In exchange for an honest review, I received a free copy of Tales From Ashen Falls from the author when I met him at BristolCon in 2017. It has taken me a while to get to it which has become an in-joke between myself and the author on certain fantasy forums. Well, 15-months later I finally finished reading it!
Tales From Ashes Falls is a pretty enjoyable humour-tinged grimdark novella but it isn’t without its flaws. It is very raw. At 87-pages it features 4 short stories that are all interlinked featuring five main characters. The youthful half-elf battle-mage Melress, his raven familiar inventively named Caw, the bouncer brothers Pock and Cock, and the owner of the Dove’s Head Inn, Dove. For such a short tale the characters were likable and pretty well crafted when taking into consideration the limited page time they were presented. The stories here take place in the same world as Lavender’s full-length novel The Eighth God but I have no idea if any of these characters are included in that narrative.
The first tale is about Melress being kidnapped by a demon-like nursery rhyme villain. The writing style did take me a while to get used to but by the time I started reading the 2nd story The Dove’s Head I appreciated the rhythm and the flow Lavender was presenting. The second tale mainly features Pock and Cock, although they are also present in all 3 of the final stories. They are a pretty unique comedy pairing but some of their interactions do feature gutter-humour and very British slang such as “cock” and “wanker”. Cock loves his pet chickens which I thought was a nice touch for a burly no bullshit bouncer. The stories feature a necromancer and the undead, a wild vicious predator cat wreaking havoc throughout the streets of Ashen Falls, a magical albeit brutal weapon named a ‘spinner’ and also a talking head who is looking for a body to control. It is dark and kooky and I finished this novella in about an hour. The ending has a pretty neat reveal that I’m sure interlinks with Lavender’s other works.
As I previously mentioned, this book is very raw. I’m not sure if it has been edited or had a decent proofreader analyse the text but as a proofreader myself, I found too many glaring errors. There is a great amount of potential in Lavender’s work but spelling the word “leg” as “led” and having a sentence that reads “why did have to be an elf?” as two of many examples, just isn’t good enough. It sometimes threw me out of the flow of the tale. The fact it’s self-published is no longer an excuse as the majority of self-published books I read are at least on par with their traditional published cousins. I’m glad I read this book and will pick up The Eighth God eventually but I might wait until that has had a revamp and edit as reviews of that book have highlighted similar gripes to what I had here. Negatives aside, overall it was a positive reading experience and is worth checking out.