3 out of 5 Stars
Across the country, human teens are going missing, and all eyes are turning to the fae.
Seventeen-year-old Freddie is a human at a magically diverse boarding school who longs to report on the war-torn realms of Fairy. When humans disappear on campus, it’s the perfect opportunity to jump-start her journalism career. While the public blame the fae, Freddie wants facts. If she’s going to get published, she’ll need to find out who or what is behind these disappearances.
Aiden is a fae soldier with a murderous reputation. Raised in the dark fae court and forced to partake in the brutal Fairy Civil War, he thirsts for revenge against the realm which murdered his family. His new mission gives him the opportunity he’s longed for. But when Freddie snoops into his life, he questions if revenge is worth the price of his freedom.
Lured by her suspicions and distracted by his curiosity, Freddie and Aiden form a tenuous bond. But as their feelings for one another grow, so does the danger. Every clue points to Aiden as the kidnapper, and as his enemies close in, Freddie must make a choice: turn against him or fight for a relationship doomed to fail.
An intriguing mix of contemporary mystery and fairy love story. This novel melds modern day issues (racial profiling, biased reporting, deportation, and corrupt politics) with the cruel possibility of war in a neighboring fae world.
The book weaves together two narratives–a young reporter’s passion to find the truth in a kidnapping plot alongside a traumatized fae soldier’s search for revenge. Freddie’s and Aiden’s stories merge into a tentative tale of friendship and potential love. Although the plot lags a bit in the middle, things pick up toward the end. Several heated battles and fight scenes raise the stakes, though these scenes sometimes come across as confused or improbable.
The character interactions are fun. I love the juxtaposition of Aiden’s life as a soldier versus the innocent curiosity and care he displays while visiting the human world. Freddie’s loyalty to her friends and her need to hunt for the truth are also admirable. Though I admit I really have a strong dislike for Pelrin’s character, particularly his manipulative and stalker-like tendencies toward Freddie.
The writing style is easy to read but inconsistent at times, interspersing straight-forward prose with sections of overly flowery detail. The novel hints at interesting world building though I wish it would have delved deeper into the culture of the fairy world. That being said, descriptions of the human school and city feel vibrant, including Latinx and other BIPOC representation, commentary on political stances, and discussion of human/fairy rights issues. Trigger warnings for mild gore, stalker-like behavior, murder, racially charged themes, torture, and kidnapping.
Overall I enjoyed A Tale of Ashes by Ann Dayleview and give it 3 out of 5 stars. This book might be a good choice for fans of urban fantasy and contemporary fairy stories.