Book Review #53: The Ashes of Hope and Hunger by Dawn Jonckowski

Arba never wanted to be a Wife. A wife, maybe, with a lowercase ‘w’ but never a Wife. She’s dreamed of bodice-ripping romance all her life, devouring Earthen books through back alley networks across the universe, but this marriage, all that it entails, it’s nothing like what she wanted.

But her planet is dying and the king won’t let the Global Alliance help. So, it’s up to her and the little baby in her stomach to pave the future.

Except the First Wife, Megai, has different plans. Plans to rule as the planet’s first Queen. And she won’t let Arba, a baby, the Global Alliance, or a ship full of purple people stop her.

**This is a sequel review! You can check out my thoughts on book 1 here.

I’ve got a LOT to say about this book! Let’s see if I can somehow cram it in a review that isn’t too lengthy, lol.

The greatest thing about Dawn’s writing, and I think I’ve said this before, is the freaking layering that she’s able to do. If I thought book 1 (which you can find my review of HERE) was intricate and immersive, then this one is astronomically done. You see, book 1 had multiple POVs, but it was all really the same storyline. Save the planet, save the rebel Dameia loves. But this book?! Book 2?! We’ve got multiple storylines, multiple romances, multiple opportunities for it to be AWESOME.

I won’t cover them all, because I don’t want to spoil the book for anyone who wants to read it, but the balance is, one again, *chef’s kiss*. Right when you get a bit overwhelmed with Vepo and the political drama of the royal family, you get sucked away to Earth to deal with that political drama. Lol. In my opinion, Earth’s political drama is so much better, because we’ve got a new character, Ma’am, who is trying to “stick it to the man” and take down the Global Alliance. I am always down for a good Us vs. The Government plotline. lol

But you can’t have a review of the plot without discussing the romantic plotlines too! We’ve got a new couple this time around! Arba reaches out, via the intergalactic medical network, to a doctor on Earth for advice about her pregnancy. But she meets sweet little Xanth, a healer from Tav who’s just trying to adjust to life on the cold planet. And the way they meet and struggle to keep it professional, only able to talk over messages–It’s just perfect. And it’s so innocent.

Overall, because I feel like I’m rambling at this point: The multi-layered plot was amazingly done and I was 100% upset when it ended. Dawn has won me over to the 3rd person POV at this point.

I loved seeing all our favorite characters again! It was like a family reunion! Seeing Dameia and Hyam’s relationship fluctuate in the public spotlight, seeing them blossom when faced with adversity, was amazing. I enjoyed the realism of their relationship and neither of them wanting to be entirely honest for fear of hurting their partner.

But the real stars of this book are Arba and Xanth. Arba is a polar opposite of composed and regal Dameia. And that’s okay! Arba did what she had to do for her planet, but I was glad to see her start to do things for herself towards the end of the book. She’s capable, but we’ve got to build her self-confidence up, and I think Xanth can help with that. Xanth is like the alien equivalent to a cinnamon roll (except when it comes to Arba), and that’s another one of my favorite relationships. No spoilers! None! But it’s so stinkin’ hard, y’all.

Lastly, on characters, I can’t forget our favorite humans. Captain Woolsey is back, breaking rules and being a BA. I want her to have her romance, and I’m pretty sure I’ll get it eventually BUT in the meantime, I love how strong and independent she is. Then there’s Winnie, who is just hilarious and makes me constantly snort as I’m reading. I particularly loved her scenes with the basement nerds and all their Mountain Dews, lol. Then, you’ve got Behr, who is a great second in command. Again, if Dawn is excellent at plotting, then she deserves a freaking award for characterization.

I love, love, love this series, and I cannot WAIT to see what book 3 has in store. Especially after that stupid, stupid cliff hanger at the end.

Some Quotes I Loved
“Winnie had given very animated instructions on deactivating the chips inside that involved the highly technical terms “big-ass magnet” and “just jiggle it around for a bit.””

(It’s the moment behind this one that got me, lol) ““Stay with me?” she asked. Quiet.”

“Maybe he’d never found the right hue of violet on Tav to quicken his heartbeat because he’d been waiting for blue-grey.”

Final Ratings
Overall Rating: 5/5! Which is odd for a middle book! I cannot wait to see how this trilogy finishes.
Pacing: A touch slow in the beginning, but necessary.
Intended Audience: Anyone who loves their sci-fi with a touch of swoony, sweet romance.
Content Warnings: Well, there is some… Well, I’m not sure how to put it, but it’s not horrible. Arba didn’t want to be a wife, but she definitely didn’t want the honeymoon, if that makes sense. But it wasn’t violent or anything. 

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