In Inheritance of Ashes by Leah Bobet is fantastic in the true sense of the word. Bobet’s unrestrained imagination deftly fashions an odd but remarkable story in a world that is beautiful and barely comprehensible.
The story opens as a war against the Wicked God Southward ends and the men who have gone to fight begin returning home, victorious but damaged. At Roadstead Farm, Hallie and her older sister, Marthe, await the return of Thom, Marthe’s partner and the father of her unborn child. The burden of running the farm rests heavily on the sisters, and tensions rise as each passing day dampens the hope that Thom will return and bring with him the normalcy, happiness, and love that both girls crave.
Despite their childhood closeness, the sisters are haunted by a family history rife with feuding siblings. Both women live and work on the farm, but as the elder sister, only Marthe holds ownership of the property. Hallie fears that, like her uncle before her, she will be kicked off the farm if she cannot pull her weight or if Marthe tires of her. The rift between them steadily grows as they work the land in silence.
As the weeks crawl by with no sign of Thom, it becomes clear that the war between the humans and the Wicked God isn’t really over. Twisted Things, animal-monster soldiers of the Wicked God, begin appearing across the countryside. For protection, Hallie and Marthe hire an enigmatic veteran who calls himself Heron and claims to bear the knife that killed the Wicked God. Then the Twisted Things come to Roadstead Farm.
Readers stand on the edge of understanding as the tale, heavy with atmosphere and unknowing, unfolds. The setting is mysterious – is this a post-apocalyptic North America? A multi-dimensional science-fiction world? A fantasy realm where magic and gods truly exist? All of the above?
To Bobet’s credit, clarity of setting becomes less important when measured against the strong heart of the story: Hallie’s coming of age. The core elements the author neatly weaves together, including themes of family, the true meaning of home, community, unfailing friendship, and love, have Hallie shedding her family’s history of festering anger and growing into her own person, ready to forgive, forget, and save the farm her own way.
Despite the constant threat and intense emotion in the story, the narrative’s pace is unhurried and, at times, Hallie’s reflective, poetic narration meanders as she leads readers through this touching yet eerie read.