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Instrument Of Omens #1

A Testament of Steel

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A young man with no past must progress into a warrior out of legend.

Cinder Shade’s life begins on a fateful afternoon at the bottom of a well where he awakens, bruised, battered, and bereft of all memory. His only understanding is a driving imperative—to protect those who can’t defend themselves and become a warrior worthy of the name.

He discovers within himself a peculiar gift, one in which the codes of combat are made evident and the language of steel is made clear. When he earns a place at a prestigious elven warrior academy, Cinder fights to enhance his knowledge and perhaps even humble the proud elves who believe no human is their equal.

His hard-earned skills are put to the test when strange rumblings emanate from deep in the Dagger Mountains. Monsters out of myth emerge. And so does something far worse . . .

An ancient god. The world believes this deity long dead, but he is very much alive. And he remembers his enemies all too well. Even if they don’t remember themselves.

562 pages, Kindle Edition

First published July 20, 2020

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About the author

Davis Ashura

20 books449 followers

Davis Ashura is an author of such sublime depth and beauty that his works have been known to cause a tear to fall from the eyes of even the hardest of hearts.
Just kidding.
But he does write.
This humble writer, who refers to himself in the third person, resides in North Carolina, sharing a house with his magnificent wife who somehow overlooked Davis’ eccentricities and married him anyway. As proper recompense for her sacrifice, Davis then unwittingly turned his magnificent wife into a nerd-girl. To her sad and utter humiliation, she knows exactly what is meant by ‘Kronos’. Living with them are their two rambunctious boys, both of whom have at various times helped turn Davis’ once lustrous, raven-black hair prematurely white (it sure sounds prettier than the dirty gray it actually is). And of course, there is the obligatory strange, adopted cats (all authors have cats-it's in the by-laws). One eats everything placed before him and the other has the world's stinkiest breath.
When not working – nay laboring – in the creation of works of fiction so grand that hardly anyone has read a single word of them, Davis practices medicine, but only when the insurance companies tell him he can.

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5 stars
2,507 (58%)
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382 (8%)
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Displaying 1 - 30 of 357 reviews
Profile Image for Mike (the Paladin).
3,144 reviews1,851 followers
January 28, 2021
You will have noted I went 5 stars on this book. The interesting thing is that I could describe it in a way that might make it sound sort of mediocre. I mean it hits a lot of the epic fantasy marks, there are Elves, humans, dwarves, other fantasy races. The Elves think of themselves as superior. There are what would be called "fantasy tropes" (I hate the word trope. It seemed to get badly overused for a while but, you know they are tropes). There is heavy foreshadowing, plot points you will spot and have seen before...and more. Some inside jokes to. But you know what?


The book is just done so well it flows together and holds the reader. My only complaint is that it's the first in a series, was only released this week and I don't know how long the wait for the next volume will be.

I'm 68 Mr. Ashura so you know, don't take too long, okay?

I saw this on Audible, thought it sounded interesting and...well it is.

I've noted before that actually, after 10,000 or so years of story telling there are/can be few really new plots. The key is to remix the ones we have well. This is a great read. As noted I got it from Audible. Between Davis Ashura and Nick Podehl we have a real winner here. It's so good I tracked down a prior series by the author and plan to start it. So, yeah recommended.

Profile Image for THE BIBLIOPHILE (Rituranjan).
544 reviews82 followers
July 22, 2020
Classic epic fantasy that imitates LOTR and WOT, but, imitates well with subtle alterations on the tropes and sensibilities which works quite nicely for readers who want to start reading a comfy and adventurous fantasy tale. I haven't read anything other than this of the author, and while I found it enjoyable, I also felt as if the whole thing was repetitive or I've read the story a hundred times in the past. But, don't let that fool you into believing it as mere imitation, rather it is a ingenious retelling that draws heavily from two of the masterworks in the genre, but stands on its own regarding the story and characters.

The worldbuilding was solid, and we get varied glimpses into different shades of cultures, and the socio-political atmosphere of the world. There's some elements from Indian history and traditions as well, mostly regarding the magic system, and mythology of the world. I loved the way the author has treated social hierarchy in terms of humans, elves, dwarves, trolls. The elves are the top dogs here, and humans are considered as weaklings compared to the other races. It creates an interesting dynamic regarding the interactions and relationship between the characters.

As per characterisation goes, we get the typical farm boy becomes a hero with a great destiny. He is talented, and overcomes difficulties by his sheer indomitable will and capacity to learn. Cinder as a protagonist isn't that complex. He suffers from memory loss, and has glimpses of his past life, but is unable to recall anything of importance. I loved the training sections, and his motivation to become the best warrior amongst all. The elves were arrogant and a prideful lot. I enjoyed Cinder's camaraderie with his companions. Another intriguing character for me is the elf Anya. She is beautiful, strong, and a warrior of great reknown. Her interactions with Cinder were quite interesting, and there's a sort of romantic tension between the two. I would love to see how the relationship between an elf and a human develops in a discriminatory world where humans are seen as inferior to their betters.

The action sequences were brilliantly written. Ashura employs the cinematic technique of slow motion to capture the subtle details and timing of the fight which was awesome. The fight with the spiderkin was bloody terrific. And, I would also like to know more about the freaking snowtiger that eats lifeforce of people. Davis Ashura has created a rich world with varied culture, lore, and history which is same, yet different from Tolkien and Jordan. I definitely am enthusiastic for the next book.
May 16, 2021
******2.5/5 stars******(Squandered_Potential)

This is going to be a bit long-winded but bear with me. It might even prove to be informative.

Honestly, it would be an exaggeration on my part if I gave this book anything more than a four. Or even a three. 2.5/5, average, is what I would rate this book as.

By all rights, I should have hated this book.

Wake up one day, face down in a well, with no memory of your past. Leave your home for a new, temporary abode and fight some bullies there. Then leave that place for the next abode and fight bullies there. Then, again, leave that place for the next place and guess what?! You guessed it! Fight even more bullies there!

With this, I have described two-thirds of this book. The bullies all have different motivations and vary in scope and scale such that it becomes racial discrimination in the later parts of the story, but the theme remains the same.

All of the friends our hero manages to make, and other side characters in this book are either entirely unimportant or relatively unimportant. They are simply there to fill the pages. For most of them, you could swap their faces and slap one's name on the other, and you still wouldn't spot a difference. And it is for this reason that the supposedly tragic loss at the end seemed cheap to me. I simply couldn't bring myself to care for it.

Then there is Anya Aruwen. The Prodigal Elven Warrior. The First and Only Female to graduate The Third Directorate. After all that hype, she should have made more of an appearance. There should have been breakneck action sequences that showcased how badass she was. She's supposed to be a Ranger! And not just any ranger but one of the best! She's so good that she goes hunting for zahhacks---monsters of this world that are highly dangerous even to other elven warriors--- through the mountains by herself! She even goes on a hunt to the borders of her kingdom after our hero has enrolled at the Directorate.

