Ashes of Our Joy is the second book in The Epic of Karolan series, by Ari Heinze. (I reviewed the first book, Bright against the Storm, here.)
Ashes of Our Joy tells the gripping story of the war for which Karolan was preparing in Bright against the Storm. In my review of the first book, I said:
“I can only think of this book as a celebration: a celebration of justice, loyalty, faithfulness, beauty, courage, selflessness, and love-- both God's love and the love that because of Him is shown forth among His people.”
In Ashes of our Joy, all that is celebrated in Bright against the Storm comes under attack. The main characters find themselves betrayed by treachery and pitted in a desperate battle for all that they have ever held dear.
Several themes emerge.
One is choices. Life is always full of choices, but in times of great trial, those choices become more important and more difficult. Will the young, newly-wed miner escape with his beloved so that their love might blossom in safety instead of staying to fight for his country and countrymen? Will the old woman remain by her husband’s side, even though it means death? Will the quiet shepherd who abhors violence go to war to protect the peace that he loves so dearly?
Another is the complexity and humanity of every person. The war is not recorded in terms of the villainous invaders versus the righteous defenders. We see individuals on both sides, in all their humanity. Even the most wicked men experience moments of regret, and even the most righteous men experience moments of doubt or weakness.
Another theme: the greatest battles are not always fought with outside enemies. Sometimes the greatest battles are those fought against doubt, despair, or fear. These battles are not always won by those who seem the strongest. A man who is not the greatest warrior may still have great strength.
Lastly, Ashes of Our Joy explores what happens when, despite a person’s greatest efforts, his world, with all its hopes, dreams, and joys, comes crashing down around him. What then?
Bright against the Storm displayed the contrast between the hope of the believer and the hopelessness of the unbeliever to a degree, but that contrast is even starker in Ashes of Our Joy. When all that a believer has worked for seems to have been in vain, he can still trust that God has a plan, and that He can bring good out of even the most horrible circumstances. Knowing that, the believer will seek to do what he can to serve God and to bring healing to the world around him. Even if all he can do is pray, he will do that. Though despair may overtake him at times, it has no lasting power over his heart and soul.
The unbeliever has none of this assurance. What is lost to him, is lost forever. There is no hope of good coming from it. There is no trust in the hand of God governing events. The only possible responses are despair, bitterness, or revenge.
Ashes of Our Joy combines excellent storytelling, compelling characters, suspenseful action, and honest insight to make a story that is both enjoyable and thought-provoking.
To learn more, or purchase the books, see Ari Heinze's website: