Difficult Decisions

Feeling different from those around us is something we commonly associate with puberty and growing up. But when that difference has you believing that you’re responsible for the deaths of those you love (or loathe, depending on the circumstances), you might just be correct in your feeling. Bitter Ashes by Sara Roethle demonstrates a world within our world that houses people (or creatures based on your perspective) who are markedly different.

Kidnapped from her seemingly normal, yet solitary, life in the middle of the night by two men, Madeline is enveloped by vines taking her to a secluded location underground. This place, the Salr, is filled with people who are like her, or rather variations of creatures commonly known as wights. Touted as the clan’s new executioner, Maddy tries to figure out a way to escape her kidnappers, but with the sense of camaraderie she feels with these others like her, will she actually leave if the opportunity arises or does she want to figure out more about herself?

With an intriguing story it’s easy to get swept up in the writing (despite some editing, primarily grammatical, that’s still needed). I did struggle a bit with Maddy’s age as some of her behavior seemed more in line with a teenager instead of a woman nearing her 30s. Being delineated in three acts was an interesting tactic as, as a standalone entity, it doesn’t follow standard three act structure in the progression of the narrative. I would definitely be interested in reading more in this series.

Overall, I’d give it a 4 out of 5 stars.

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