In fact, she had been the first woman to ever graduate from the Third Directorate, period, and at the top of her class, no less. After finishing her courses at the academy, like other highly skilled graduates, she had become a ranger. However, Anya worked alone. She apparently enjoyed the solitude while she scouted the rugged terrain of the Dagger Mountains, killing zahhacks and wraiths as the need arose.

But do we actually see any of that? Nope! Instead, what we get to see of Anya is that she is the main love interest of our hero, and is a seemingly significant character that gets very little 'screen-time'. And from what little I saw, she was either bland or drowning in self-pity with her woe-is-me attitude.


And then there is the man himself. Cinder Shade. Also a Prodigal Warrior. But human. And humble. And noble(as in noble-at-heart). So humble and noble that he comes very close to falling prey to the obnoxious holier-than-thou trope, but doesn't quite make it. And I'm glad for that restraint on the author's part. There is little to no character development for him. There cannot be any since

The magic system of the world is vague and ambiguous at best. Maybe that was a deliberate choice made by the author since humans cannot harness their magic. But every other species on the face of this world can, which places humans squarely at the bottom of the food chain. This is where more time focused on Anya and her elven heritage could have helped. Nothing much. Like I said, just a single action sequence that shows her pulling out all the stops during one of her hunts could have shed some light on the deeper and more intricate workings of magic. But it doesn't. Because, again, we don't get to see any of that.*Sigh*

Oh sure, there are a few pages told from the perspectives of a couple of elven assholes but they are children compared to Anya. And even then we don't see much. I sincerely hope that the disordered jumble of information that is thrown in our faces is not the extent of this world's magical system and that the author expands upon them in the sequel.

Those that do not wish to look too deeply into the author's custom vocabulary(the apparent gibberish that you neither understand nor know how to pronounce) for this book should probably skip the next paragraph. You've been fairly warned.

Alright, time for an impromptu lecture.


The author likes to throw around certain words that clearly have roots in Indian literature and spirituality. Words such as,
-Nadis(bastardised plural form) or Nadi(singular), which means 'blood vessels' in my own mother tongue, Tamil.
-Muladhara(or Muladharam), which could be taken as 'source' or 'root' in the literal sense. But in this case, I believe the author was going for the anatomical definition which would be, 'the root of the spinal column', in other words, 'the tailbone'. Or at least the chakra that is situated there. Those that perform Yoga should be familiar with this concept.
-Jivatma, which roughly translates to 'soul'. And a few other words that I can't recall.
Again, as I said, all of this comes from my mother tongue, Tamil. I'm not sure which language the author draws inspiration from. Almost all of the many Indian languages can trace their origin back to one of two ancient languages. Sanskrit and Tamil. Urdu serves as a good example for an exception since it heavily derives from Arabic and Persian. Alright, that's it for the tangent.

But do you see the problem here? It should have been the author who told you all of this, not the part about linguistic origins but about the author's own unique twist in incorporating these actual concepts into his fantastical realm. It should have been the author that explained their importance and respective roles in conducting magic in depth, from an in-world standpoint. Not me.

As a fan of Hard Magical Systems, with Brandon Sanderson's works being fine examples, this bothers me.

Then why do I not hate this book that seems like a chore to slog through? Let me tell you.

Once our hero has overcome or is in the process of overcoming the bullies of his current place in life, he is growing stronger. And fighting. Constantly. I believe that the cultivation aspect of this story was one thing that was done right. And the author has a certain flair for writing action sequences such that it takes a long time for you to even realize that it has become repetitive.


But that is where events of import come in to break the monotony, like rare bright flashes on an otherwise dull background. I particularly enjoyed reading through the Maker's Tournament.

Still, this story could have been so much more. Like Fastness, our hero's troublemaker of a horse. It's a shame that he got so little time on paper. But what little I read of him, I enjoyed, and I hope the author takes more time to show Cinder and Fastness bonding in the sequel.

There were also times where I felt like the plot had ground to a halt to allow cinder to progress in power. There is no reason plot and power progression cannot happen simultaneously. In fact, they definitely do progress together in some of the better books I've read.*Siiiigh*

.....I'm sighing a lot. I know. Because squandered potential is what this book is. That is why I kept reading this book despite its many flaws, hoping that it would pay off in the end, only to be disappointed over and over again.

So no, I don't hate this book. I'm merely disappointed.

But I still hope. There is an interesting premise for a sequel here. It would probably disappoint me again. I think I'll still pick it up.

I must be insane.

Profile Image for David S Meanderings).
333 reviews89 followers
December 6, 2020
3.75 stars

“Perhaps even the worst of us are worthy of Devesh’s mercy, and if so, what does it mean for how we should treat one another?”

I mostly listened to this on audiobook and wanted to give a big shoutout to one of my favorite narrators, Nick Podehl. He managed to do an amazing job yet again.

This book was somewhat hard for me to rate. On one hand my enjoyment level was pretty high. I had a lot of fun with this book and am excited for when the second book comes out. However, there were some weaknesses that didn’t impact my enjoyment too much, but I felt I needed to address both in the rating and in this review.

To start on a positive note, I really enjoyed the mystery and intrigue that permeated this book. The story follows a 16 year old boy named Cinder. He wakes up after his parents have been killed with no memory of who he is and you follow him as he starts to piece his life together. This was the driving force of much of the book and it really hooked me from the start.

Cinder is a very intriguing character. His drive for excellence in all things is something that I am always drawn to in a character. He’s also uncompromising in doing the right thing and standing on his principles, while being humble at the same time. Cinder is a really good character and I had fun following his POV for the majority of this story.

The other POV that took up some of the story was of an elf princess named Anya. She also has a mysterious past that she cannot remember and that alone made me invested in her story. She is considered one of, if not the best Elven warrior there is. Although we don’t get to see her fight too much in this one, I think that is going to change in the coming books and I am so excited to see it! She is a complex character and I actually found myself even more invested in her story than in Cinder’s, though I do really enjoy both.

The biggest struggle I had was that the dialogue concerning good and evil was somewhat cheesy. There wasn’t really room for gray morality or even just a nuanced conversation around the topic. This part of the story really reminded me of classic fantasy and while that’s not necessarily a bad thing, the dialogue around good vs evil had me rolling my eyes a little at points. However, it wasn’t all bad. The strength of the main character to not be bitter in the midst of a society that looks down on him, to forge bonds of friendship with those that are different from him, and to fight for justice was inspiring and compelling.

