Bookpushers Joint Review – The Beautiful Ashes (Broken Destiny #1) by Jeaniene Frost

The Beautiful Ashes cover image

Publisher: Harlequin
Publish Date: Out now
How we got this book: ARC from the publisher

In a world of shadows, anything is possible. Except escaping your fate.

Ever since she was a child, Ivy has been gripped by visions of strange realms just beyond her own. But when her sister goes missing, Ivy discovers the truth is far worse—her hallucinations are real, and her sister is trapped in a parallel realm. The one person who believes her is the dangerously attractive guy who’s bound by an ancient legacy to betray her.

Adrian might have turned his back on those who raised him, but that doesn’t mean he can change his fate…no matter how strong a pull he feels toward Ivy. Together they search for the powerful relic that can save her sister, but Adrian knows what Ivy doesn’t: that every step brings Ivy closer to the truth about her own destiny, and a war that could doom the world. Sooner or later, it will be Ivy on one side, Adrian on the other, and nothing but ashes in between…
This blurb came from the author’s website.

1. Thoughts on the Hero

E: I like Adrian. He struck me as being a reluctant hero sure he would end up destroying this precious thing he found yet unable to abandon her because she needed a fighting chance. He had grown up one way, realized it was a lie and was fighting back as much as he could yet was still crippled by certain things he was told. He certainly wasn’t all sweetness and light and was rather accepting of some horrific things because of his childhood. I thought despite his horror of who Ivy was and the history of his family vs hers his decision to not leave her at the mercy of the angel spoke highly of what he could become. I didn’t always agree with his methods for getting Ivy to learn and use her power but they were effective. In addition to his rather blunt behavior at times I thought he should have explained things to Ivy a bit more during the early stages of their search because she was looking for answers and was rather open-minded. He could have saved some trouble/danger if he explained the reason for some of his precautions.

MiscJoy: Oh dear. My turn. I’m not sure what to say about Adrian. Overall, his character felt flat and unoriginal to me. I’m not a huge fan of the insta-lust trope, especially of the fated kind. I can count on one hand the number of stories that use this trope that I’ve actually liked, and this wasn’t one of them. I’m even less of a fan of the kidnapper-kidnappee insta-lust trope, even if the “kidnapper” turns out not to be the bad guy. There is nothing romantic to me about a man abducting a woman while keeping her in the dark about his motives–especially when he seemingly does so on purpose and then gets off on the woman’s fear/unease. Also? Certain qualities of his character were oddly familiar. Brooding bad boy demon hunter control freak who drives a classic muscle car that he considers his baby, rebuilt from the ground up, and refuses to let anyone else drive? Oh, hello there, Dean Winchester. What are you doing in this story?

Has: I liked Adrian more as the story progressed, but I didn’t like his introduction which I felt was rushed and hectic in pace which exacerbated the issues you both felt about him. I also agree with you about Adrian not giving her information especially about Ivy’s lineage, even though he felt he had a reason not to explain things. I really dislike this trope unless there’s a good reason or twist but I didn’t think it worked well in this case. But I definitely warmed up to his character when I learned about his backstory and as his character evolved, but I wished there was more time to see this enfold on the page because I felt there was a lot of his character as well as others that was glossed over, or rushed.

2. Thoughts on the Heroine

E: Ivy had double vision most of her life. Landscapes, buildings, and people were all susceptible to looking not quite right or wavering between normal and abnormal. Struggling to deal with what she considered a mental issue, over a short time period she lost everyone she considered family. Her sister vanished after leaving her a message asking for help. Her parents were killed in an accident looking for her sister and the local police thought she was crazy. Then she discovered what she thought her entire life was a mental issue was really a power needed for the fight between good and evil. Ivy took a while to grow on me but I liked how she was able to deal with learning her life was changing relatively quickly and remained focused on her main goal of rescuing her sister. She wasn’t helpless but neither was she all-knowing or all-powerful, she needed the help of others to succeed and wasn’t reluctant to accept it. As the story picked up and Ivy started making things happen, not letting them happen to her I enjoyed her more so by the end I was solidly on her side.

MiscJoy: I feel so bad!!! I’m such a fan of Frost’s work, it pains me to have disliked this story so much. Ivy was the POV character and there was just something about her narrative voice that I strongly disliked. I found her character bland. She could have been any heroine in any PNR/UF world. Nothing really distinguished her from the stereotypical “uninitiated young woman encounters tragic life altering circumstances and turns into kickass heroine” with the “previously unrealized hidden special powers” to boot. In and of itself, that’s not such a bad formula when paired with a compelling character that makes me want to stand up and cheer. But I didn’t find that here.

