From the Ashes by Xen Sanders (Fires of Redemption #1)
Released: January 2, 2017
M/M Paranormal Romance
Reviewed by Mandi
First of all, I really liked this book. Before I get into it though, let me say it is a rerelease from a book titled, From the Ashes by Adrien-Luc Sanders released in 2012.
The blurb completely drew me into this one:
Sociopath. Killer. Deviant.
Monster, devoid of morals, incapable of human emotion. The villain known as Spark has been called this and more, and as a super-powered aberrant has masterminded countless crimes to build his father’s inhuman empire. Yet to professor Sean Archer, this fearsome creature is only Tobias Rutherford–antisocial graduate researcher, quiet underachiever, and a fascinating puzzle Sean is determined to solve.
But one kiss leads to an entanglement that challenges everything Tobias knows about himself, aberrants, and his own capacity to love. When his father orders him to assassinate a senator, one misstep unravels a knot of political intrigue that places the fate of humans and aberrants alike in Tobias’s hands. As danger mounts and bodies pile higher, will Tobias succumb to his dark nature and sacrifice Sean–or will he defy his father and rise from the ashes to become a hero in a world of villains?
And Spark or his regular name, Tobias lives up to the blurb. This is a world where there are humans and humans who also have a gene that sets them apart from regular humans. Called aberranst, they have different abilities – Tobias has the power of electricity. Others can control water, or wind etc.. In general, they use their power for evil, all under the control of the big bad guy, and Tobias’s father, General Infernus Blaze:
My name is Tobias Rutherford, and I am the instrument of mankind’s destruction.
To the human world, to my father, I have only one name: Spark. I suppose it’s a fitting name for the son and second-in-command of the world’s most feard villain: The Lord High General Infernus Blaze.
That all sounds very dramatic, and in a way it is but the story isn’t all big theatrics and over the top evil. There are some very quiet, dark, introspective scenes in this book that left an impact with me. But this evil General is no joke – using Tobias’s powers and others, Blaze literally wiped out Cambodia, Malaysia, Thailand and Vietnam. He created a new land called Xinth, where you either bow to his rule, or you die. Tobias grew up knowing he was an aberrant, and knowing he had no choice but to commit these awful acts. He doesn’t feel and lives a very lonely life, doing the bidding of his father. Humans are terrified of Aberrants, and while the government is busy trying to pass legislation to somehow control them, Blaze sets up Tobias to undermine them at every turn. Currently, Tobias is studying for his doctorate and working at a lab, carefully ruining any research his lab employer, Dr. Langdon, is doing that gets him close to anything to do with aberrant DNA.
Tobias starts to become conflicted though – he develops feelings for a human professor, Sean Archer – a mysterious and quiet man who develops a relationship with Tobias. They both have secrets, and they both have lustful, passionate thoughts about the other. Tobias knows getting involved with a human is very dangerous, as he is pretending to be human himself.
I can’t afford to let anyone too close. One casual slip, and it’s over. My first year in the States, a lab assistant caught me using my abilities to interface with the campus intranet and access Dr. Langdon’s personnel files, class schedule, and records of his grant appilications. Hiding the corpse wasn’t easy. Harder still was removing the fingerprints, and the teeth.
The face was already burned well beyond recognition. A hundred thousand volts at point-blank range will do that.
In case you were wondering, our hero Tobias crosses some moral lines. An anti-hero, a villainous hero? That would be a safe bet. Can a man who has done these horrible acts be redeemed? I think he is to an extent in this story. He does these acts because his horrible father raised him thinking his aberrant gene drives him to violence. As the story progresses, he learns about the world from other sources than his father, and things start to change.
Sean brings out a side in Tobias he craves for .
Sean Archer haunts me.
I think, if you were ever in that situation, you might change your mind.
Would I? I’ve always know my path. Maybe it isn’t what humans consider right, but it’s the only path I have. Fight. Conquer. Kill..or be exterminated. I’ve never had to wonder, never had to question if there was any other way. My father defined my destiny before my birth. He will created his empire – and when he passes, I will rule in his stead.
Yet as I lay in bed, staring at the ceiling, I see only those pretty red lips asking a question I can never answer.
As he gets to know Sean, he starts to learn things about himself. His extreme loneliness becomes even more unbearable. The fact he can’t change the way his life is – feeling that due to being an aberrant, and the son of the General, there is no way out. And besides being different because he is an aberrant, he also deals with racism for having brown skin and passing as a human:
I’m an aberrant, Sean. I’m an aberrant and I can never tell you, and I feel alien in so many fucking ways when even people who think I’m human see me as inferior just for being brown.
You can’t comfort that.
You can’t fix any of it.
This book is so well written – so intriguing and engaging. I do think the world outside of Tobias’s immediate circle, is hazy – We are told that Blaze has done these horrible acts, but it was hard for me to see it. To see how an average human sees his or her world – is there constant fear of aberrants? Are they more in the background? Are humans still cocky around them etc? I would have liked a better glimpse into the world. But beyond that, this story is excellent. The romance between Tobias and Sean is passionate, yet held back in a way because Tobias knows he can’t get too close. There is a high angst level and you can feel his hurt. The fact that he has killed so many and the question of nature vs nurture – is he designed to kill and to feel nothing? Then why does he fall in love with Sean? Does the government have the right to kill or abort or torture aberrants just because of their DNA? This is all brought up, but the author keeps the story moving and puts in action and romance so that it never gets super weighted down.
I wouldn’t call this a novella, but it is a faster read. I really hope because this has been rereleased, that we are going to get a series out of it – I’d love to revisit this world.