Another aspect of the book that I enjoyed was the action. Davis Ashura does a really good job of describing each fight and there are a lot of them. Also, the fights that weren’t training always felt high stakes and like they meant something. I never felt like there was no danger to the main characters in this fight and that is really important to me in being fully invested in the story’s action sequences.

The overall pacing of the plot was good, however there was a point in the middle of the book that I felt could have been cut down. The story started to drag a little bit because it was getting repetitive. However, this was only a small part of the story and overall was not a huge problem for me.

World building is usually not a huge deal for me. As long as it is satisfactory and makes sense I don’t need a ton of detail or anything like that. So for me, it says a lot that I want to know more of this world in a really good way. In particular I want to know more of the war between the legendary magic users that this world reveres and the forces that they opposed. There is so much mystery because of the possible innaccuracies in what people have been told to believe compared to what really happened and I NEED to know the truth.

Another thing that I thought was well done was subverting some typical classic fantasy tropes when it comes to the races of the world. Humans, dwarves, and elves are the main races in this world like a classic fantasy would be, but the relationship between them and the characteristics of each are often quite different from what I usually expect from them. This aspect made the story feel refreshing and unique enough to increase my enjoyment overall.

There is a romance aspect to the story that I ended up enjoying quite a bit. It was awkward, innocent, and was relevant to the overall story. Actually, I kinda loved it. It was just really sweet and the back and forth between the two characters was great. Really pulling for them to make it!

Overall this was a really fun story that I am very invested in. I am very excited to read the second book, The Memories of Prophecy, that I believe is coming out in 2021!
Profile Image for Natasha.
98 reviews49 followers
July 27, 2020
I was given an advanced reader copy by Heroic Books in exchange for an honest review. Though I don’t go into much detail about the story, this review does contain some spoilers, so read at your own risk!

A Testament of Steel by Davis Ashura is a testosterone-filled story about Cinder Steel, a teenage boy who loses his memory after a horrific event sees him at the bottom of a well. Though Cinder has no memory of his past, he is driven by a passion and urge to become a warrior of great renown and to protect those who cannot protect themselves. He travels to the city of Swift Sword before gaining a place in the famous and highly prestigious Third Directorate, a school for the best elven, dwarven, and human warrior students in the land.

This is the first book I have read by Ashura. It was quite a unique reading experience for me, as I both disliked and liked this book. I’ve never come across another book that has given me such polarising views.

What I liked:

- Simply put, I couldn’t put this book down! There is action from the get-go and it doesn’t slow down! When I wasn’t reading it, I was thinking about it and looking forward to when I could jump back into the world. I would recommend you don’t read this before bed on a school night, as you will be up until the wee hours of the morning convincing yourself that you’ll read ‘just one more chapter’.

- I liked the differences between the human, elven, and dwarven races and how that impacted the relationships and interactions between them. The friendship and camaraderie between the humans and dwarfs at the Third Directorate was a particular favourite of mine, which made some events in the book all the more impactful.

- Cinder’s unwavering set of values, how he stuck to them, and how they influenced his actions and interactions was a welcome change from other origin stories, where we usually follow a character who is slowly figuring out who they are and what their values are.

What I didn’t like:

- The writing in this book is a good example of telling instead of showing. Descriptions were brief, lacking in the layers and level of detail I would expect of a fantasy book of this length and were often repeated. It meant that instead of getting swept up in the story and characters, I was merely swept up by the pace of the storytelling. It felt like I was standing in front of a glass wall seeing this huge world Ashura had created but being unable to reach it.

- Outside of the fight scenes, there was little variation in the length of sentences and use of language, which made for a samey reading experience. Every now and again Ashura used words that felt quite out of place, also most like he picked up a thesaurus and changed a word to make what he was trying to say sound fancier.

- The female characters were badly written with little agency of their own. Their worth seemed primarily tied to their appearance, whereas the male character’s was tied to their abilities. It felt like they were only included to advance Cinder’s character development as opposed to being characters in their own right. The way they were described and some of the interactions they had with Cinder made me groan at best, and feel uncomfortable at worst. There is so much more to female characters than their appearance or romantic availability!

The in-between:

- The lore in this book really intrigued me. I like it when authors bring extra layers of depth to their books through fleshed out lore. It makes for more immersive reading. However, I found it was quite difficult at times to follow along and wrap my head around the lore in this book. It felt like Ashura was trying not to give away the big reveal too early, and in doing so created quite a frustrating reading experience for a new reader. I’m aware that Ashura has written quite a few other books based in this world, and while reading, I got the impression that some of the events and characters mentioned appear in his other works. It was frustrating because it felt like, if I had read his other books, the lore would be easier to understand. I don’t think a reader should have to read every other book an author has written to understand the events of a new series they have written. A character index at the back of the book would have helped with this.

- Learning about Sira and Shokan from the characters to reading chapters from their points of view (POV) was a great way to bring these legendary warriors to life. However, their POVs felt quite abrupt and out of place, like they were plonked in as an afterthought. Using more frequent POV chapters to make their stories run parallel to Cinder’s would have made their inclusion impactful and would have enriched the main story further.

In conclusion, A Testament of Steel is a fast-paced book with a good story and interesting lore. However, there were elements of this book I had problems with that detracted from my overall enjoyment of it. Once I noticed them, I couldn’t stop noticing them. If you have read Ashura’s other works, no doubt you will enjoy A Testament of Steel, like so many other reviews from fans suggest.
Profile Image for Jason Cross.
1 review
July 21, 2020
Having received and read an ARC (Advanced Reader Copy) of this book by Davis Ashura, I have set about writing an honest review of ‘A Testament of Steel’, the first in what promises to be a series of books following the coming of age story of Cinder Shade. From the outset here, I can tell you that I loved it. But let me tell you why…

I was listening to an album the other day and remarked to my wife how much it reminded me of Springsteen. It wasn’t copying or beholden to Springsteen, but there was something about it that just made me feel that I was listening to a love letter to The Boss. In a later interview with said artist, he mentioned that he had, indeed, been listening to a lot of Bruce during the conception of the tracks in question.

Still with me? Good.

Davis Ashura wears his inspirations on his sleeve in a similar way with this story of humans, elves, dwarves and other ethereal races that on first glance bear a striking resemblance to The Lord of the Rings or The Wheel of Time, but there is something decidedly singular about the way in which he writes. Much like the lingering homage to Springsteen I just mentioned, Ashura creates a world that can’t help but be compared to seminal fantasy of yore, but he succeeds in moulding the world of Seminal in a way that is uniquely his own.

Our protagonist, Cinder Shade, begins as rather a blank slate, which for ‘spoilery’ reasons I won’t divulge here, and he struggles to have any memory of his earlier life in the village of ‘Swallow’ after an inciting incident sets him off on a journey of quite literal self-discovery as he leaves his old life behind to forge a dramatic future as… well, you’ll find out!

