Genre: YA alternative history/fantasy
Length: 338 pages
Setting: mostly Philadelphia, right after the events of Paper and Fire
Summary: Short version: Jess and his friends survive the Burners of Philadelphia
Long version: Jess and his friends have Translated to Philadelphia and been captured by Burners. Willinger Beck, the leader of Philadelphia, would just as soon kill them since they represent the Library. They all need to prove their worth to the Burners. Thomas and Jess work on building a printing press. Morgan uses her Obscurist talents to help the Philadelphians, but her skills start to backfire with overuse. They engineer and escape from Philadelphia (with the help of Jess’s twin brother) just as the Library forces surrounding the city start a final, destructive attack. The Library once again tries to capture the group. They escape the automatons, suborning them to their own uses, and head back to England under the Brightwell banners. Callum Brightwell, Jess’s father, shelters the group long enough to sell them out to gain the highest advantage. Jess anticipates the double-cross and puts his own plan in place.
Final thoughts: This series continues strong. Jess has to move up into a leadership role. He needs to start planning their moves if they are going to stay alive. Dario is equally devious, but Jess can’t trust him wholeheartedly since Dario sold them out (or at least appeared to). Morgan also has the tricky mind necessary for deception, but Jess can’t think straight around her. He’s in the middle of an overwhelming, teen-age infatuation with Morgan. Just smelling her soap is enough to melt his mental faculties into soup.
One of the elements I enjoy about the story is the character building. Every time it feels like one of the characters is becoming a stereotype and one-dimensional, something happens to change that. Thomas displays this the most in this book. He’s trusting, loyal Thomas who just wants to tinker and make his printing press. That is, until he’s threatened and he goes berserker.
Thomas does finally get to build his press and pass on the details to others. It looks like the Library is losing control. Several countries are rebelling against their powers, and the press is in the hands of smugglers. I expect the power struggle to get stronger and deadlier. Those that control the Library aren’t going to give up their power easily. It looks like Jess and his friends are prepared to lay down their lives to make some changes, though. We’ll see if anyone important dies, though. I’m not sure it’s going to emulate Game of Thrones.
Title comes from: Philadelphia being burned to the ground supplies the “Ash” in the title, and the printing press provides the “Quill”.
Reading challenges fulfilled: an A in my Title Reading the Alphabet Challenge, and book #6 for 2019
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