Only Ashes Remain is Rebecca Schaeffer‘s sequel to last year’s breakout debut Not Even Bones and, let me just get this out of the way right now, it most certainly does not suffer from the dreaded “sophomore slump” that tends to afflict many creators in the entertainment industry.
Our “unnatural” heroine Nita returns, but under the protection of INHUP (International Non-Human Police), an agency that not only protects humans from the dangerous non-humans living amongst us in this alternate reality, but also protects non-dangerous non-humans such as Nita from both dangerous non-humans as well as the very paranoid and sometimes more dangerous humans who tend to think of everyone unlike themselves as being a threat.
After a brief period at a South American safe house where she is “reunited” with Fabricio, the boy she rescues in Not Even Bones whom she believes is the one who sold her out to the Black Market, she is moved to Toronto where she starts to plan her revenge against him. To help her along the way is a cast of new characters along with some old ones including Kovit, who similarly escaped South America to Toronto, but via Detroit.
But as often happens in revenge tales, it doesn’t go so smoothly. What Nita expects should be a quick trip from point A to point B becomes a story that twists its way through each of the other 24 letters of the alphabet first. You know the old maxim, “The best laid plans of mice and men often go awry”? This book does nothing to counter that argument in any way whatsoever. But it’s a lot of fun to watch it all play out, both for the better and for the worse.
In addition to an exciting and fast-paced story of vengeance not always working out as planned, what I love about this book is the character development. Not only do we learn a lot about Nita and how the last couple weeks of her life have shaped her both positively and negatively, we get a lot more insight into her Zannie partner Kovit. Despite what the people living in this world have been led to believe, Zannies (and other species of unnaturals) have much greater depth and we get to see a lot of that in this book. Best of all, it doesn’t affect the pacing of the main plot in any way, shape, or form. Schaeffer weaves this inside look at both characters seamlessly with the action at hand and it works. Very well.
Another aspect of this book that I appreciated greatly was the social commentary. I know every author seems to want to tie in their own personal view of the world today within the pages of their books, but few have the ability to do so in a manner that neither makes it stick out like a sore thumb nor does it seem like it would offend either side of the fight. But it’s there. Make no bones about it (Ha! See what I did there?).
Stay tuned for book three of this trilogy, which I expect will be here in under a year given the time between these two novels. If only we could convince George R.R. Martin to write at such a pace. Sigh…
From the publisher:
Dexter meets Victoria Schwab in this dark and compelling fantasy about a girl who seeks revenge on the boy who betrayed her, a sequel to the critically-acclaimed Not Even Bones.
After escaping her kidnappers and destroying the black market where she was held captive, all Nita wants is to find a way to live her life without looking over her shoulder. But with a video of her ability to self-heal all over the dark web, Nita knows she’s still a prime target on the black market. There’s only one way to keep herself safe. Nita must make herself so feared that no one would ever dare come after her again. And the best way to start building her reputation? Take her revenge on Fabricio, the boy who sold Nita to her kidnappers. But killing Fabricio is harder than Nita thought it would be, even with Kovit by her side. Now caught in a game of kill or be killed, Nita will do whatever it takes to win.