But it’s the journey there that’s the enjoyable part, through the orphanage of ‘Our Lady of Fire’ , the school of ‘The Steel Graced Adepts’ and more, we follow Cinder’s journey and his discovery of the ‘magic’, for want of a better description, that courses through a world of characters that, even though is sometimes broadly drawn with weeks or months passing in the space of a sentence, are an absolute joy to experience. Regardless of whether what I read presented the thrill of life-threatening drama or the mundanity of term time existence with friends, singing in taverns and studying hard; Ashura’s prose is tantamount to some kind of narcotic in paper form and I found myself craving my next fix of story!

I’ll admit that I went in cynical, not sure I was in the mood for another derivative high fantasy, but what I ended up with was a heady mix of Lord of the Rings (as if set aeons later), The Matrix (seriously, his sparring /fight sequences are some of the best I’ve read – explanatory but never to the detriment of the urgency required), High School Musical (yes, I went there!) and Quantum Leap (never a bad thing).

So, to conclude – imagine if Springsteen went to High School in Middle Earth with no memory of his cultural significance; then worked hard, laughed harder, fought to be hardest and threw in a couple of songs along the way, whilst slowly coming to terms with the idea that the reality he thinks he knows may not be the one he actually remembers……

And did I mention that the fight scenes are edge of your seat awesomeness?

With Giant Spiders.

Profile Image for Soo.
2,598 reviews264 followers
June 5, 2021

Decent YA. Promising characters. Lopsided plot progression.
Profile Image for Alma.
112 reviews49 followers
November 15, 2020
Oh wow this reads like fanfiction. That's because in fanfiction they don't really build the world again, or the characters, but they rely on existing canon. So there's some generic fantasy-esque setting that is mostly defined by vaguely sanskrit-sounding words but isn't really described so it doesn't end up looking like anything in your head. The plot and worldbuilding don't come together, it's basically the generic plot in the generic world. When I say they don't come together I mean don't expect Sanderson-level weaving of the magic, plot, and character together into the setting such that the action is essentially impossible to happen in another world.

The pacing is pretty fast in a mindless way. I guess the line-level writing skills are there to keep you from putting it down and saying it's badly written but there's nothing innovative or really interesting going on, being described etc.
Profile Image for William Howe.
1,435 reviews43 followers
September 18, 2020
Is there a point?

Having the MC get amnesia is a great trick to explain the world, but then you need to actually explain it. The logic is unsupported in the text.

Time passes without meaning. Days, weeks...there is no pace or progression.

The plot doesn’t flow. Characters are one-note.

Profile Image for Tenkara Smart.
Author 2 books149 followers
August 31, 2021
This is a good novel, especially for a person who likes a unique story that involves humans, elves and supernatural creatures as well as a sub-theme of training in martial arts. Cinder is a weak boy who has an event that causes him to forget who he is, where he came from, yet changes his life dramatically, turning him into a capable and strong man. Most of the book follows Cinder as he trains in weaponry and defense and his 'coming of age' story as he grows as a man and a warrior. There are strong mythological themes and themes of past lives, too, which make the story interesting, especially when it comes to another main character, Ana, an Elvin princess. I found the book intriguing and well written, though I thought there was too much training in the book as the majority of the story is about Cinder learning to fight and rising in the ranks. However, with that said, it sets up well for book 2 when Cinder promotes to the next level of his training and will be working directly with the Princess, Ana. Overall, highly enjoyable and good narration on the audio book.
Profile Image for Mihir.
647 reviews302 followers
August 27, 2020

Full review over at Fantasy Book Critic

OVERVIEW/ANALYSIS: Davis Ashura is an author whom I got to meet at Dragon Con a couple of years ago and since then I’ve read both the first volumes of his previous two finished series. With this book, he has initiated his master series a La Sanderson with his Stormlight Archive. Also this would be his ode to Tolkien, & Jordan for installing the love of epic fantasy in him. I was mighty excited for this book and as promised, it was a big Jordanesque tome.

The book begins with a small village called Swallow wherein due to an attack of a snowtiger, leads to the death of a family. However there’s one survivor, a young clubfooted boy named Cinder Shade. Barely escaping the attack due to a fall down a well. He survives the fall but loses all of his memories. Turned out by his villagers, he travels with a priest named Deepak to the town of Swift Sword wherein he hopes to stay in an orphanage. Thus begins the epic journey of the amnesiac boy named Cinder Shade as he discovers there’s more to him than just his disability. He will find out how to become a warrior and try to gain admittance to the most elite warrior academy of Yaksha Sithe. Thus begins this first fascinating volume.

The story as written by Davis Ashura is a very simplistic one but it’s very, very absorbing. The story begins with a very narrow focus and slowly but surely reveals that there’s more to Cinder and the world known as Seminal. We are introduced to the other races such as Elves and Dwarves who view themselves as the “Blessed race” from humans and Dwarves. While the dwarves are forces to keep their motivations secret and act tough while wanting peace. I liked this racial exploration which was conveniently woven into the story rather than told to us.

The story is very much an immersive one as it features aspects of the amnesiac narrator as well as the marital academy tropes and I loved how the author explored them. Going onto the main aspect of the book which I loved was the world building and the hints of the magical apocalypse that have occurred in the past. The author has also laced pointers about his previous books as apparently characters and the magic are related in a big way. You don’t need to have read any of his previous works to be able spot them. He’s made this new world and series a very accessible point infact, after reading this one, you would be very much inclined to check them out.

The characterization beginning with Cinder Shade is very solid and while this is mostly a singular POV. The secondary character cast is very strongly presented and while we don’t get many other POVs. Cinder’s narrative focus is plenty good. However this singular POV also hinders it a little bit as we only get to see things from his perspective. Also with Cinder progressing the way he does, we don’t really get to see much of his internal feelings as he’s very much buttoned down. The author is going for a certain angle with the amnesiac approach but he makes sure to present his vulnerabilities.

I think the author showcases some aspects of avatarhood and reincarnation but not outrightly so. I loved how the author utilizes his Indian cultural roots and mythology and creates an epic fusion of Tolkienesque fantasy alongside Indian mythology & culture. I liked this aspect as an Indian as I rarely find such a unique aspect in epic fantasy genre. There’s the usage of certain Indian terms such as Prana, Nadi, Chakra which are easy to understand from a Desi perspective but will not be a hurdle for western audiences.

