Mary Gentle
Ash Cover

Ash: A Secret History


Holy crap.

This really is a book and a half. At least. At some 1100 pages it could be used as one of the many medieval weapons described in the book. I had expected this book to be completely ordinary, but instead it completly blindsides me with its delightful complexity.

There's at least three main threads in this book. The main one is the story of Ash, the mercenary captain, in the mid to late 1400s. This is part alternative history and part (light) fantasy. It's gory, gruesome, violent, dirty, darkly humourous, stark and jam-packed with war and Ash' relationships with those around her and herself. There's surprising depth to some of the characters, and the story is unpredictable as it weaves its way from battle to battle and between the many twists and turns of Ash' story.

The second thread is the e-mail exchange between the translator of the story of Ash, his editor and an archaeologist at a dig in North-Africa. This part of the story is sci-fi and is expertly weaved into the story of Ash, peeling off layer after layer of stories.

The third and perhaps most delightful part of this book is the translator's relationship with the work he's translating, told entirely in footnotes. This is pure nerdery for history, alt-history and footnote fans.

Loved this book.