Never save a necromancer, unless you want his undying loyalty. 1913. In her work as a mercenary for Austria-Hungary, Ardis has killed many men without hesitation. One more man shouldn't matter, even if he manages to be a charming bastard while he stands dying in the snow. But when he raises the dead to fight for him, she realizes she must save his life. If a necromancer like Wendel dies, he will return as a monster - or so the rumors say. Ardis decides to play it safe and rescues him. What she doesn't expect is Wendel falling to one knee and swearing fealty. Ardis never asked for the undying loyalty of a necromancer, but it's too late now. Ardis and Wendel forge an uneasy alliance underscored with sexual tension. Together, they confront rebels, assassins, and a conspiracy involving a military secret: robotically-enhanced soldiers for a world on the brink of war. But as Ardis starts to fall for Wendel, she realizes the scars from his past run more deeply than she ever imagined. Can Ardis stop Wendel before his thirst for revenge destroys him and everyone else around him?
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I'd actually give the story 2.5 stars. Good premise, promising characters, but lacking true substance. The female lead goes from competent mercenary to weak & vapid. Yes, emotions & hormones can interfere with rationality but it won't make your instincts & training forget muscle memory. I'll look for the next book & hope it gets better. I'm always disappointed when I leave a story unfinished.
I received this book for free from Author in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.
This book may be unsuitable for people under 17 years of age due to its use of sexual content, drug and alcohol use, and/or violence.
My Initial Reaction... I really loved the characters in Shadows of Asphodel and the story was unique. Some elements dragged a bit for me, but overall I really enjoyed it.
The Narration... The narration for Shadows of Asphodel was strong, in my opinion. Jodie Bentley had unique voices and most her male voices came off satisfactorily masculine. I'd definitely listen to another book with her narrating. I hope Jodie Bentley will narrate the next book in the series, so I can continue listening to it!
The Characters... Ardis was great! She's a mercenary, but she works for the ArchMages, which makes her work acceptable (to some) and a bit more than an assassin. But that doesn't make her non-controversial, which I totally loved. For one, Ardis is running from a difficult past - her mother was a single, Chinese courtesan. Her father is a giant question mark - all she has of his is her sword, Chung Yi (No idea if I'm spelling it right, #audiobookproblems) and a memory of a man with an eagle tattoo. Ardis really reminded me a lot of my favorite UF heroines - fierce and independent - so it's no surprise that I took to her immediately.
I had mixed feelings about Wendel from start to finish, though. I mean, he's a necromancer! How cool is that? Why don't more books have necromancers?!? His powers are hard-core awesome and he says some of the sweetest and most poetic things. But he's incredibly flawed (which makes me like the book more, even if I'm not in love with him). Some of that is his past - being a necromancer is not a good thing (I know, I would have thought it was cool too!) so he's had a bit of a difficult history. And some of it is just that he's annoyingly secretive and selfish. Yeah, sure he's mostly good to Ardis. But you never lose that sense that he's looking out for himself above all else and at all costs.
Another character we see a decent amount of was Constantine. Like Wendel, I'm really back and forth with him. At first, I did not like him at all. But as his character developed, I found him to be very much the nerdy, professor sort. He's a technomancer (again, totally cool!) and that means he's really into his gadgets. Sometimes I think he let his science take priority over people, but I think his heart is in the right place. One development made me feel particularly sorry for him, and softie that I am, I left the book liking him. But we'll see how his character develops.
The Story... I really liked the story for Shadows of Asphodel. The world was really too cool - it combined familiar elements from 1913 with an alternate past where magic is a very real thing. I'm excited to see how the events that led to WWI in real life will develop over the course of this series. We've already seen some familiar historical events and tensions between the nations develop in Shadows of Asphodel along a slightly alternate, yet very familiar, path.
Shadows of Asphodel is my first ever Dieselpunk read and I'm not even sure that's an official genre, but what the hey, it works for me! Basically I think it's steam punk, except that the gadgets are fueled by diesel and not steam. And those gadgets were too cool! You've got everything from airships to automatons! I loved the way technology and magic worked together throughout Shadows of Asphodel, too. Things we sort of recognize took on a whole new life with the added element of magic.
I loved the little details too. We get constant (but not overbearing) reminders that everyone is not speaking English - because we're in Europe. Mostly it's German, which in itself adds an exciting element to the potential arch of the series. The view of Americans (like Ardis) is appropriate to the time. Heck, when things get steamy between Ardis and Wendel there's even mention of "preventatives" rather than condoms. Great attention to detail!
The romance between Ardis & Wendel was a bit off for me. It was basically insta-love, something I'm rarely a fan of. What bothered me was that they're throwing the L word around but not even acting like they're really in love. So why not call it what it is? Lust with strong friendly feelings? Lust is definitely the right L-word to use because these two are rabbits! I'd almost call this a PNR - at least that's how I'd rate the amount of & graphicness of the sexual interaction ;)
The only other thing I'd say is that I definitely drifted at points. The story has a lot of elements and some of them took me too far away from the main story line and I got a bit distracted. I can't put my finger on anything specific, but I know my mind wandered a bit. And when that happens and I don't feel like I missed anything, it probably wasn't necessary.
Concluding Sentiments... I'm really glad Tiffany @ A Tiffyfit's Reading Corner connected me with this series. I love the world and the characters and can't wait for the next book to come to audio!