Little House on the Prairie, I don't think it'd be far wrong. Something has taken out the cities and their technology, but that was long ago, and serves only to set the scene: a world of family farms and small towns, hired men and manual labour, which can still be startlingly modern in its social attitudes, where women are as likely to be in charge as men, in which both men and women have husbands and religions co-exist.

This is a post-apocalyptic world in which the apocalypse is eclipsed by the more recent past, the war in the south from which the men (and yes, it does seem to be men) are only now returning. Hallie and her elder sister Marthe struggle to maintain Roadstead Farm, and hope for the return of Marthe's husband Thom. There's a flavour of the American Civil War in that summary, but this war has been stranger than that, and it was ended by a heroic deed, when John Balsam killed the Wicked God - if the stories are to be believed. But there are still strange things, Twisted Things, like the spider-bird that crashed into Hallie's window and burns to the touch...

Hallie is a brilliant narrator, with all the passion and blindness of her sixteen years, and An Inheritance of Ashes is entirely her story. But the canvas gradually widens: Hallie takes on a veteran called Heron to help out over the winter, the Blakely family from the neighboring farm arrive, Hallie ventures into town to buy provisions and spectacularly fails to heal the rift between her family and Windstown. Everyone has secrets, everyone has things they are not saying, everyone has their own story.

Not everything in the book works for me. In particular, there are aspects of the ending which leave me saying wait, what? (and I don't think all of them are intentional). But what I want is for everyone to read it, so we can discuss this properly.

And I haven't even mentioned the wonderful Chandlers.