As part of indie month, I've decided to continue looking into some overlooked gems from the self-published and small press pile. In this case, Follow the Ashes is the first book of the Executioner Trilogy. The best way to describe it would be to imagine a 90s cable occult cable show like Highlander: The Series or Forever Knight, starring a vaguely Buffy-esque woman, her brooding monster boyfriend, and her psychic roommate. Okay, that's mostly Buffy right there but it's played a lot more seriously with an adult protagonist.
Buffy the Vampire Slayer created an entire swath of fiction which I'm quite fond of--a hundred or more attractive women who hunt monsters while dating one themselves. I met my wife on the Anita Blake forums before that series transformed into erotica and I still need to finish the Cat and Bones books. Kindra Sowder's debut novel isn't quite up there and things are played a little too straight but I liked the characters, the earnestness of the premise, and the shocking twist at the end.
Gutsy move, Kindra.
I did not see that coming.
The premise is Robin is the Executioner, one of the many women chosen throughout history to slay the vampires, demons, and children of Lilith. Kindra doesn't waste any time by having Robin's first major opponent be the Mother of All Demons herself. Assisted by the mysterious Gordon, who is totally not a brooding hunky vampire who only feeds on evil people, and the aforementioned psychic roommate Beth--she hunts monsters.
I'm going to have to remove a point from the book for indicating Lilith and her popular mythology story (refusing to lie under Adam so being cursed by God) being mentioned as being in the Bible. That was a bit of a research failure on Kindra's part but I can chalk it up to her heroine not exactly being well educated on the subject of theology versus folklore. I also cringed at the use of the word Gypsy rather than Romani but there's no other major stereotypes there.
There's not much to say, per se, about the plot as it's mostly set up. Lilith is after the Executioner and wants to avenge her many children, Gordon comes in all mysterious and romantic, Beth provides helpful tips, and there's a surprise visit by her much-loathed religious fundamentalist father. It's all a bit paint-by-the-numbers but that doesn't mean bad. It makes the aforementioned twist all the more exciting and the end elevate the material. I should mention if this was a television show on during the Nineties, I would have had it on VHS and probably read a bunch of fanfic regarding it.
Robin is almost terminally likable and while the story never rises beyond fun melodrama, it never offends either and I happened to like the other leads too. This is a book worth its $2.99 price of purchase and I am reading the sequel.