About the Book:
THE CARNIVAL OF ASH
BY TOM BECKERLEGGE
US Publication Date: March 15, 2022
UK Publication Date: March 17, 2022
Hardcover; 528 pages
Genre: Renaissance Historical Fiction
An extravagant, lyrical fantasy about a city of poets and librarians. A city that never was.
Cadenza is the City of Words, a city run by poets, its skyline dominated by the steepled towers of its libraries, its heart beating to the stamp and thrum of the printing presses in the Printing Quarter.
Carlo Mazzoni, a young wordsmith arrives at the city gates intent on making his name as the bells ring out with the news of the death of the city’s poet-leader. Instead, he finds himself embroiled with the intrigues of a city in turmoil, the looming prospect of war with their rival Venice ever-present. A war that threatens not only to destroy Cadenza but remove it from history altogether…
“A gorgeous, immersive triumph of Renaissance-flavored worldbuilding” — Publishers Weekly, starred review
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Cadenza is a city ruled by words. Poets, writers and storytellers vie for power by sharing their works. Libraries and printing presses create the economy. Cadenza's Artifex Tommaso Cellini, an adept poet, dies mysteriously on the day Carlo Mazzoni arrives in town trying to find his place among the wordsmiths. Cellini is replaced by an Artifex more worried about budget numbers than words and the city rebels. Soon crime, plague and internal strife plague Cadenza as they prepare for war against the invading Venice.
Carnival of Ash is the story of a fictional city that is at its apex only to fall spectacularly and possibly begin to rise from the ashes. Written in Cantos, each Canto shows a point of view from a different citizen of Cadenza. As the Canto's continue, the character's stories begin to combine. Even though there are about a dozen characters and different stories to keep track of, the story seems to not be about the characters as much as the city itself and what can happen without a well-rounded society. The writing was verbose and pompous, fitting for characters who lived in a city of words; however, I expected some more word play, lightheartedness and poetry. The characters were all interesting and unique, each with their own flaws and failings. I felt most drawn to Vittoria's character and the tragedy of her circumstance. I was entranced by her story and how her words eventually took over. Carlo and Ercole, the gravedigger were another great pair. Carlo, who seemed doomed from the beginning, slowly finds his place. Ercole, an alchemist in a city of words brings in the next era. Carnival of Ash is an unexpected work with violence, ego and destruction.; it may not be for everyone but was an interesting read.
About the Author
Thomas Beckerlegge grew up in a market town in the northwest of England, dreaming of becoming a writer. He studied history at Jesus College, Oxford and won the Waterstone’s Children’s Book Prize for his first novel, Darkside, at the age of 25, writing as Tom Becker. Tom lives in London with his wife, baby son, and a horde of shadowy creatures that he keeps confined within the pages of his notebook. You can follow Tom on Twitter and Goodreads.