The Unflinching Ash

Every once in a while, I come across a book that stands apart from the rest, a single novel that encompasses what some others cannot accomplish in three. This is one such story, one that has remained with me long after I finished reading it. The Night Circus is another book that held me in such a strong grip, and though the two are unrelated in content, they have a similar gravity that kept pulling me in.

The Unflinching Ash takes place in the fictional land of Mórlough, where seventeen-year-old Ash is determined to stand alongside male Mystics as their equal. Unfortunately, her community fears female Mystics, labeling them as witches and condemning them to death. Ash sees a way to affect change, but she must brave society’s rebuke in order to achieve her goal. One of her adversaries, the mysterious Ren, captures more than her attention, but Ash knows she must stand alone if she is to pave the way for other female Mystics to follow in her footsteps. Please see my full review here.

I fell for this book from the very first moments. Elevated vocabulary and a brilliant design showcase the depth of Ash’s intelligence in a society that is bent on tearing her down. Avenging her parents’ deaths, Ash is determined to show others how female Mystics are just as valuable as their male counterparts. Embracing her inner strength, Ash is not afraid to stand up for herself, relying on her hard-won skills to push her world in a better direction.

As might be expected, there is romance in this story, but the connection is based more on intellect than looks alone (although that is part of it). Ren and Ash have many conversations, each of which focuses primarily on their drive and purpose with flirtatious moments sprinkled in. Though she appreciates Ren as an intriguing counterpart, Ash does not let her feelings for him cloud what she has in her mind to accomplish. Strong women of all ages will find bravery in Ash’s behavior and will strive to emulate her careful subversion in their own lives.

I especially appreciate the back matter included in this book because it tells more about the historical inspiration behind the novel as well as the illusionist performances depicted in great detail within it. I love watching good illusionists, wondering how they make seemingly impossible things happen. However, the fact that women are so rarely included as headliners was not as overt to me until reading Ash’s story. Through this novel, readers are not only transported to a stimulating and memorable fictional world, but the story causes readers to think differently about their own realities.

Though this is written for young adults, older readers will likewise appreciate its depth and expert storytelling. I read the book more quickly than I expected, returning for another chapter as often as I could. Though the book has a satisfying ending, I am nonetheless craving another similar story to root into my mind. I highly recommend this captivating novel!

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