Ashes of Regret (MudHouse Publishing)
by Searby Gray
On a Summer Solstice, imprisoned Mesopotamian gods broke free of their sun god’s prison and literally rained fire on our world, changing it forever. Called “The Misbegotten” because of their petty and cruel natures, the gods brought back their idea of normal: subjugating humans and building personal territories through the use of their life force. And now humans are trying to rebuild a society in a USA chopped into territories staked out by those deities, and it ain’t pretty. A clever-but-impulsive human survivor, Tamaki Hayashi, thought her grandmother’s stories about plant magic were unbelievable, until she connects with trees’ etemmu, their life force, bending their limbs and manipulating their roots. With her beloved grandmother murdered by mindless followers of one of the more brutal new gods, Tamaki has no one to guide her through learning her power. So while rescuing a fox caught by a carnivorous plant, Tamaki accidentally uses blood magic rooted in her anger and fear rather than her plant magic. Feeling confident after escaping the plant, Tamaki again uses blood to pull the spirit of her dead lover into the body of the fox. This is forbidden necromancy, and An, the god of the territory she’s currently in, confronts her and throws Tamaki and the human-souled fox, who calls himself “Scout,” into the god Enlil’s territory.
Thanks to their etemmu connection, Scout (formerly Scott) can speak telepathically to Tamaki. She’d be grateful for that except he’s furious about her changing him. Despite her discovering necromancy by accident and angry at the unfairness of their punishment, Tamaki is desperate to make amends with Scout. But being in Enlil’s territory, a place they do not know with people they do not know, means they’ll have to find safety first. Before they do, Tamaki and Scout are arrested and confined in prison for being in the territory illegally. To escape, Tamaki has to decide whether a possible addiction to blood magic is worth their chance for freedom. If they don’t escape, Scout will be sold and she will be sacrificed to Enlil. Even if they do survive, where can they go? And can she help Scout/Scott back into a human form? Perhaps, but only if she confronts her own demons.
Note: This book is sequel to another Misbegotten series novel reviewed by A&A under a different name. So if you enjoy this world, there’s more!