In a world like ours, Mystics once ruled the night. Well, so long as they were men. On Ash’s day of naming, she chose the Mystic path nonetheless. The same illusions that garner gasps of awe from the lamp-lit crowds earn her scorn from the basilica. There is only one way forward: a perilous quest – earn the Queen’s Seal, a badge of honour, and immunity. She’ll simply have to avoid being hanged, burned or drowned first.
I received this book for free from the author via BookSirens. All comments and opinions are entirely my own and this review is voluntary.
A fantasy world that’s like ours, which means “magic” is magic tricks and the “mystics” are showMEN; that is, until The Unflinching Ash paves a path for showWOMEN.
Ash is a spunky and charismatic character. Her name, The Unflinching, goes beyond just her show. She’s a fighter that doesn’t understand the meaning of “hesitation”. She’s often 3 steps ahead of her opponents, but when she is caught off guard, her quick wit and lack of fear deem her the luckiest girl to be alive. Literally.
I devoured this book in, like, 4 hours. I had anticipated being up until 1 or 2 in the morning with Ash and Ren *swoon* because my husband was out of town and I don’t sleep well when he’s gone, but when I finished it…it was only 10:30 PM. So I spent some time researching the REAL magicians that inspired this book and their acts (THANK YOU FOR INCLUDING NAMES ANGELA) until I finally fell asleep. And I still have so many names to research, so this is a book that just keeps on giving! Needless to say, this book is incredible for those who love magic shows.
And that cover? Just, wow *applauds*. It’s breathtaking and I want it blown up as a poster for my office.
And Ren? The suave, sappy, romantic, bad-a man had me swooning. He’s the ONLY man who could’ve possibly been a match for Ash’s stoic and passionate personality. Their chemistry was completely natural and I loved it so, so much.
In critiquing the storyline, I really don’t have anything negative to say about it. It’s exciting and fast-paced (which I think is why I was able to read it so fast), and the magic shows were incredibly described. I thought I might have a hard time reading about a magic show without seeing the illusions before my eyes, but the magic acts were just as glorious as if I had been in the audience myself. I got excited just as if I were standing there in that crowd and I gasped, and applauded, and smiled and, just, wow. I felt like I was there. I still think I watched this as a movie instead of reading a book. Incredible.
The *only* thing that could have made this book “perfect” is if the world had been fleshed out just a little bit more. It was clear that this world was vivid in the author’s mind, but there were many aspects about some traditions, money, and other things that are unique to this fantasy world that had me lost about how they fit in. I had pretty solid guesses, but it would have been nice to see some more descriptions and explanations about the world of Morlough. As it is now though, I’d LOVE to see another book set in this world someday! And Ash being a “foodie” made my day, I’m so glad that I got to “taste” some of the foods with her!
Overall, this is easily a top 2021 read and I’m so glad that I picked it up when I did.
Trigger Warnings: Witch hunts/female injustice. Death. Some sexual comments about “desire” and “anticipation”, however no sex scenes and only one kiss. Slow burn romance. Child death/stillborn instances (not detailed).