Series: The Sanctuary Duet #2
Published by Roc on December 1st 2015
Last year I had the pleasure of reading Dust and Light by Carol Berg. It was my first experience with her work and I was introduced to the wonderfully enticing world of the Sanctuary Duet. I had a feeling things were just getting started for protagonist Lucian de Remeni, so I’ve been waiting on pins and needles for the sequel ever since.
But even though Ash and Silver is the second half of this duology, the story surprised me by taking a much unexpected turn. This book differs from its predecessor in many ways, not least of all because it begins two years after the events of Dust and Light with our main character having forgotten everything about himself. The heartbreaking conclusion of the first book left Lucian with no choice but to leave his old life behind, and he ends up in an isolated stronghold of the Order of Equites Cineré. They wiped his memory so that he doesn’t even remember his name, and now he goes by “Greenshank”, just another loyal follower of the Order. But the last two years of rigorous magical training has served Greenshank well, and the story begins as he prepares to embark on his first solo mission.
While on this mission, however, he is visited by a mysterious woman who turns his world upside down. The problem with the past is that it never stays buried, and little by little, Greenshank recovers more of his lost memories as he traces the path back to the beginning. He is the Pureblood sorcerer Lucian de Remeni, scion to a fallen noble house. Once again, he’s plunging headfirst into a storm of conspiracies and corruption, putting himself in great danger as he takes on both the Order and the Pureblood Registry in order to learn the truth.
But while the plot heads off in a new direction, Ash and Silver still shares many similarities with Dust and Light in terms of tone and style. Carol Berg’s world-building is top-notch again, as this sequel fleshes out the magic system established in book one. We learned in Dust and Light that a Pureblood’s unique magical talent is called a “bent”, but Lucian, being an unusual sorcerer, is gifted with two. One of his bents is in art, which allows him to reveal secret truths in his work while painting, and this was by far my favorite detail from the first book.
Perhaps it is no surprise then that in terms of the magical aspects, my one main regret in Ash and Silver is seeing Lucian’s art bent play a much less significant role. After all, he starts the story as Greenshank, having no knowledge of his dual bents, and he spends most of the first half of the novel trying to piece his life back together again. That said, I could hardly resist everything else related to the world-building. In addition to the magic that is everywhere in this novel, there is also a fae-like race that features heavily in this series called the Danae, whose magic is nature-based. Lucian discovers a way to travel to their world, and the descriptions of the place and its people are phenomenal.
Much like in Dust and Light, the writing in Ash and Silver was also very rich and heavy, which actually had both positive and negative consequences. Bluntly put, it wasn’t exactly easy on the eyes, though things smoothed out once I got accustomed to the style, and there’s no denying the deep, immersive feel of the story. The pacing suffered somewhat in the first half as well, due to the nature of Lucian’s new circumstances; two years have passed so there was a lot of groundwork to cover in order to bring readers back up to speed, compared to most sequels. Overall, it’s safe to say that this book ramps up slowly, but was it well worth it in the end? Yes, absolutely.
Ultimately, I felt this sequel was very different from Dust and Light—but in a good way. I enjoyed the return of a few familiar faces, including the protagonist’s sister Juli and his old contract holder Bastien. There were also many surprises as we gleaned new information about these characters. Overall, Lucian’s journey of self-discovery in Ash and Silver turned out to be just as mysterious, suspenseful and full of intrigue, except the scope of the story is much bigger, the stakes are higher, and best of all, there’s a lot more action. A couple of minor hurdles notwithstanding, Carol Berg has delivered a strong and satisfying ending for the Sanctuary Duet.