The action sequences are another strong focus of the story and due to the marital academy storyline, we get some spectacular individual sequences and towards the last quarter we get many more epic battle sequences. I enjoyed how the author built up to them and promises to have the action get more and more audacious in the sequels. The author also laces some wonderful nods to several popular culture stories and movies. I caught a few such as Harry potter, Captain America Civil War etc. But those with a keen eye can find plenty more.

For the drawbacks about this book, they aren’t outright but there’s a few niggles. Firstly the pace of the book is a bit on the sedate side. From the beginnings of the book, we are taken through the story and shown a lot about the world and its inhabitants. This comes at the behest of the story’s pace, while it does pick up in the climatic chapters. The book’s massive page count and its pace can make the read to be a bit arduous. Lastly Cinder as a character while fascinating is very much a cipher due to the story’s demands (amnesia & very little reveal about his origins). This can be a bit frustrating to some readers especially since when we complete the volume. We get only bits and pieces about what and who he might be. Not a big dealbreaker but can be irksome for a few readers. Lastly the narrow scope of the POV characters and with them majorly being from Cinder himself. We do get a stilted view of things due to Cinder being a bit stiff on the emotional front (understandably so from the story’s perspective).

CONCLUSION: Bringing together fascinating elements from Tolkienesque fantasy and Indian mythology, Davis Ashura has written a fascinating, new type of epic fantasy which is heroic, action-packed and very accessible for those looking for their next new epic fantasy fix. A Testament Of Steel focuses a lot on steel (both literal and metaphorical), and provides a sharp story that will have readers markedly awaiting the next installment to see what emerges from the brilliant mind of Davis Ashura.
Profile Image for Shaina.
87 reviews11 followers
June 3, 2020
In the efforts of full disclosure: I was sent an ARC (advanced reader copy) of this book in exchange for an honest review. I am also going to attempt to make this review as spoiler free as I can, but it’s going to be tough. But I’ll do my best.

As I’ve read many of Mr. Ashura’s works so far, I went into this one expecting much of the same. While Ashura’s books are incredible in terms of world building and developing engaging stories and characters you become truly invested in, my one small complaint is that sometimes his works are a ‘slow burn’. While he pulls this off well (as I’ve said in previous reviews), it does make it a bit harder in the beginning to keep focus.

This book, however, was NOTHING like that. From the start, and I mean literally within the first few pages, I was sucked into Cinder’s tale like a vortex. This book started off with a bang, and I actually stayed up til the wee hours of the morning in my first reading session because I wanted to know where this story was headed.

Cinder Shade (the main character) awakens at the bottom of a well, having no memory of the prior sixteen years of his life. This coupled with prior events culminate in his undergoing some very serious life changes, such as leaving his village home in Swallow and moving to the town of Swift Sword. It soon becomes apparent, even from the beginning of this initial journey, that Cinder is not quite the same person that he used to be. And there is a VERY good reason for this, although it would probably fall into the realm of spoilers if I were to divulge why.

Cinder, in his new found life at Swift Sword, soon finds himself with a new purpose as well - that of becoming a warrior. He is perpetually working towards his goal of self-improvement, realizing he has innate talents and abilities that he technically should not have, and over the course of the book he winds up gaining entrance into the highly prestigious Elven training academy, the Third Directorate (which gave me some Harry Potter-esque vibes). There, he is again driven by his goals, desiring to become a warrior of renown, and again surprises everyone with just how swiftly he progresses. AGAIN, there is a VERY good reason for this, so please, dear reader, do not feel that Ashura has fallen into some trope of poor writing by making his character unstoppable/undefeatable. Just keep reading, it will all make sense, I promise you. And if you’ve read any other works by Ashura, you will likely figure out the reasons behind it all quickly. Just saying.

A Testament of Steel offers more variety, in my opinion, in regard to races than Ashura’s prior works, and honestly, the book gave me some major Lord of the Rings vibes in some ways, since there were elves, dwarves, and numerous other fanciful creatures, such as spiderkin (Shelob, anyone?) and yakshins (think of Ents!). This added some depth and layers to the tale, as elves don’t think too highly of any race other than themselves (they call themselves the “Blessed Race” - WHAT?). This ties in with the book’s nod toward a developing love story, which, from the looks of things, is destined to be incredibly complicated. On a side note - DAVIS ASHURA HOW COULD YOU DO THIS TO ME?! AAAAAAAARGH!

Overall, this has likely been my favorite of Ashura’s works to date. It was an extremely hard book to put down once I got started, since the characters were so vivid and well-written. I wanted to know what was going to happen next to Cinder - what mess he was going to put himself into, how the various tournaments would be decided, just how low those accursed Elves would stoop against Cinder...it was truly one of the most engaging tales I’ve read in some time. While it does offer some benefit to have prior knowledge of Ashura’s works and the world he has created within them (hint hint), I do also feel that one could pick up this book and have no issues whatsoever with having no prior knowledge.

This has been an incredibly wordy review, but I felt it was necessary to try to get my point across as to just how great this book truly is. A Testament of Steel is a compelling tale, one that is sure to quickly ensnare the reader and take them on a journey like no other...well….almost. ;)
Profile Image for Artrain.
137 reviews4 followers
January 8, 2023
There are a few big problems with this book. The first is repetition.

Each time the protagonist goes to a new place, the same situation unfolds:
1. the residing arrogant brat tries to intimidate him,
2. the main character, as main characters are wont to do, doesn't back down
3. the residing upstart ambushes the main character to "teach him a lesson"
4. either the main character proves too much right then, or a little while later after more "training".
The above chain of event pretty much forms 80% of the book. The reason why the author has had to do this is also quite clear. There is no other content in the book to keep the readers interested. Almost all of it is basically the protagonist training to become stronger. But while cultivation or wuxia style novels find a way to make that process fun and interesting, the author here has had to do with utterly inconsequential bullies to put readers in a temporary sense of tension.

The another thing is the training itself. Considering how much being a warrior is pretty much the goal of the protagonist, the fight scenes are rather dull and sometimes not described at all. We're only told in passing that 'oh, the MC already beat the strongest guy a month ago btw'.

Next is the way some of the scenes flit from one to another. The author cuts them off the moment the reader's interest has crested. Why? There's nothing else really of interest story wise in the book anyway, so why cut scenes that are just starting to feel interesting and directly move to a different time weeks or months later? Why not continue to weave the story through that scene and use it as an opportunity to flesh out the characters? Because...

...coming to the next point, the characters are faceless and completely interchangeable. You won't know who was talking unless the author mentioned it, and even then, you probably won't care. After reading such a long book, there's not one character that stuck to me. Also the author basically handicaps himself in this point by making 50% of the characters arrogant bullying brats who are copy paste of each other.

