Only Ashes Remain by Rebecca Schaeffer

I received this book for free from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

Only Ashes Remain by Rebecca SchaefferOnly Ashes Remain by Rebecca Schaeffer
Series: Market of Monsters #2
Published by HMH BFYR on September 3, 2017
Genres: Fantasy, Urban Fantasy, Paranormal, Horror
Pages: 432
Format: eARC
Source: NetGalley
AmazonThe Book Depository

Dexter meets Victoria Schwab in this dark and compelling fantasy about a girl who seeks revenge on the boy who betrayed her, a sequel to the critically-acclaimed Not Even Bones.

After escaping her kidnappers and destroying the black market where she was held captive, all Nita wants is to find a way to live her life without looking over her shoulder. But with a video of her ability to self-heal all over the dark web, Nita knows she's still a prime target on the black market. There's only one way to keep herself safe. Nita must make herself so feared that no one would ever dare come after her again. And the best way to start building her reputation? Take her revenge on Fabricio, the boy who sold Nita to her kidnappers. But killing Fabricio is harder than Nita thought it would be, even with Kovit by her side. Now caught in a game of kill or be killed, Nita will do whatever it takes to win.

Not Even Bones was a surprise hit with me last year, gruesome and disgusting and 100% unputdownable. Much as I enjoyed it, I wasn’t sure how the sequel would hold up or even if I’d still enjoy it on reread. Answer: yes, I would enjoy it again on reread, because I very much did. Only Ashes Remain delivers exactly what was needed from a sequel to Not Even Bones. The stakes are higher, the morality is blacker, and the pacing is still fast as hell.

It’s strange that I genuinely enjoy these books, because they are, by every logical measure, not Christina books. They’re not romantic and they’re not fluffy. I mean, there is romance sort of but the story’s not about that, which is good given the nature of the book. In a year (or four years) in which I’ve been struggling to read anything that’s not light and happy, I devoured the heck out of these incredibly morbid books that focus on the absolute worst of humanity. But it’s almost like they manage to be comforting in their own way because at least everything’s fucked in a completely different way? I don’t know, but they do work for me somehow.

But for real, these books are gross. Expect constant grisly murders and injuries that are even more disgusting to contemplate. Every bit of it will be described in great, graphic detail. I spend so much of these books cringing in horror and making faces that I’m sure are absolutely hilarious for anyone in the room at the time. Thankfully, I don’t think anyone was around when I read these.

Second book syndrome doesn’t show up anywhere in this book. Honestly, the pacing of these books is next level. They don’t let you rest for a moment. There’s always danger and death and drama at all turns. Only Ashes Remain picks up right where Not Even Bones left off, with Nita being reintroduced to Fabricio. Let’s just say that she does not take it well. Their fake-friendly interactions are one of my favorite parts of this book, because they’re putting on a front for the government agents.

Nita’s goals in Only Ashes Remain are as follows: kill Fabricio, kill everyone who comes to catch her so they can sell her, and prove she doesn’t need her mom to take care of her anymore. In case you can’t tell from this list, Nita’s morals have shifted quite a bit from where she was at the start of book one, where she was merely your friendly neighborhood sociopath obsessed with dissecting.

Seriously, though, the moral blackness of this series is absolutely the best. It’s psychologically fascinating at all points. The whole thing dissects the idea of monsters and what makes someone a monster. Both Nita and Kovit are positive the other one is more of a monster. Nita’s mother, who seemed like the scariest psychopath in book one, seems almost cuddly in Only Ashes Remain. Nita and Kovit are the products of what has happened to them, and Nita’s morality is constantly shifting in response to what she has had to do to survive. Sometimes fictional characters go through constant terrible stuff but remain unchanged and unaffected, but that doesn’t happen here. You can see Nita change moment to moment. The differences are starkest in her interactions with others and how much less terrifying people who previously seemed like monsters now are in comparison.

I could take or leave the romance of sorts between Kovit and Nita. I definitely don’t ship it, because dear god how could you. However, I do find their friendship dynamics fascinating, and the romantic element is merely another complication in their relationship. Given that they both lack empathy and struggle with finer feelings, it’s certainly interesting to watch them deal with one another.

It’s such a strange series for me, because you don’t really know what to root for, and while I love the characterization, obviously you don’t love the characters because everyone’s a murdering psychopath. But if you enjoy books that are morally dark, dark grey and you can handle a bit of gore and you find psychology fascinating, I’d recommend these heartily.

Tl;dr – Review in a GIFfy:

One response to “Only Ashes Remain by Rebecca Schaeffer”

  1. Leah says:

    I LOVED Not Even Bones. My book club had ARCs of Only Ashes Remain and I am still surprised that the book has been in my possession for a month and I still haven’t read it.
    Leah recently posted…{Top Ten Tuesday} Spotlight on My Favorite Archetypes & TropesMy Profile

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