NOT EVEN BONES was one of the more disturbing YA books I've ever read, but I really enjoyed the tight storyline and strong female heroine. Even though there were parts that made me straight-up cringe, I couldn't help but applaud it for being daring and taking risks in a genre that's basically stagnated, with everyone trying to outrace each other to write the next over-hyped Sarah J. Maas clone. If you like SJM, that's on you, but I can't stand those stock footage fantasy novels. Adventure, please!
ONLY ASHES REMAIN begins where NOT EVEN BONES left off. Vita has just come in contact with the person who sold her out and caused her to be tortured/almost eaten. She still bears the wounds-- physical and psychological-- of that interaction, and is eager for revenge. However, her betrayer has ties to a secret organization that holds lots of power in the unnatural community, and her new zannie friend (a creature that feeds off pain) has a dark history that's about to return with a vengeance.
This is not as dark or as brutal as its prequel, and there's a lot more running around. There's still suspense, but it didn't have the high stakes of the previous book. On the other hand, we get to meet some cool new characters, like a kelpie named Adair and a ghoul named Diana, as well as some INHUP agents and Vita's mom returning to act like the savage meanie she is. I think I liked the prequel more than this one in terms of plot and pacing, as this book definitely suffered from a mild case of second book syndrome. You can feel the sequel-baiting.
That said, I enjoyed ONLY ASHES REMAIN because it's got unique world-building, morally-grey characters, conspiracies upon conspiracies, and some pretty solid writing. I'd recommend this urban fantasy series to anyone who likes grimdark or wants to read about more female characters who don't always think about looking pretty or acting sweet. The diverse cast and doomed romance are just an added bonus, especially since they're both basically villains cast in the role of reluctant heroes. YAS.
Thanks to the publisher for sending me a copy in exchange for an honest review!
3.5 out of 5 stars