A Curse of Ash and Embers, the first book in Jo Surrier’s new series The Blackbone Witches, is a wonderfully engaging excursion into a magical realm of witches and fantastical creatures. Set in a medieval, bucolic world, it is a timeless story of self-discovery and personal growth; overcoming the negative identities other people try to force on you. Elodie never expected to leave her family, even though her stepfather was constantly denigrating her and her mother never once came to her defense. She loved her younger siblings and assumed she would just live out her simple existence there. They were all surprised when one day she received a surprise directive indicating she had been hired as a servant at Black Oak Cottage. Unbeknownst to Elodie, this was the home of a notorious witch, Gyssha Blackbone, and a purveyor of dark magic. But once she leaves she vows to never return home and prove her step-father’s assumptions about her true.
A Curse of Ash and Embers is both well written and entertaining with many suspenseful and action-packed moments. Elodia’s new mistress, Aleida just recently killed her evil and deranged mistress, Gyssha, and is a wonderful contrast to Elodia insecure and demure nature. She is also the catalyst to developing a more snarky and strong Elodia. Elodia’s unassured moments are authentic and help emphasize the idea that we all struggle with self-doubt, while giving us an opportunity to follow her transformation into a strong and capable young lady. Most teens, however, will not even realize they are being encouraged with wonderful life lessons as they will be too engrossed with the hunt to end the dark magic, in the form of outlandish creatures, left behind after Aleida killed her sinister mistress, Gyssha. A Curse of Ash and Embers is a totally teen appropriate story but Jo’s storytelling makes it enjoyable for all ages.