The Beautiful Ashes is the first in the new Broken Destiny series by the talented Night Huntress writing/narrator duo of Jeaniene Frost and Tavia Gilbert. The Night Huntress series and its two spin-offs, Night Huntress World and Night Prince, are amongst the most popular paranormal romances in recent history, garnering over 450,000 ratings on Goodreads with an impressive 4.25 average. These books are also included in my personal favorites as they are, in part, responsible for igniting my love for audiobooks.
Interestingly, The Beautiful Ashes has a different feel than the prior audiobooks by this duo. It’s classified as New Adult but feels more like a Young Adult title, with even a slight dystopian feel. Not surprisingly, this has a significant effect on the heat factor. Whereas, Ms. Frost’s prior books are known for their hot, passionate scenes, The Beautiful Ashes is incredibly tame by comparison. Additionally, while past books have been evenly divided in focus between the romance and urban fantasy/paranormal components, The Beautiful Ashes is definitely much more weighted towards the action and mystery of the urban fantasy, paranormal genre.
The low heat factor may be a side effect of the overwhelming amount of world building that needed to be done to set up this highly complex urban fantasy world. This is an audiobook that you will want to render your full attention to, not listen to while engaging in a number of other activities as may more typically be your listening style. Nearly every moment is important to an understanding of the interesting mix of religion, mythology, and fantasy that Ms. Frost employs in the creation of this new world. Any revelation of the actual basis in religion and mythology upon which this story is based, however, would be a spoiler and would undoubtedly diminish your enjoyment of this intricate story; therefore I will only vaguely summarize the setting of these aspects of the story below.
Another factor lending to the different feel of this story is that the heroine, Ivy, is a college student and virgin of only 20 years of age. Ivy has suffered from what she believed to be hallucinations of strange, other world realms since she was a child. Many have believed her to be mentally imbalanced, and she has been taking medication for this condition since she was a child. For the most part she has been able to put this aside, and enjoy a relatively normal life with her adoptive parents and sister. Until now, when her world is turned upside down, when on the heels of losing her adoptive parents in a car crash, her sister also disappears.
It is during her search for her sister, that Ivy meets Adrian. As soon as Adrian meets Ivy he feels an intense connection to her, but when he learns her identity, he makes it clear that for her own good, he must leave her as soon as he has helped her find her sister, as he is doomed by ancient legacy to betray her. While Adrian is eager to help Ivy, he is quite tight lipped about why he believes he will betray her, and the listener is left to discover the true nature of this couple’s forbidden love nature as the story slowly evolves over the course of this book.
I absolutely loved Tavia Gilbert’s narration. It is unfathomable to me how so many different sounding characters can possibly be created by one person. Moreover, Ms. Gilbert’s attention to detail is beyond compare. Each time the text calls for a particular change and describes a character in a certain way, you can count on Ms. Gilbert to exactly act out the piece. In addition to the great range of accents that were called for in this book, Ms. Gilbert also nailed every emotion and appropriately varied the cadence and speed of her speech for the particular scene being enacted. With all these factors in play, I felt like I was listening to the soundtrack of a movie, rather than an audiobook. I just can’t say enough good things about Ms. Gilbert’s performance!
Ms. Gilbert’s depiction of Ivy is a splendid example of her great grasp of the story. Before starting this book I had been concerned that Ivy might sound too much like Cat from the Night Huntress series. Having listened to that entire series, I was worried that just as an actor who becomes so well known for a particular role, I would not be able to listen to Ivy without thinking of Cat. Ivy, however, had her own unique sounding voice. Appropriately, she sounds younger and sweeter, bearing almost a slight naive quality while still resolute in her loyalty towards her loved ones. Via her depiction, Ms. Gilbert expertly brings to life all of Ivy’s key traits.
Adrian, in turn, is distinctly portrayed. Like Bones from the Night Huntress series, who sounds so completely unique that one instantly identifies his character, Adrian too is performed in a manner that listeners will no doubt immediately recognize. Adrian is initially described as having an “indescribable accent” (later we learn the basis and, let me tell you, you’ve never heard one quite like this before). True to the writing, Ms. Gilbert managed to produce just the right mix of a number of blended accents to perfectly suit this description and make him sound sexy too! Ivy is, at some points, described as being affected merely by Adrian’s voice, and Ms. Gilbert’s rendition does great justice to this point too!
All in all, this was a good start to what will undoubtedly be an interesting urban fantasy, paranormal romance series. While the immediate danger is resolved in this book, the story ends in a cliffhanger surrounding an even larger threat, and the outcome of Ivy’s and Adrian’s love life will also likely require a reading of the full series to determine whether a HEA is possible for them. I am hopeful that as Ivy’s character develops and matures over the series, we will see more attention to the romance, and in particular a resurgence of Ms. Frost’s trademark hot and steamy scenes. Fortunately, making up in part for the loss in passion, The Beautiful Ashes did contain some worthy and memorable romantic tension, adding to the allure of this forbidden love, star-crossed lovers story. Ms. Gilbert’s fantastic narration further rounds out this tale, making it a true delight to listen to.
Book Content: B
Steam Factor: You can play it out loud
Violence: Escalated fighting
Genre: New Adult/Paranormal Romance
Publisher: Blackstone Audio
The Beautiful Ashes was provided to AudioGals for review by Blackstone Audio.