Review: Blood & Ash by Deborah Wilde (2020)

The Jezebel Files, Book #1 

Heat Factor: This is some drawn out will they/won’t they business

Character Chemistry: I want them together soooooooooooo badly

Plot: It’s super involved: abductions and political machinations and self-discovery and mysteries to solve

Overall: So it was super fun, but also I do not want to have this relationship business dragged out for four books 

This book is one I guess I passed on when it was an e-galley, but now, because it was an audiobook galley, I grabbed it. I’m really glad I did…with caveats. Actually just one caveat. It’s not really a romance. Everything that should have been present for a romance was there…but there’s really not even a HFN in this relationship. I’m struggling with this a little bit, because I really want Levi and Ash together, but I really do not like to be yanked around for books on end a la Stephanie Plum. But also the book takes place over the course of days, so is it even reasonable that childhood nemeses would get over whatever relationship baggage they have in that time? Probably not in real life, but I WANT MY ROMANCE, AND I DIDN’T GET IT. But the tension between Levi and Ash was LIT. So I’ll probably read the whole dang series just because I want that romance. Well played, Wilde. Well played. 

Anyway, if you’re just here for the romance, you’ll probably want to take a pass.

BUT if you’re here for the urban fantasy, this was delightful. If Wilde is a new to you author, I’m thinking if you’re an Illona Andrews fan, this series would be right up your alley. 

Ashira Cohen, or Ash, is a private investigator who tries to mind her own business, except that she’s been frenemies with the current head of the Magic House of all of Western Canada since childhood. So of course they antagonize each other. Levi also takes his role as the head of his house very seriously, so when Ash bangs her head and can suddenly use magic, he books her for being a rogue magic user. 

Then things start to heat up when, as they’re interrogating her, Ash prevents a “Smudge” (the book’s mysterious Bad Thing) from killing Levi’s best friend (and her own childhood frenemy-by-extension). Because her previously unknown magic is the only thing that can see or destroy the Smudges, Levi decides to bend the rules by making the paperwork for processing her magic get super bogged down, and he hires her to prevent Smudges from wreaking havoc in Vancouver, which would give the anti-magic, racist political party – led by Ash’s mother – fuel for passing anti-magic legislation. 

Okay, so you can see here that I’m trying to summarize in a big way, and there’s a lot going on. Right? The voice is Ash’s 1st person POV, so it’s a little bit edgy and sassy, which is really fun, especially when she gets into scrapes. Of which there are many, from accidentally conjuring a dildo at a fancy fundraiser to arguing with the criminal underground’s Queen of Hearts and her White Rabbit to fighting a room full of golems. Wilde also populates the narrative with numerous pop culture references, from Alice in Wonderland (which comes up before we meet the White Rabbit, so that full circle situation was fun) to Harry Potter to 90s rap and so on. Ash was inspired by Sherlock Holmes, so Holmes and all his relationships come up frequently, from her unreliable car being named Moriarty to her nickname for her best friend being Adler. 

The other fun thing about this book is that it’s steeped in Jewish culture and folklore (please see golems above). In this world, magic appeared when ten men purported to be descendants of the Lost Tribes of Israel, decided to be lazy about practicing Kabbalah, so they decided to skip steps to reach the highest plane of the soul, and magic was born! But it didn’t just impact the ten men, it accidentally spread through the whole world. Whoops! It was nice to have a story not centered in a Western Protestant worldview. 

Because this was an audiobook (which I’ll remind us all that I listen to at 1.5x because listening at 1x sounds like people talking under water), a note on the narration: it was great. Hollie Jackson was the narrator, and she executes the 1st person POV exceptionally well, bringing to live all the vibrancy and sass that is Ash. A good narration totally makes an audiobook, and Jackson was definitely part of the hook for me. 

I voluntarily read and reviewed a complimentary copy of this book. All thoughts and opinions are my own. We disclose this in accordance with 16 CFR §255.

Buy Now: E-book (Amazon) | Audiobook (Amazon) | Paperback (Bookshop)

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