Drive-By Review & C*ntest: #YA ASHES OF TWILIGHT by Kassy Tayler

Welcome to the inaugural “Drive-By Review.” It’s my way of passing along books in my TBR Pile on Steroids to you, the reader. I read the first 50 or so pages of a novel (might be new, might be not-so-new), tell you what I like or didn’t like, and give it a grade of A (wish I had time to finish it, and resent that I have so little reading time these days); B (I’m not head-over-heels but I am interested enough to keep going); or C (I’d keep reading but there are some red flags for me). If it’s a DNF (see yesterday’s post), I won’t cover it at all.
So, today’s book, chosen at random from my pile, is ASHES OF TWILIGHT, a dystopian YA novel from author Kassy Tayler, released in mid-November by St. Martin’s. 

About ASHES OF TWILIGHT: Wren MacAvoy works as a coal miner for a domed city that was constructed in the mid-nineteenth century to protect the royal blood line of England when astronomers spotted a comet on a collision course with Earth. Humanity would be saved by the most groundbreaking technology of the time. But after nearly 200 years of life beneath the dome, society has become complacent and the coal is running out.  Plus there are those who wonder, is there life outside the dome or is the world still consumed by fire? When one of Wren’s friends escapes the confines of the dome, he is burned alive and put on display as a warning to those seeking to disrupt the dome’s way of life. But Alex’s final words are haunting. “The sky is blue.” What happens next is a whirlwind of adventure, romance, conspiracy and the struggle to stay alive in a world where nothing is as it seems. Wren unwittingly becomes a catalyst for a revolution that destroys the dome and the only way to survive might be to embrace what the entire society has feared their entire existence.

Drive-By Review: So, no secret here: I like a good dystopian story and am longing for an adult dystopian to knock off my socks. This one is YA, as many of them are now, but I liked it. It surprised me with the richness and sophistication of its worldbuilding.
First, our main character, Wren, is a coal miner, part of a “lower class” of people who work and live belowground. They’re known as “shiners” because their eyes have over the generations adapted to low-light conditions and they have a funny, silvery cast to them. Wren likes to slip aboveground—something most shiners won’t do because of the danger, so she’s a witness when one of her close friends tries to escape the dome and tells her, as he’s dying, that he saw blue sky outside. All their lives, she and her parents and grandparents have been told the world outside the dome has been destroyed by a comet and that anyone who goes out will burn up. A minor negative—there was a lot of worldbuilding crammed into these early chapters so it could have moved along faster.
Because of its time-warp quality—the Dome was built in the late 1800s and so “technology” is coal- and steam-driven, there’s a steampunkish element to it but not enough to really qualify it as steampunk, at least not in the first 58 pages.
There’s a touch of romance, but not too much since this is YA, and Wren is a likeable, spunky character, although she does tend to stay inside her head a lot, voicing doubt after doubt. Also, there’s a secondary mystery building because Wren doesn’t know who her father is and there are hints that it will turn out to be a game-changer at some point in the story.
Kassy Tayler writes in present tense, which took a little while to get used to and gave the narrative a bit of awkwardness at first, but by twenty or so pages in, I didn’t notice it anymore.
As I finished reading on page 58, I found I really regretted not being able to go on, so I give this book an unqualified “A!” I hope the rest of it lives up to the promises; other reviews have been mixed.
I have two copies of ASHES OF TWILIGHT to give away—one is an ARC and one is a final copy. Leave a comment to enter…what’s your favorite dystopian story? (Or post-apocalyptic?) John Barnes’ Daybreak Zero is probably my favorite from among those I’ve read the last couple of years. If you’ve read Ashes of Twilight, what did you think of it—did the rest of it live up to the promise of the first 58 pages?

19 thoughts on “Drive-By Review & C*ntest: #YA ASHES OF TWILIGHT by Kassy Tayler

  1. Nice! ASHES OF TWILIGHT is in my TBR as well. I may have to bump it up based on this drive by, though. You’ve piqued my interest! (This one was found hiding in my office, which means I kind of forgot I had it.)

    And I agree, I’ve also been waiting for a great adult dystopian. I’ll make due with the YA for now (some of it is fabulous!).