Has: I had the same issues towards Ivy like I had with Adrian. I found her introduction and how her magical abilities and heritage to her was rushed. I really felt the pace of the book especially in the beginning was too fast that I almost had trouble trying to figure out the mythology and the world-building. I really wished there was more background information and more set-up about how abilities affected her because it was a bit of out of the blue with Ivy realising she wasn’t crazy or that she use to have these double visions. However, like Adrian’s character, the tone of the rough beginning got better as the book continued, and I grew to like her character.

3. Favorite Scene

E: The gargoyle! I loved all the scenes with the gargoyle involved because he was really like this huge overgrown pet who wanted attention and to make his person happy despite his appearance. I am torn between hoping he gets more screen time in future installments and being worried that he will end up wounded or killed as Ivy continues her quest **sends subliminal messages to the author.** The other reason why I liked the gargoyle scenes is because when I discovered exactly how Ivy gained the gargoyle’s assistance I really felt some hope for Adrian to change his destiny.

Has: I loved the gargoyle! I hope we get to see more of him in future books. I also enjoyed the descriptions of the parallel demon worlds and how the society was structured there. Although I could live without the Soylent Green element which really squicked me out but I wished there was more time focusing on these worlds because I think that’s where the book and story really started to come alive. I also loved the humorous scenes, which there were several which if you follow Jeaniene Frost’s Night Huntress series, is definitely apparent here. I loved the scene when Ivy is disguised under different guises to help hide from demons and their minions and the reactions from her allies who are unable to see through these illusions had me laughing out loud.

4. Dislike about book

E: I did have some issues with this story. Unlike other things I have read by Frost, while the action started with a bang, it took me a while to warm up to the main characters. One of them, Zach in particular still gets on my nerves but I think that is on purpose. His all-knowing not going to share info because you either didn’t directly ask or because he wasn’t ordered to is rather annoying. However, Zach did come through on a few occasions with what appeared to be free-will so I haven’t entirely written him off.

MiscJoy: I think by now, it’s obvious that this book didn’t work for me. I thought the story premise was derivative. I just couldn’t help but see shades of Supernatural (the TV show). I already mentioned the Adrian/Dean thing. Zach was just like Cass. Demetrius was really Crowley. Then we have a plot that revolves around finding obscure weapons for killing demons based on biblical lore (David’s slingshot, Cain’s First Blade)? Even the whole demon/angel structure/war and using humans as pawns seemed to parallel the CW’s Supernatural world. I could have forgiven all that if I’d just found something interesting in the story, some dynamic to the characters that would have pulled me in, something to the romance that would make me want to root for them to be together and cry when they inevitably faced betrayal and hoped for them to reconcile. But I just didn’t connect to the story at all.

Has: I really found the pacing especially in the beginning really problematic. I almost felt there was huge chunks missing from the story and while I like a good fast pace story, this was too hectic in tone and I think the world-building and characterization especially in the beginning suffered. I also found the romance under-developed, I know there is a good reason for Ivy and Adrian to be attractive and drawn together but because of the issues I had with the book, it felt like the romance didn’t evolve as well as it could. I would also like more of an explanation of the world-building and creatures, and in The Beautiful Ashes it almost took to the ending, where I found I had a good grasp of the world and its mythology.

5. Any other misc. thoughts along with grade

E: I found The Beautiful Ashes an interesting if slightly uneven read. I didn’t immediately fall for it but I think Frost’s world and base mythology is fascinating. As the characters developed I started to enjoy them and their interaction. It seems like Frost has three major threads that are interwoven. Ivy’s development into someone who has the power to wield weapons against the demons if she manages to survive finding them. Adrian’s internal struggle of his feelings for Ivy against his family’s historical role and impact to Ivy’s family. And the overall external conflict between good and evil with one side playing by the rules, the other playing fast and loose with the rules. I am hoping with the world established and a good grasp on most of the main characters Frost’s next installment sucks me in quicker.
I give The Beautiful Ashes a B-

MiscJoy: If I hadn’t known who had written this book, I never would have thought it was by Frost. I have loved her work and read all her books. I was so looking forward to this one, and I am beyond bummed to write such a negative review. Also, I don’t understand why it’s being categorized as new adult PNR. Other than Ivy’s age (twenty years old), there is nothing NA about this book. It doesn’t touch any of the themes that the NA genre typically deals with. And let’s face it, Adrian is over a century old so he hardly qualifies. Also, it reads more like a YA than an NA…come to think of it, maybe that’s what I found “off” about Ivy’s voice? *shrugs* This certainly isn’t going to put me off of Frost’s future work, but I think I’ll skip this particular series.

Sadly, I give The Beautiful Ashes a D.

Has: Overall, despite the flaws I had with The Beautiful Ashes I was definitely intrigued by the mythology although I did wish the world-building was fleshed out more. I also felt a bit underwhelmed with the romance, but that definitely improved at the end when I warmed up to the characters and I think they will come into their own in the sequel which I am curious about. Even though I had issues, I did enjoy the book, I just wished it was fleshed out in places especially with the world-building and romance.

I give The Beautiful Ashes a C

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