A Circle of Ashes - Cate Tiernan As was nice to see, the second in this Balefire series was better than the first, A Chalice of Wind, and although I liked it more than it's predecessor, I still have some big issues with the series as a whole, and I think I've finally figured why I can't take to it.

The biggest and quite possibly the most important of issues is that I think the series may be aiming to please the young adult type of readers rather than a little younger, where I feel this series is perfect for. I have a sister of 15 years, and I personally feel that the writing style, the tone and the overall story would be much more tailored to a girl of her age, rather than that of my age, 18. I had never considered a 3 year age gap to be a huge deal within the reading world, but with this series, I think it is. For me personally, I always expect a good amount of world building, something that will make me feel like a part of the story, with the characters, and allow me to empathise better with them, but in this, there's what feels like a minimal amount of world building and way too much concentration of the quite slow and boring parts of the twins, Thais and Clio's lives. This is the biggest bug bearer for me, and it makes a huge difference to how much I enjoy reading it. Another problem I have with this series is it doesn't feel like a collection of books, more of a large book split into four parts to make more money. And I am aware that this seems a little petty and almost harsh, but it's an honest opinion. Unlike some other books I've read lately, especially those of a series, there's been a definite identification between the books, while making sure they're linked to one another. Each of them have an identity of their own, and I feel like A Circle of Ashes didn't. It just felt like a follow up from the first, and I was pretty disappointed in that. The last niggle I had, and compared to the others, this was quite minor, but it was the size of the books. 250 odd pages for a book I don't feel is quite enough if you're not including that many interesting and gripping scenes, and if you're not going to build the world, it just becomes slow and pretty unexciting. I feel if each book was longer, there'd be more room to be more descriptive and just make it a much more enjoyable read. I for one would probably enjoy them much more if they were larger.

Although I did have those quite large problems with the book, there were a few areas in which I felt the book had improved, and if not were better than others I've read. To start with, the personality of the characters have become more apparent as the story progresses, and the relationship between them all is both interesting and mysterious at the same time, especially the one between the twins. As Thais has taken to the whole 'you're a witch' so well, which is a little unbelievable, but hey ho, the relationship between her and Clio is stronger and lovely to read so effortlessly. The amount of characters in the book, now reaching within the 25 number, is a little off putting, as I don't like too many characters in such a weak world, but they each have something to give and there are some relationships, both romantic and platonic that I like;
Sophie and Manon. Their relationship is so wonderful, so honest and its just beautiful to read about when they have their sections in the book. It was also nice to read about a romantic gay couple for the first time as I hadn't gotten round to reading any other books with characters who were gay and it was written in a way that was natural and so accepted that it upset me knowing that in our society, it's still a taboo subject. I like how it was mentioned and brought up, and I hope that actions further into the series don't cause this wonderful couple upset.
Clio and Richard. As this relationship only began around half way through this book, there isn't much to mention, but I just feel the writing describing how their passion somehow takes over their logic and means that the two of them can't resist each other really impressed me. I like the odd steamy and passionate romance, full of regret and confusion, it makes for a great relationship building, and I really can't wait to see how these two get closer to one another.
Petra and Thais/Clio. Although this is a three way relationship, I feel that it still applies. I like how easily Petra has taken to Thais being in the family and how she treats both the girls equally, no matter how much difference there's been in time spent together. I can only hope my judgement on Petra isn't too dumbly founded and that she continues to care for the twins and not be the one trying the murder them.
Problems I do have with the characters continue to be there descriptions. As I mentioned with the first book, there's so many characters with just the typical features, and now, even with new ones introduced, they still have the same features and qualities, and to be quite frank, it's really frustrating. This is something I will not get over and will probably mention throughout the series.

Another quality I liked about the book was the different alternating chapters. I have read a few with specific chapters for main characters within books, and I like the style, and the same goes for this book too. I quite possibly like it more in this because it's in the perspective of twins, as as twins are usually the mirror of the other, it's great to see just how differently they view each other and the world they're in. As to be expected though, I also have a problem with it, and it's that minor characters seem to have their own chapter, and although it's nice, I'd rather have fewer chapters and have the characters share chapters than reach the end of the book to find there's been 27 of them. It's like a silly joke and is genuinely taking the mickey.

Although the book improved form the first, with improvements come more problems, and I still think it's not my kind of series, but I shall continue, and won't give up. Maybe it'll be good by the time it finishes.

2.5 Stars.