    Fave post-apocalyptic or dystopian: right now it would have to be Julianna Baggott’s PURE.

  2. I haven’t read all that many dystopian novels…though the whole Mad Max movie franchise was a hit with me back in the days before Mel lost his marbles…

    I loved the Hunger Games trilogy

  3. I love dystopian. In fact it is my favorite genre in YA. Like you Suzanne, I’m still looking for an adult dystopian!!!

    My favorite dystopian story is Ann Aguirre Razorland serie (enclave, Outpost, etc) and Kresley Cole Poison Princess.

    +1 comment

  4. This one must go on my wishlist even though it’s present tense!
    And you probably probably won’t be surprised when I tell you The Hallowed Ones by Laura Bickle is my favorite Dystopian/Apocalyptic book. Although I also LOVE Ann Aguirre’s Enclave and Outpost and recently fell in love with Ashes by Ilsa J. Bick.

  5. My favorite dystopian at the current moment is Chosen Ones by Tiffany Truitt. 🙂

  6. My favorite is It Can’t Happen Here by Sinclair Lewis. Not very many people seem to have heard of or read it, but for me it was one of the most realistic dystopias I’d ever read.

  7. thanks for the great review! I definitely am going to have to check out this book 🙂 I just read and loved the Insurgent series by Veronica Roth.

  8. I’ve enjoyed quite a few dystopian/post-apocalyptic stories in the past. A couple I’ve liked are Sophie Littlefield’s Aftertime, Ellen Connor’s Dark Age Dawning series and Joss Ware’s Envy Chronicles series.

  9. My favorite dystopian has to be Ashfall by Susan Ee – one of the very few books I gave 10 out of 10. If you talk about post-apocalyptic, it’s Newsflesh series by Mira Grant. One of the most chilling and intense books I’ve ever read is Feed. I was gulping down tears when I was finishing reading it…
    Ashes of Twilight is on my wishlist as well!

  10. Gaaahhhhh!!!! This book has been on my wish list for so, soooo long – way back even before the cover was revealed and it was basically just a blurb!! (speaking of, don’t you just LOVE this cover?!?!) I just think this book sounds spectacular! I love love LOVE dystopian and post-apocalyptic stories – though most of what I’ve read recently is definitely YA. I did buy Sophie Littlefield’s Aftertime recently when it was super-cheap for Kindle, as I’ve heard great things, and that one is adult. I also got Feed by Mira Grant, which Kara-Karina mentioned above, also having heard great reviews. (Now, to find the time to read them…) OH I also got a used copy of Jonathan Maberry’s Patient Zero, also an adult read.

    What I’ve actually READ within the past year that I really liked are Mystic City (loved!), Divergent & Insurgent (also loved! V Roth is amazing at building up suspense, in my opinion!), and Across the Universe by Beth Revis (yes, it takes place in space, on board a ship, but that IS the dystopia). I also agree with Sullivan McPig (o_O) above – I simply loved The Hallowed Ones by Laura Bickle!!! Honestly, I thought I was way past the point of being scare-able these days after everything I’ve lived through as I near 40, but HOLY SHIZZ that book scared the crap outta me!! It was SO. GOOD. And I can’t wait til Sept for the next one! (That one is more of a post-apocalyptic than dystopia…or perhaps just apocalyptic, sans “post”!!)

    Hands down, my absolute FAVORITE post-apocalyptic novels are THE STAND by Stephen King and THE PASSAGE by Justin Cronin. Both also scared the daylights out of me when I read them (albeit many, many years apart). I have not yet read THE TWELVE by Cronin because I want to read THE PASSAGE again first, as it’s been quite some time since I read it….alas, I’m not sure how realistic that is, given my first paragraph and the fact that those books are a mere fraction of a fraction of a percent of all the books I own 🙂 (all *unread* books, I should be clear, since I almost never keep books…) SIGH… clearly I need to go back and read your post from earlier this week about the out-of-control TBR pile, as I can certainly commiserate… mine is actually a TBR Mountain Range… and on that note, I must leave you and GO READ!!

    Thanks as always, Suzanne, for having such a great blog that I just wanna spend all my time here and apparently tell you my life story in a comment 😉 SORRY for the length of this one!!! There are just some topics that get me going….