Book Review: Ashes of the Tyrant

Ashes of the Tyrant is the fifth book in Erin M. Evans Brimstone Angels series, which tells the tale of two twin tiefling sisters in the Forgotten Realms. Following on from Fire in the Blood, this tale sees the sisters and their friends travelling to the Dragonborn city of Djered Thymar, where they must solve a series of murders in the city. A secondary plot involves Dahl, one of Farideh’s love interests, who finds himself unwillingly aiding a group of Zhentarim as they attempt to enter an ancient temple. And, of course, the machinations of the ghost of Bryseis Kakistos, the original Brimstone Angel, continue throughout the book.

We’re a long way from Darkwalker on Moonshae here. Evans is an excellent writer who is very good at characterisation. While Fire in the Blood concerned itself with the royal succession of Cormyr, an area with which I’m very familiar, in this book we enter an area about which almost nothing is known: the city of the Dragonborn. They’re a strange race, not part of the original conception of D&D and the Forgotten Realms. They appeared on the world due to a cosmic shift during the Spellplague. They’re not really accepted as part of the world – much like the Farideh and Havilar – and so there’s a sympathy for them from the sisters. Meanwhile, all of this is complicated by the fact that the twins’ step-father is a dragonborn who was exiled from the city and is only just returning home, as his family now has need of him.

Themes of family and belonging have been important throughout the series, but they are especially so in this book. I particularly enjoyed the scenes between Brin and Havilar, who had decided to break up at the end of the last book, but still have strong feelings for each other.

The major threats of the book are drawn from the Rage of Demons storyline that is playing out across the D&D world at present. The way that these elements integrate with the story is extremely well handled, and they fit particularly well into the ongoing development of the sisters. More attention is given to the murder mystery than in Spellstorm, but it’s only one of the plot strands covered in the book.

The book is substantial and spends a lot of time with character development. If I have a chief criticism of the book, it’s that it seems to defer resolution of a number of issues. A lot occurs in the final few pages of the book – and things that won’t be resolved until the next instalment. At least, I hope they’re resolved. There is a limit to how long I want ongoing plot-threads to continue, and I’ve about reached that point.

The setting of the book in Djered Thymar also means I don’t feel quite as invested as I did when the book was set in Cormyr. This may simply be my personal reaction – I was running D&D games in Cormyr over 25 years ago! – and I’m very familiar with the kingdom. So, given I don’t have the connection to Djered Thymar, the change in setting doesn’t quite work for me. I also didn’t find many of the new dragonborn characters that engaging. There are good ideas here, but I found the characters Dahl was interacting with far more interesting.

Despite these niggles, I very much enjoyed the book. It’s a worthy addition to the series, and it’s going to be a long wait until the next one!

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