Title: From the Ashes (Fires of Redemption: Book One)
Author: Xen Sanders
Publisher: Entangled Publishing
Length: 184 Pages
Category: Paranormal, Fantasy
At a Glance: Easily one of the best books I’ve read in a long time.
Reviewed By: Jennifer
Blurb: Sociopath. Killer. Deviant.
Monster, devoid of morals, incapable of human emotion. The villain known as Spark has been called this and more, and as a super-powered aberrant has masterminded countless crimes to build his father’s inhuman empire. Yet to professor Sean Archer, this fearsome creature is only Tobias Rutherford–antisocial graduate researcher, quiet underachiever, and a fascinating puzzle Sean is determined to solve.
But one kiss leads to an entanglement that challenges everything Tobias knows about himself, aberrants, and his own capacity to love. When his father orders him to assassinate a senator, one misstep unravels a knot of political intrigue that places the fate of humans and aberrants alike in Tobias’s hands. As danger mounts and bodies pile higher, will Tobias succumb to his dark nature and sacrifice Sean–or will he defy his father and rise from the ashes to become a hero in a world of villains?
Review: Where do I even begin with a book like this? When I first received the book for review, I was excited by the premise. I mean, who doesn’t like superhero/supervillain stories? And one told from the eyes of the villain? I thought I was in for a wonderful treat. Dark, sure, but a fun read. I was not expecting the book to be as deep as it is, nor for it to affect me long after the story ended.
Tobias, also known as Spark, is what is known as an aberrant; a superhuman-like individual with powers that normal humans do not have (think X-Men). His father is the villain who has destroyed entire countries, and Tobias helps him. As a college student, however, he is on a mission to find out what people know about aberrant physiology and destroy the research to prevent a cure from being created. Of course, as a sociopath he cannot possibly love anyone.
Until one night with his professor, Sean Archer.
While this might seem pretty cliché, I promise you it’s not. The romance in this story is not typical. Nothing in this story is typical. Tobias battles demons both of his own making and others, and he struggles to find some spark of humanity within himself.
He doesn’t know why he is drawn to his professor, though some readers may figure it out, but he is, and he struggles with the knowledge that he may have to kill him at some point in the future if his father demands it.
This book is equal parts internal and external struggle. I found the external conflicts to be exciting and engaging, completely worthy of a movie deal. The internal conflicts were deep and profound. Not only does Tobias struggle with the concept of his humanity, but he also struggles with being an aberrant, and being a person of color. There are some moments where Tobias reflects on the current political climate and events that have driven many people to lash out against the government, police, other groups… With a less skilled author, these moments would have seemed contrived. As if the author were preaching. However, Xen Sanders masterfully weaves politics and social science into the story to make it feel that much more real. The stakes are that much higher because this could be our world. This is our world.
While we may not have superhumans in our world (at least none that I am aware of), our history is embedded in this book. Our struggles and conflicts come to life on the pages of the novel, our social problems mirrored for us to see through a slightly different lens.
This book made me stop and think. Sure, it has some amazing battles, and the sex scenes are so hot I needed to step outside into the snow to cool off, but there is more to this book than just sex. Way, way more.
I have no doubt that this book—my first read in 2017—will make my top ten list for 2017. Very likely it would make my top five. I cannot wait for the next book in the series, and I highly recommend this book to everyone, regardless of whether or not you like superheroes or villains.
You can buy From the Ashes here: