28 May 2019

Review || Ash Kickers by Sean Grigsby




It's dragons vs firefighters vs the Phoenix in the scorching fantasy sequel to Smoke Eaters.

With ex-firefighter Cole Brannigan in command of the Smoke Eaters, the dragon menace is under control. Thanks to non-lethal Canadian tech, the beasts are just tranquilized and locked up. But for Tamerica Williams, a job filled with action and danger has become routine. She's so bored she nearly gets her whole team killed, and Brannigan has to step in. When a new threat emerges, the legendary bird of fire - the Phoenix - spreading fire like a plague and whipping dragons into a frenzy, it's a perfect task for Williams, but killing the Phoenix just brings it back stronger. Is that too much excitement, even for Williams?






  


I struggle with the fictional portrayal of firefighting. You see, I'm married to a firefighter. Over the years, I've become one of those people who pick apart shows when firefighters are represented. I couldn't even get past the first five minutes of Chicago Fire without yelling at the tv multiple times. I hate the dramatizing and romancing of the fire life. It couldn't be further from the truth. I'm the same way when it comes to written fiction so when I saw Ash Kickers I almost passed it by, expecting the same. I'm so glad I didn't because this book was awesome!

Ash Kickers is less about firefighting than it is dragon fighting. It's a scaly new world out there. Dragons suddenly appeared on the landscape doing what dragons do and wreaking fiery havoc. In response to the emergence, the smoke eaters were formed and new ways of fighting fire —and the beasts causing them— created. To add insult to injury, they all can shoot electromagnetic pulses, knocking out the equipment used to capture them. Capture...er, what? Yup, see they've found that dragon blood saves lives so the smartest thing to do is capture them and contain them. They've also discovered that people killed by dragons become wraiths. Dragons need wraiths to protect their ash nests, adding a ghostly guard dog aspect to dueling dragons.  There are so many layers to this world building. Various dragon types, almost like kaiju spawning, come with their own elemental strengths and attacks. And we haven't even talked about the big mamma jamma - the Phoenix, or the people spontaneously erupting into flames, or even what makes the smoke eaters special.

Speaking of smoke eaters, enter our MC Tamerica Williams. She's lost the thrill that comes with her job and starts taking chances that put her whole team on the line. Instead of punishing her, she's promoted to Captain. There's so much to like about this character. She's strong but still vulnerable. A leader but one still suffering from doubt and concern for her team. She does take some stupid chances but in the chaos and fire, it's easy to judge from the outside looking in. Secondary characters were also well written. Tamerica's team, Afu Kekoa and Dynamite Patrice Johnson, bring some much needed comic relief to the front line. 

While Ash Kickers is a sequel, it can certainly be read as a standalone. You can bet that I'll be picking up the first in the series, Smoke Eaters, at a later date. With great characters and an incredible ever-expanding SFF world, Ash Kickers keeps you turning the pages to find out what happens next to Captain Tamerica Williams and her team. My only disappointment is the throw on the brakes, cliff hanger ending, but it only sets the scene for a third in the series, and who can be upset with that?