This problem extends to the main character as well. Despite this being a single POV book (there are very few passages with others' POV), I have no clear idea of the main character's personality. Sometimes he's too wise, sometimes he's too cocky. Sometimes he's too hesitant, sometimes too arrogant. Sometimes completely unaware of his abilities, sometimes overconfident. Sometimes polite, sometimes casually disrespectful. There's no way to get a handle on his essence. And since I cannot get a handle of him, I also found it difficult to get attached to him.

The final problem is something I constantly moan about with new fantasy authors. Its to do with modern language being mixed with archaic. I don't know how nobody points things like these out, but it is extremely jarring to hear words that you use today being used at a time where the setting is closer to medieval. I have grown up reading fantasy books before the advent of Amazon and self publishing, but so have all these authors. I can't understand how something so basic as this can be overlooked.
This can also apply to portraying culture in your books. Fantasy books are generally filled with lots of different races. The variety of these races should give authors creative opportunity to go wild with how different they want cultures and languages of these races to be. Instead, like in this one, all we see is that there are elves and humans and dwarves, but they all act and talk the same. Now I don't mean I want authors to come up with gibberish words like Tolkein (cause you'll then have to translate them anyway), but different nuances in how they speak that identify what they represent.

So, finally despite all of the above points, the author has a good feel for writing, which is why I can see lot of people liking this book and future ones. In my opinion though, it could have been vastly better, especially considering how big it is. There could have been much more story, characters and content woven into it.
Profile Image for Arundeepak J.
110 reviews53 followers
March 27, 2021

A really good series opener with lots of detailed action sequences and nicely crafted romance subplot. Reading A Testament of Steel felt like reading a classic epic fantasy book.

Even though the book is only about 500 pages or so, it felt like I was reading a much bigger book and I mean that in a good way. The author established his world, Seminal well developed with prophecies and themes inspired from Indian Hindu Mythologies and many more. I personally liked the mythological aspects of this book (Probably because I'm from India 😅)

Few things that kept me nagging while reading this book were some repetitiveness in about 40% mark and the lead character Cinder's talk about fraternity and his conversation between the characters felt a little bland sometimes.

If you're a fan of classical epic fantasy with Different races, Prophecies and a Prodigy Hero. You'll definitely love this one.
Profile Image for Vanessa.
14 reviews1 follower
October 22, 2020

Repetitive writing that is both too descriptive yet actually doesn’t tell you anything. Disappointed cause it had a good plot.
Profile Image for Jon Svenson.
Author 9 books85 followers
August 10, 2021
I'm late to this party, and only found this book by accident.

To say I was hooked from the beginning is an understatement. It's a fairly typical setup, in that a young boy starts from literally nothing and grows to become the best. There's an amnesia angle thrown in too which plays a bigger part in book 2.

While the setup might be typical, the journey is slightly different. Instead of taking the ring through Mordor to Mt. Doom, he becomes an orphan, heading down to the closest big city and working there for his bed.

I should also mention that Cinder doesn't like bullies, and that plays a big part in his journey. I don't want to spoil too much, but let's just say he goes from the orphanage to a military training school. After that he has a chance to earn the right to go to the Third Directorate, a finishing military school.

Then begins the slow grind to make it to the top.

Mixed into the hero's journey is a blend of Eastern mysticism, like someone read the Rig Veda and others and tossed them into the salad, along with some made up names for the history of this world. It's interesting, but sometimes throws off a discordant note, like when people are drinking Chai or doing something we would do on Earth. Maybe it will be explained in time, but I found it odd for a fantasy novel.

5/5* Highly recommended.
6 reviews
July 31, 2020
I'd give six stars if I could

It's rare that I write a review. This book is long and I finished it in one sitting. The story is that of a warrior of destiny from humble origins who progresses from an orphanage to a military academy and then to the top academy in the empire. He has flashbacks to a previous life as does Princess Anya and these episodes foreshadow that they have unfinished business, both between themselves and with the dark forces. The book was satisfyingly complex, leaving ample room for plot and personal development in subsequent books.
111 reviews4 followers
November 12, 2020
This is based on the audiobook version. Right, this was a really good read. I’d give it a solid 4.4; I saw great reviews and I wasn’t disappointed...... but I also wasn’t blown away. Great pacing, detailed world building and realistic character development. I just felt that there could have been more; I mean, the book cover raised my expectations, sadly the MC never got to that level. The performance by Nick Podehl was entertaining and the story had a more than satisfactory ending. I am excited for the next book and for the journey the author would take me with his skilful storytelling.
Profile Image for Lorne Ryburn.
Author 7 books58 followers
November 29, 2022

Thoroughly enjoyed this. I binged it in a day. The prose is a cut above and the characters and plot were all well written.
1 review
July 9, 2020
I read this book after receiving it as an ARC (Advance Reader Copy) and loved it instantly, it was the first book I’ve read by Davis Ashura but I can tell he is an author to follow and will become one of my favourites. I've tried to write the review without spoilers.

The main character, Cinder Shade, is a strong, kind hearted man who cares deeply for his friends and is determined to do what is right. He is an easily likeable character, as a typical hero he does no wrong and there is nothing to dislike about him. Davis Ashura has managed to give this lovable character a deep and believable backstory and you can’t help but want to see him succeed. The other characters are described in just as much detail without feeling bogged down in description. Davis has managed to build empathy and concern for the characters while also creating a world rich in history and different cultures. It’s easy to become submerged in the author's universe.

The character development of the main characters is stunning. Davis skillfully keeps you guessing throughout the book, no fight outcome is guaranteed and no characters are promised to stay. This adds to the immersion of the book and keeps readers interested throughout.

Davis Ashura uses a wide range of exciting words and nuances helping the pages come alive, and while this could intimidate less seasoned readers the journey this book takes you on will be well worth it. Davis uses his excellent vocabulary to draw the reader in and help them visualise the world he’s created perfectly. Certain places are ingrained in my head and I look forward to Cinder visiting them again, so I can.

The book follows Cinder over 2 years, although it is mainly told from his point of view it does jump to other characters from time to time. This is only done later on in the book though, once the reader is completely committed to Cinder and wants a swift return to him. Luckily, this happens. The book is full of twists and surprises, I consider myself quite good at figuring out what will happen next, however with A Testament of Steel I was continually guessing and being surprised.

As the book covers 2 years, time is passed in different ways throughout the story. At times, events are described in great detail and the characters' every thought and conversation are mapped out clearly on the page. At some times, weeks pass in one or two paragraphs. At other times, a simple ‘months passed’ sufficed. This never feels jarring or unsettling though, Davis is a truly skillful writer who weaves a world so detailed while carefully taking the reader on an amazing journey.

The ending of the book promises a second book just as good as the first, with the detailed world Davis Ashura has built there is plenty of scope for further character development and more lands to explore.

