We Are The Ashes, We Are The Fire by Joy McCullough | Book Review

We Are The Ashes, We Are The Fire by Joy McCullough is a force to be reckoned with. This book hit me right in the soul. It is a feminist story covering a modern day sexual assault where the perpetrator got no consequences as well as diving back into the past where a noblewoman takes up the sword for revenge. I am so glad I picked this book up and honestly if I wasn’t doing the whole newborn thing, I definitely would have read it in a single sitting.

Joy McCullough’s We Are The Ashes, We Are The Fire opens up with Em being irritated by the boys at her middle school play who don’t want to listen and just want to mess with the swords. Also, with her character who has no agency. Then we move to the present. Em’s sister Nor has been raped at her college in a situation similar to the Brock Turner case. It goes to trial and just when it seems like Nor will receive justice, the perpetrator ends up with an extremely light sentence. Em then goes viral on the news for saying she would like to learn to use a fucking sword.

From there, Em is befriended by Jess who is non-binary and whose friends are at drama camp for the summer. Jess, however, has stayed home, because their parents are going through a nasty divorce. Jess finds refuge in Em’s friendship and house. Along the way, Jess tells Em about Marguerite de Bressieux, a French noblewoman who was out to avenge the crimes committed against her and the women residing within her castle. And so, we get a book within a book as Em begins to tell Marguerite’s story in verse. Jess illustrates. Oh and real quick, just wanted to mention that Em is short for Marianne and she’s biracial – her father is Guatemalan.

I am blown away by We Are The Ashes, We Are The Fire. It is a thoughtful exploration of rape culture. Em has a righteous anger and it comes through right off the page. However, she’s as wrong as often as she is right. There is some serious character growth and coming of age taking place. At moments, Em is unlikable, but she is always, always realistic. I also loved the development of the friendship between Em and Jess. That was a huge highlight of the book for me. Another highlight was Em’s family – her parents are really well written and I ended up genuinely loving them. AND HER DOG TOO! Pick this book up for solid writing all the way through and excellent characterization and plot development.


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April is in her 30s and created Good Books And Good Wine. She works for a non-profit. April always has a book on hand. In her free time she can be found binge watching The Office with her husband and toddler, spending way too much time on Pinterest or exploring her neighborhood.
About April (Books&Wine)

April is in her 30s and created Good Books And Good Wine. She works for a non-profit. April always has a book on hand. In her free time she can be found binge watching The Office with her husband and toddler, spending way too much time on Pinterest or exploring her neighborhood.

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