7/10 – I received an uncorrected proof copy of Every Sky a Grave in exchange for an honest review. Thank you to Jay Posey and Harper Voyager. Review was originally posted at Grimdark Magazine.
In Every Sky a Grave we follow Elyth, an agent for the First House of the Ascendance. This female-only order regulates the galaxy and keeps peace and harmony throughout. When a planet’s path deviates from what the authorities desire then an operative is sent to do a task. Their objective is to use the Deep Langauge, the greatest of all the Ascendance’s technologies, to assassinate the planet. Elyth uses these words of power to bring forth the assigned planet’s destruction. Upon completing her mission on Revik, she is urgently called back to base and given a crucial follow-up mission. This task, which takes Elyth to the planet of Qel, makes up the lion’s share of the action that takes place in Every Sky a Grave.
Elyth is a model agent for the First House of the Ascendance. She is highly trained and experienced in stealth, reading people, manipulating situations, combat, and with the Deep Language. She is a true believer of the First House’s cause. When upon Qel, her mission does not go to plan at all. When events go a bit haywire Elyth has to use analyse the strange scenarios and improvise on the assignment that isn’t like any that she has completed before. There is a mysterious and powerful entity on or surrounding the planet, and that something, or maybe the planet itself, may not give in to Elyth’s words of power and doom.
Every Sky a Grave, the first novel in The Ascendance Series, was my first time reading anything by Jay Posey. The intriguing premise won me over completely, I think the cover is beautiful, and the publicist presented it as science fiction for fans of Mark Lawrence. Every Sky a Grave does have a planet-hopping science fiction Book of the Ancestor vibe to it. Like Nona, Elyth is the sole third-person point of view perspective and she operates for a female-only assassin/warrior establishment. Similar to Lawrence, Posey is a skilled wordsmith who creates excellent imagery, presents quality and exciting set-pieces and makes me truly empathise with his protagonist throughout. Even if she is stubborn, headstrong and blindly dedicated to her role in First House of the Ascendance. I enjoyed following her patterns of thinking when dealing with a scenario or drama.
I had a mostly positive experience when reading Every Sky a Grave. It took me a while to get into though and some of the chapters in the first half of the novel dragged and seemed overly descriptive, including the opening segment. Throughout the second half, I didn’t have this problem but it may be that whilst reading I became attuned to Posey’s style, just embraced it and enjoyed the ride. The chapters tend to be between 20-35 minutes long so I always made sure that I had at least that time set aside so that I wouldn’t be rushed and could relish what was being presented.
We spend a fair amount of the narrative’s time in Elyth’s head as she is alone but the novel also includes some fine supporting players. The Paragon of the First House is a great character who has been extremely influential in Elyth’s upbringing yet my favourite character is someone who I can’t really mention or describe here without potentially mentioning something that might take away from the reading experience. All I will say is that they were an absolute pleasure to read about and their interactions with Elyth were sometimes humorous, often thought-provoking, but always had me glued to the page.
Every Sky a Grave, although the first in a series, works perfectly well as a standalone. The last 25% to the ending is terrific and takes the novel from a steady 3 to a strong 4-star rating for me. What could come in the next books is exciting and there are a lot of possibilities. I believe I will check out the sequel as I am interested to see what is next for Elyth after the knowledge gained, and the revelations and events witnessed here. Every Sky is a Grave is an intriguing and entertaining read for those who wish to follow the adventure of an assassin of worlds. Even with the sections that dragged to me, I raced through the 400 or so pages in 4 days. Recommended.