I have bought 4 of Davis’s other books since finishing A Testament of Steel, which I am already loving. The only thing I would change about this book would be to have a character list at the end, there are a lot of characters and it would be nice to have a reference guide detailing who’s who and which race everyone belongs to. My only criticism is that I have to wait for the second book! I have truly loved reading this and can’t wait to find out what happens to Cinder and Anya next.

Profile Image for Kai.
2 reviews
May 25, 2020
Let me open my review by stating unequivocally that this book stands alone as a really enjoyable read. However it's a lot more than than that, it's also a part of a much larger branching narrative which makes the entire reading experience truly engrossing. For a little bit of context, allow me to mention that I'm a big fan of science fiction and fantasy, so much so that roughly ninety percent all of the media I consume for personal entertainment falls into one of those two categories. As such, I am always on the hunt to find books and authors that can create interesting characters and build worlds and stories that draw you in. There's a lot of mediocre writing out there that, while entertaining, is the equivalent of brain candy. Fun while it lasts, but the plot and characters quickly fade to obscurity once you finish the book or series.

My friends, please let me assure you, this is not one of those books.

I won't spoil the plot with descriptions of what happens, but the story grabs you with an exciting start that introduces the main character in a unique way. Those of you that have read Mr. Ashura's prior books will immediately recognize the main character's name from the William Wilde series, which in turn has characters from The Castes and the Outcastes series. As the book continues, other characters are introduced and more threads of story interweave and come together to form a complex tapestry. That tapestry is not complete since this is just the first book. However, it's written so that you feel a sense of closure when the book ends, while simultaneously looking forward to the continuation of the story in the next book in in the series.

As I mentioned earlier, the entire story is part of a larger branching narrative. Although all of Mr. Ashura's series can be read independently of one another, they all have puzzle pieces and characters that connect them to each other. Some of those puzzle pieces are obvious, such as when you hear the name of the main character in A Testament of Steel, while others are subtle enough that you really need to be paying attention to notice. For example, why is the behavior of the dwarves in A Testament of Steel so different than the dwarves you learn about in the William Wilde series? I still don't know the answer to that, but I can't wait to find out.

In closing, I very strongly recommend A Testament of Steel and the rest of Davis Ashura's other works to anyone that enjoys fantasy novels. His world building, magic systems, and writing style are very reminiscent of another favorite author of mine, Brandon Sanderson. If you're a fan of that type of writing and storytelling, you'll feel right at home with Mr. Ashura's books.

For full disclosure, Mr. Ashura offered an ARC copy of A Testament of Steel on his Facebook page to anyone that would write an honest review about the book once they finished reading it, and I took advantage of that offer.
1 review
July 9, 2020
I received an Advanced Reader Copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.

This is my first foray into Davis Ashura’s works, and from reading other reviews that hint that his previous works are connected means it is unlikely to be my last, however, I didn’t feel whilst reading A Testament of Steel that I was missing anything, so don’t be put off if, like me, this is your first Ashura novel. My only criticism so far is that there is rather a lack of female characters, though this does get better as the book progresses!

The story of Cinder Shade is a coming-of-age plot with a twist; Cinder has no memory of his past and no knowledge of the world that he inhabits. You get to discover the world as Cinder does, and the further you go through the novel the more you realise that some of the other characters are either lying or have forgotten much about aether and lorethasra over the ages. There are dwarves, elves, humans, yakshins (reminiscent of LOTR’s Ents), spiderkin, titans, gods and heroes. There are themes of brotherhood, destiny, bullying, racial discrimination, and even a little romance, so it has something for everyone. The fight scenes are well written and fast-paced. This first instalment is a little “bitty” as Cinder moves from one home to another, but once he is a member of the Third Directorate the plot comes into its own and shows a great deal of promise for the next books. Cinder is likeable, idealistic, very single-minded with his goals, and his favourite swearword is now a permanent addition to my vocabulary – Jackhole! He does seem to have an uncanny ability to progress at an unfeasible rate, but from the other things hinted at in the book I’m guessing that there is a good reason for this, and I am looking forward to the time when Cinder finally realises who he is and fully embraces his past. This story has all the makings of an epic and I look forward to seeing where Ashura takes us next on Seminal.
This entire review has been hidden because of spoilers.
July 14, 2020
I reviewed an ARC of the book from Heroic Books to give my own fair and honest review.
A 'Testament of Steel' by Davis Ashura is a fantastic book. Fantasy fiction isn’t my usual go-to genre, but I can’t tell you how much I enjoyed the book and its story. It really is a page turner and I couldn't put it down.
The book offers you a bit of escapism, transporting you into the world of Seminal with its dynamic characters: from humans, elves, dwarves and more.
Cinder Shade (the protagonist) has the most interesting journey as he develops as a character. Starting the story off as a humble rural boy who grows into a strong, captivating man.
From the town of his birth Swallow, following a heartbreaking beginning to his tale, Cinder ventures to the capital of Swift Sword where his story changes forever. Mainly when he tries to actualise his dream of becoming a warrior at the Third Directorate.
David’s story has so many subtle links for the characters, you wonder where the story might go. Particularly between Cinder and Anya, the elven princess.
Cinder's development (and how he encourages those around him to be better, and do better) captures the necessity to fight against the evil in the world one step at a time.
There are many layers to 'A Testament of Steel': Cinder is the underdog hero you root for, the band of brothers you want to succeed at the Third Directorate, enlightenment and growth achieved by the characters, challenging of the status quo, and the edge of your seat apprehension that a forgotten evil may come back.
I can't wait for the next book to see where the characters take us next.
Profile Image for Lucy.
17 reviews
July 14, 2020
I reviewed an ARC of this book from Heroic Books in exchange for a fair and honest review.

If you like classic fantasy in the vein of LOTR, you’ll like this book. It has elves and dwarves and giant spiders in a richly realized world. There’s an underdog hero, a band of brothers, the promise of a complicated romance, and an ancient evil waiting to rise.

A Testament Of Steel is the first installment of what promises to be an epic fantasy of good versus evil. In a world inspired by the myths and culture of northern India, a young man wakes up in a well with no memories of who he used to be. What follows is a true hero’s journey as he slowly finds - and fights for - his place in the world.

It took me a little while to get into the story - the writing is lyrical and there’s a lot of world building to be done. But I soon found myself absorbed as the tale picked up pace and I was flying through the pages by the last few chapters! The characters, too, grew on me as they rounded out and started to get over their initial distrust of each other. I love stories which celebrate friendship, and Testament Of Steel is one of those books that is all about the importance of brotherhood as well as the value of hard work and determination.

