________________ CM . . . . Volume XXII Number 13 . . . . November 27, 2015


An Inheritance of Ashes.

Leah Bobet.
Toronto, ON: Scholastic Canada, 2015.
391 pp., hardcover, ebook & Apple ed., $21.99 (hc.).
ISBN 978-1-4431-2844-5 (hc.), ISBN 978-1-4431-4678-4 (ebook), ISBN 978-1-4431-4679-1 (Apple ed.).

Grades 7-11 / Ages 12-16.

Review by Mary Thomas.

**** /4



The barley was in. The stubble of it lay bent broke in the fields as far as the eye could see, rows of golden soldiers, endlessly falling, fom the river to the blacktop road. On a clear evening, with the harvesting done, you could see both river and road from the farmhouse porch: every acre, lined in sunset light, of Roadstead Farm.

So I was the first to see him. Everyone claimed a sighting in the stories that grew up later: a dark man, with a dark walk, striding bravely through the dying grain fields. But it wasn't like that. I was the first to see the stranger when he came to the lakelands, and he stumped up the road like a scarecrow stuffed with stones. Marthe's chimney smoke drifted to meet him, a thin taste of home fires. He caught its scent, his head tilted into the breeze, and hesitated at the weathered signpost where our farm began.

"It can't be," I thought, breathless, and then he straightened – and strode up the gravel path to our door.

For a moment I forgot the argument Marthe and I had just had: every vicious thing I'd said to my sister. I leaned forward, fingers wrapped around the porch rail, and squinted at the silhouette ghosting through our fields. The fields Thom and I had planted together before the men marched off to war. The fields I'd harvested alone – and was still working alone, plowing them under for the winter, when I wasn't having pointless, nasty arguments with Marthe over nothing more than a heel of bread.

"No," I told myself. "It was about more than the stupid bread."

It was about ... everything.

An Inheritance of Ashes is not a happy book; in fact the title says it all, or at least most of it. Roadstead Farm was inherited by two sisters, then 20 and 10-years-old, six years before the story begins, inherited from an abusive father who, nonetheless, made sure that they would inherit and that the farm would not be taken over by the acquisitive mayor of the nearby town. (In their best interests, of course, and merely because he was trying to be helpful...) Their struggle is not merely to keep a 50 acre farm functional, but to cope with the aftermath of the war between their world and that of the Wicked God, a war which caused deformed creatures to rain onto their earth, creatures that burned and destroyed whatever they touched. The war seems to have been ended by a mysterious John Balsam's cutting the heart from the god; the creatures all died; everything should have been good, but ... Marthe's husband hadn't come home from the fighting, but neither had his ashes, leaving them in a suspended state between hope and despair. Also Hallie kept finding more Twisted Things on the farm. More and more Twisted Things, especially after she took in a mysterious returning soldier as a hired hand. As she tries to keep various secrets from her sister, who is pregnant and worried, in an attempt to protect her as she, herself, had been protected from their father's rages, the web of lies grows and the barriers between them get higher and higher. In this poisoned land of poisoned relationships, however, love still blossoms; trust still is born and promises kept. In the end, a solution to the hole between the worlds is found by the community of outcasts who examine the science behind the tear in the barrier and get to a strategy that might work, given cooperation between hitherto untrusting groups, and the gap between the worlds is sealed once more. The baby is born, and it is indeed love that makes the world go round.

      Love aided by a lot of hard work! Hallie's constant theme is "there are chores"! No matter how much she tries or how hard she works, she always feels that she falls short of Marthe's expectations. No wonder the sisters snap and growl at each other, neither ever having had much chance of seeing how cooperation works. The story is grim, gripping, and very real, in spite of the off world creatures and the magic falling from the clouds. In the end, the fact that Hallie and Marthe are sisters, of one blood, matters more to them than any differences, though, for both of them, it is love for someone else that makes them see how deeply each cares for the other.

      There are a few touches of political correctness – the happy gay couple on the neighbouring farm being one – which were strictly speaking not necessary, but do no harm. It would be nice if there were some less dystopian future views around than that given by An Inheritance of Ashes, but this one does at least end on a hopeful note. Spring is coming to the land and to relationships; things could be a lot worse. Teen readers should love it.

Highly Recommended.

Mary Thomas lives and works in Winnipeg, MB, and is thankful that there the worst thing that comes falling from the sky is snow!

To comment on this title or this review, send mail to cm@umanitoba.ca.

Copyright © the Manitoba Library Association. Reproduction for personal use is permitted only if this copyright notice is maintained. Any other reproduction is prohibited without permission.
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ISSN 1201-9364
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