Book Review: Air and Ash by Alex Lidell

Book Synopsis

Master and Commander meets Tamora Pierce in a seafaring adventure of duty, love, magic, and a princess’s quest to protect her kingdom on her own terms.

After a lifetime of training, seventeen-year-old Princess Nile Greysik, a lieutenant on the prestigious Ashing navy flagship, sails into battle with one vital mission—and fails. 

Barred from the sea and facing a political marriage, Nile masquerades as a common sailor on the first ship she can find. With a cowardly captain, incompetent crew, and a cruel, too-handsome first officer intent on making her life a living hell, Nile must hide her identity while trying to turn the sorry frigate battleworthy. Worse, a terrifying and forbidden magic now tingles in Nile’s blood. If anyone catches wind of who Nile is or what she can do, her life is over. 

But when disaster threatens the ship, Nile may have no choice but to unleash the truth that will curse her future. 

AIR AND ASH is the thrilling first installment of the TIDES series. Recommended for fans of Sarah J. Maas, Tamora Pierce, and Naomi Novik. 

4 Stars!

I received a copy from the author in exchange for an honest review.

It may have taken me an abnormally long amount of time to get through this book, but Air and Ash by Alex Lidell is well worth the read! A swashbuckling tale of magic and adventure on the high seas, this tale will be sure to sweep you off your feet – or out of the rigging as may be – and carry you along on our heroine’s story in a rather Tamora Pierce-esque manner. I may have put this book aside in the beginning because I *thought* I could see where it was going and was not super impressed. I could not have been more wrong! I love when authors surprise me and go a completely different direction than I anticipated, and this is one of those cases.

Like many stories these days, our story begins with a princess. In additional to wanting to find a cure for her Gifted brother, Princess Nile has not plans to enter into the marriage her parents are arranging for her. Things take a turn for the worse when her father, the king, bans her from returning to the sea after a disastrous shipwreck – witnessed in the opening scene of the book. And so the story begins.

While the majority of the story is contained on a ship, Lidell does a wonderful job of creating a realistic, unique, and vivid world, complete with politics and hierarchies both on the ship and in the countries making up the world. Add to that the unique magic of the worlds. I loved the descriptions of the different types of magic, along with the intricacies of how they all worked and the descriptions of how they effect the Gifted.

The plot was fairly straightforward, yet it did have a few surprising twists and turns. I will say that I did not see the ending coming and I expected a completely different outcome. I was also pleasantly surprised that there was no romance for the majority of the book! The story seemed to gain its footing about halfway in. I’m still not a huge fan of the beginning, which was a bit predictable.

The characters were wonderfully unique. Nile’s experiences throughout the story felt real and believable. Her behavior seemed true to her character, and yet I did get frustrated with her at times. In retrospect, she is a teenage girl who in all likelihood would make some less than stellar decisions due to her age, experience, and situation. While she did mess up, more than once, she made the decisions she thought best at the time given the information that she had. There isn’t much more we can ask of a person.

I’m still on the fence about Dominic and Catsper. They were interesting, fairly well-rounded characters, but I don’t really feel that I truly know them yet other than their interactions with Nile. I’ll be interested to see how they grow throughout the rest of the series.

Overall, I highly recommend Air and Ash to anyone looking for a fun adventure on the high seas. Fans of Daughter of the Pirate King will love this story as well! Don’t be silly like me and discount the story early on. It’s worth finishing!

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