All in all, Testament Of Steel is an epic tale that fuses elements of classic fantasy with Indian mythology. The story may be straightforward - and fantasy readers will probably see where this book is going from early on - but in no way did that stop me enjoying the journey. A pick for sure!
6 reviews
June 9, 2020
I received an ARC in return for an honest review here. That being said, this is a standout novel. The characters are well drawn and likable, or unlikable in some cases, the narrative is well paced and thought out, but one of the trickiest feats DA accomplishes in this first volume of his third multi volume series is how deftly he interweaves the new story into his existing universe - clearly making it a part of it, but a very separate part of it. He deftly balances the appeal to veteran and new readers alike by delivering a story that provides contextual references to the earlier series and still serves as a great jumping off point into Davis' work.

Telling an origin story in a manner that doesn't quickly become routine is not an easy task, and DA gets high marks across the board for delivering a book that I really liked reading, was kind of disappointed when I finished (disappointed that I didn't have more of the story to read, to be clear) and definitely made me want to know what happens next. Folks who have in particular read the end of the William Wilde series know where this character is theoretically winds up, but getting there is a journey whose next step I am looking forward to taking.

If you enjoy cultivation/wuxia/eastern mysticism type material at all, this book, and likely his first two series as well, will be enjoyable reads.
1 review
July 22, 2020
I received an advanced copy of this book to provide an honest review. I have never read any of Davis' books before so a real test case for him as I had no particular allegiance other than enjoying a good read, so here goes....

Short Review Summary:
Did I enjoy the book - yes very much so
Will I read the next instalment - definitely
Do I want to read more of Davis' books - for sure, he has whet my appetite
Do I want to wait patiently for the next book - hell no, hurry up Davis!!!!

So I picked this up with no preconceived ideas and was quite prepared to give it a go regardless. Well I can safely say I had nothing to worry about. I really enjoyed it and can't wait to read more about Cinder Shade, his allies and of course his enemies too.

The story has a nice pace to it, with it continually developing the characters while dishing out plenty of action and intrigue. My only gripe was I felt like wanted to know more and more about the wider lands and the historical context to the story that is drip fed throughout. Perhaps I am just being greedy and want it all now.

I would definitely recommend this book as an enjoyable heroic fantasy novel that leaves you feeling that there is so much more to come - hopefully very soon.
1 review
June 15, 2020
One of the best things about reading a book is arriving at the point where you just can’t put it down. It’s a wonderful feeling to find yourself immersed in another world. There are books that draw you in right away while others can be slow on the draw. The first few pages of A Testament of Steel, with their slow paced place setting, do a wonderful job of disguising the book as one of the latter. Soom after you are hurled into action in a way that makes your heart race with the sudden change of pace. Just like that, you're hooked.
Following the initial uptick in action, the narrative itself has decent pacing, and perfectly balances action and introspection. The protagonist, Cinder Shade, finds he has no recollection of his life shortly into the story which the author uses throughout the book to simultaneously unveil the intricacies of the world to both Cinder and the reader. The plot, while intriguing from the start, gets better with time as the author's characterization grows ever deeper. The actions and choices of each of the characters are spot on for them in regards to what we've read in earlier chapters, but also enlightening as each of them learns more about who they are, what they believe, and just what exactly is happening to the world surrounding them. The author does a great job of adding in just enough excess to the story leaving you unable to predict pivotal outcomes. He also does not shy away from the darker elements of storytelling ensuring white-knuckled uncertainty as you ponder the protagonist's fate.
A Testament of Steel does an impeccable job of being perfectly suited as a standalone book, a brilliant start to a new series, as well as an enthralling addition to the other Anchored Worlds novels(which I hadn't read before this and have since read the whole collection which I highly recommend).

I recieved a free copy of A Testament of Steel in exchange for an honest review of the book.
June 10, 2020
Also an ARC reader here, as man of the other reviews have stated. I've read every other book that Davis Ashura has put out, and I highly recommend them all. His world and character building are fantastic. The characters are extremely relatable as being very human, even as many of them go above and beyond to do extraordinary things.

Now, on to this book in particular. I absolutely loved it. I was hooked from the first chapter, and had trouble putting it down. I'm already planning a reread after I finish another series. I don't reread very many book series, but I've reread all of Mr. Ashura's books several times. I don't want to give anything away, but I do feel it is important to note that reading the other books that he has read is important to the total arc. While all of the series can be technically read alone, I recommend starting with The Castes and the Outcastes and working your way out from there.

A Testament of Steel left me longing for more, and I guarantee that it will for you as well.
Profile Image for Greg Smith.
8 reviews
July 20, 2020
I read an ARC of A Testament of Steel with no knowledge of Ashura and his previous work. What immediately struck me was that this fantasy universe was drenched in Asian culture and tradition, which is a real departure from most Western fantasy and a breath of fresh air.

The world that Ashura creates in this novel is beautiful and mysterious, and I loved that as readers we discovered the universe alongside the fantastic protagonist, Cinder Shade. At times I found the dialogue to be a little forced, but this didn’t take away from the wonderful characters that Ashura portrays. Cinder and Anya are by far the richest characters, and their depth and mystery was at times breath-taking.

The characters drive the narrative, which rarely presents any form of mortal peril, yet persists in creating high-tension encounters that often sweep you along – it is an exhilarating ride. The narrative occasionally shifts to other characters, and these moments were particular highlights for me, as we discovered insights into the minds of Cinder’s allies and adversaries, while learning more about the fraught relationship between the races found in Seminal.

However, the ultimate highlight of this novel is the gradual revelation of Cinder’s true identity. The novel leaves us with more questions than answers and yet it does not take much deduction to understand what is going on, and this wisdom makes Cinder’s interactions with Anya, Fastness, Maize and his lorethasra absolutely riveting. These were the moments where my heart raced and I just couldn’t read fast enough to find out more!

Ashura has created a rich universe filled with vibrant characters who I long to spend more time with. I am left feeling as if we have barely crossed the threshold into the world of Seminal, with all its peril, joy and mystery. My appetite has been whetted and I am at a loss at having to wait to found out more in The Memory of Prophecies. In the meantime, I think it’s time to pick up one of Ashura’s other novels…
Profile Image for Stephen.
105 reviews
June 2, 2020
I absolutely loved this book! Normally I have trouble staying excited about a single world for this many pages, so when I started it I was also reading another book, alternating every few chapters. I had to abandon that idea because this story drew me in, wanting me to read it but also making me to want to read it and never leave. The incarnation aspect was pretty clear to me from the beginning, which isn't always a bad thing. The Karate Kid ending to the tournament was a bit much for me, but still welcome. I really enjoyed the touch with the names of the two main incarnations, Rukh and Sira. With the religious aspects being such large roles, the Hebrew and Greek really stood out, and made this even more impressive in my eyes.
This entire review has been hidden because of spoilers.
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