Ashes of Twilight by Kassy Tayler

Ashes of Twilight by Kassy Tayler
Publication Date: November 13th, 2012
St. Martin’s Griffin
Format: Paperback, 320 pages
Source: From publisher via Raincoast Books
RATING: 4 out of 5 Stars
Wren MacAvoy works as a coal miner for a domed city that was constructed in the mid-nineteenth century to protect the royal blood line of England when astronomers spotted a comet on a collision course with Earth. Humanity would be saved by the most groundbreaking technology of the time. But after nearly 200 years of life beneath the dome, society has become complacent and the coal is running out.  Plus there are those who wonder, is there life outside the dome or is the world still consumed by fire? When one of Wren’s friends escapes the confines of the dome, he is burned alive and put on display as a warning to those seeking to disrupt the dome’s way of life. But Alex’s final words are haunting. “The sky is blue.”  What happens next is a whirlwind of adventure, romance, conspiracy and the struggle to stay alive in a world where nothing is as it seems. Wren unwittingly becomes a catalyst for a revolution that destroys the dome and the only way to survive might be to embrace what the entire society has feared their entire existence.

The sky is blue. 

Four simple words that would be a catalyst to the revolution that Wren MacAvoy would spearhead. In this book about a dystopian world where a caste social system is in place, a world where people live their lives ruled by a military faction and royals where the privileged few who never had to work a day in their lives, Wren has chosen to live a solitary life. Even surrounded by friends, she doesn’t let anyone come close. But when Alex, the one person in her life who made sure she was accepted, died in her arms, she would come face-to-face with the dangers of going against the “bluecoats”and trusting one of them to aid in her cause for freedom. Nuggets of doubt would be planted in her mind, specs of restlessness and discontent in living in a claustrophobic dome would bloom inside her as she realizes that Alex made it outside.

The knowledge that the world outside the dome is an inferno has been instilled in them since the beginning of time. But one by one, pieces of clues unfold leading into a discovery that everything isn’t what they seem.

At a time when dystopian novels seem to be a dime a dozen, Ashes of Twilight had to work extra hard to distance itself from the rest. I needed to see Wren’s world as exactly how she lived it: dark, oppressive, violent – ruled with an iron fist. There’s always an extra degree of emotion when you put the characters in difficult situations and the author wrote the exact ambiance flawlessly. I remember watching a movie about Loretta Lynn; aptly dubbed, The Coal Miner’s Daughter. In some aspects, this book was exactly how that movie was. Wherein no amount of washing would get rid of the soot under the characters’ fingernails or how futile it was to shut off the coughing sound of someone who has a black lung. But it wasn’t just the mine where it showed how efficient Tayler was in creating the visceral world in her book. Even the world above where confined apartments were built like tombs against the walls of boulders surrounding the dome. The rivers running underneath the dome and the over-all feeling that the walls would close in on you in a blink of an eye.

Tayler was also very proficient in not giving too much away. In some cases, I found myself questioning why no one would clue in and follow Wren during one of her disappearing acts. I mean if she’s got a target on her back, wouldn’t anyone want to keep a close eye on her comings and goings? There is an underlying hint that when it comes down to it, no one really cared where ever Wren chooses to go. It made for a suspenseful read anyway: the thought that anyone could follow her in the caves and discover what or who she was hiding. I, myself was at the edge of my seat every time she goes and disappears.

One thing that I’ve enjoyed with this book as well was the romance between Pace and Wren. I must admit that I’ve always been on the fence when it comes to love stories in a dystopian setting. After all, how could anyone choose that time to fall in love when the circumstances were dire? Some may say their romance developed fast but theirs didn’t feel forced or awkward to me or that it happened instantly. I think the author just did an awesome job at convincing me, that’s all. The desperation between the two certainly added to short time it took for the propinquity of their relationship.

The characters were written well. Wren is easily one of those heroines who never had to answer to anybody but herself. She may sound a bit defeatist in the beginning but she’ll change your mind once she starts assuming the role she was to play in the revolution.

If I had any qualms about this book, I’ve got to say it’s the amount of questions Wren had to ask on numerous occasions. The paragraphs were littered with them. It frustrated me at times. As well, the author took a lot of time in the romance rather than actually looking for the doorway outside. I mean, if the focus of the story was the fact that one of the characters perished in search of a way outside the dome, you would think that the major characters would actually be doing exactly that and spend less time…canoodling.

Despite my problems, I still enjoyed this book. The ending paved the way for the instalment that has me impatiently and eagerly waiting. Ashes of Twilight is a white-knuckle read that will have your heart on a steady, albeit quick pace.