Categories
Fantasy

The Trials of Ashmount by John Palladino (Book Review)

Thank you to Escapist Book Tours and John Palladino for my copy of The Trials of Ashmount! I should specify that my tour stop is on October 30th, featuring the author for a super special Halloween edition of Sunday Brunch!

For now, here is a look at the book and my thoughts below.  Definitely recommended this for dark fantasy fans that enjoy a fast paced read with lots of different things happening!

Bookish Quick Facts:

  • Title: The Trials of Ashmount
  • Series: Tragedy of Cedain #1
  • Author: John Palladino
  • Publisher & Release: Self – June 2022
  • Length: 576 pages
  • Rate & Recommend: ⭐⭐⭐⭐ for dark fantasy fans

Here’s the synopsis:

Cedain is destined to collapse.

Across a world rife with blood, betrayal, and brutality, five people wade through unexpected tragedies.

An egotistical student, a fleeing refugee, a nomadic warrior, a fallen noble, and a criminal in hiding navigate the sinister dealings of politicians, two sudden wars, and nefarious lies that surface at Ashmount-a university dedicated to teaching the five branches of magic.

Survival means adapting or dying.

Fans of Joe Abercrombie and hard magic systems will enjoy navigating a morally gray cast of characters in a world on the brink of collapse.


The first thing I have to say is that this did not feel like an almost 600 page book at all.  It’s extremely fast paced and alternates between five different major points of view that keep things fresh and moving right along at all times.  There are also ‘interlude’ chapters that give insights from side characters.  Each viewpoint is wildly different too so the book truly never gets dull.

Keeping on about the story: it’s definitely a dark fantasy.  I was having thoughts about true grimdark vs. horror-shock elements, of which the author employs a bit of both.  To avoid spoilers I won’t discuss anything specific but there is a lot of violent death of both children and adults, sometimes in vast quantities.  I wouldn’t get too attached to anyone if I were a reader, as evidenced by the list of characters page which is bluntly and hilariously titled “people who may die”.  From start to finish the book was rather hard to put down .

There is a lot to like in the different storylines, despite not exactly liking any of the characters.  Some I certainly respected more than others and it was fun to learn their backstories and see their various forms of resilience despite their worlds falling apart in blood and mayhem.  There are big spells, game like trials, a gladiator type storyline, a warrior, a new knight, wars developing, political alliances and intrigue, just to scratch the surface.  It was also interesting to see the various storylines start to weave together by the end.  None were fully intersected yet but he has the story well and truly set up for the sequel now!  I think the book has something for almost every fantasy fan as long as they can stomach the dark parts.

My favorite aspect was probably the world build.  For such drastically different storylines and climates and with so much going on, the author managed to create wildly different but fully realized regions as well as local flavors.   Whether it’s a school set up on a volcano, a small village where falcons are raised, kids fishing without bait, or desert clans, it’s all there and pretty well realized in both climate and local flavour, as well as regional issues and larger political inner-connectedness.  I love when setting affects the book and here it does in almost every climate, making things feel more real. There’s a lot of history too that ties into current mysteries and conflicts without bogging the story down.

Not that the book was ever slow, but holy cow the ending few chapters!!! I just can’t wait for book two to be released!  I’ve got to know where all these threads are leading. This is a fast read with a bit too much repetition and simplicity at times to come in at a full five stars for me, but despite that I immensely enjoyed the read and would recommend it to any dark fantasy fan!

Stay tuned on October 30th for my book tour stop and author interview!

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