Title: Knight From the Ashes (Crown and Crest Book One)
Publishers/Authors: Shari L. Tapscott and Jake Andrews
Pages: 332pp
Price: $13.99 / $3.99

Centuries ago, human explorers came upon the continent of Caldenbauer. There, they met the elegant and technologically advanced High Vale elves; the antlered Woodmore elves; the agrarian, porcine Boermin; and the tiny, aggressive Dorian gnomes. Relations were peaceful, at first, but soon deteriorated. The High Vale elves enslaved the humans, as they had the Woodmore and Boermin. But four generations ago, the humans rebelled and won their freedom, exiling the High Vale elves to a distant swamp …. Henrik is a knight in service to the ailing King Algernon, determined to escape his life as the son of a blacksmith, earn his seal, and join the ranks of the elite. Clover is a noblewoman, a lady-in-waiting to the vain and cruel Princess Camellia. Unfortunately for Clover, the only way to escape the Princess is to marry above her — and so Clover has her eyes set on the Crown Prince. When Henrik and Clover both find themselves traveling to a northern fortress, they discover an alarming development: the gigantic, monstrous aynauth are migrating south, moving closer to human, Boermin, and Woodmore settlements. Determined to unravel the mystery (Henrik because he wants his seal, Clover because it keeps her away from the poisonous Princess) they travel further and further into the icy mountains, never guessing what they will find … or how their feelings for one another will change and grow ….

I love fantasy, and I love romance. I am not usually one for sweet romance, however. I like a bit of spice. That being said, I was intrigued by the description of Knight From the Ashes, and the reviews were mostly positive. So I decided to give it a shot.

Much to my surprise, I thoroughly enjoyed Knight From the Ashes. The world-building is solid, and familiar, but not derivative. The High Vale elves are snooty, self-important bigots. The Woodmore elves are vegan hippies who just want to live in harmony with nature. The Boermin love to farm, but will take down anyone who dares to call them “hogs.” The Dorian gnomes are quick to anger, but possess a keen sense of justice and self-reliance. And the society that the humans have built in the wake of their rebellion (mostly) encourages equality between the sexes: women can be soldiers and mercenaries, but not sealed knights; sex before marriage seems to be perfectly acceptable, but too many affairs (by men or women) are frowned upon; and the nobility are held to a higher standard of responsibility.

And the characters are just so gosh-darn likable. Henrik could come across as stiff and self-important, but he’s not, at all. He’s smart, honorable, and wants to help people and serve his king. Clover could come across as a shallow snob, but she’s kind and clever, and her desire to marry the Crown Prince comes from her very real need to get away from the very dangerous Princess. As the story progresses, and their circumstances become more precarious, we get to see more of their true personalities come out; not the masks they wear at court.

Knight From the Ashes is a heck of a lot of fun. It is the first book in the Crown and Crest trilogy, and I highly recommend it to anyone looking for a clean fantasy adventure with a touch of romance, as well as fans of Melissa McShane’s The Extraordinaries series, Helen Harper’s City of Magic series, Annie Bellet’s Gryphonpike Chronicles, and No Man of Woman Born by Ana Mardoll.

[Reviewed by Rebecca Buchanan.]

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