Review: First, Become Ashes by K.M. Szpara

Author: K.M. Szpara
Publisher. Tor.com
Released: April 6th, 2021
Received: NetGalley
Warnings: Control, sexual assault, lack of consent, abuse, child abuse, self-harm

3 kitties

K.M. Szpara, the author of Docile, is back again with a new novel: First, Become Ashes. It’s another LGBT adventure that will almost certainly divide readers into two distinct groups.

Lark has spent most of his life training for a righteous quest, one that involved monsters and magic. Both he and his partner, Kane, were forced to wear cages in order to prepare for this quest. Cages that were supposedly designed to help bring out their inner magic.

Imagine Lark’s surprise when the government raids the compound he knew as home, arresting the leader on multiple counts of abuse and assault. That was the moment that Lark’s life changed in ways that will be impossible to understand fully.

“Kane looks like the hero he was meant to be. Humanity’s savior. Ours.”

Once again, I find myself extremely conflicted, thanks to K.M. Szpara’s writing. Docile left me uncomfortable and uncertain about the message it was trying to tell. Likewise, First, Become Ashes is a disconcerting read.

I understand and acknowledge that this was intentional on the author’s part. There’s a clear line of commentary that happens within these pages. My larger concern is that I’m not sure any of those thoughts or arguments are brought to completion. It feels like they’re left hanging, with the moral of the story left unsaid. When dealing with such heavy subjects, that feels like a mistake; I’m sorry to say.

I do want to take a moment to discuss some of the trigger warnings that are in First, Become Ashes because they are numerous. Nearly every page feels worthy of a warning. There are constant scenes of abuse, both of the physical and psychological variety. This abuse crosses the line into torture on more than one occasion. Likewise, there’s a significant amount of sexual trauma within these pages, involving assault, lack of consent, and many more highly disturbing scenes. Oh, I almost forgot some warnings. Yes, there are THAT many. There’s also self-harm, cults, sadomasochistic violence. I think that covers it.

Long story short: I’m once again stuck on how to review First, Become Ashes. It’s absolutely a story that many readers will love. It’s also a story that so many will find triggering and uncomfortable, myself included. My advice would be to look up those warnings and make the best decision for you and your comfort levels.

Thanks to Tor.com and #NetGalley for making this book available for review. All opinions expressed are my own.

About Liz (AKA Cat)

I am an avid animal lover, photographer, reader, and much more. While my photography blog is feeling a bit neglected at the moment, the other sites I'm involved in are going strong. ✧I review books, comics, and basically anything else in the literary world over at Quirky Cat's Fat Stacks (of Books). ✧I review comics and books, as well as write content for Word of the Nerd. ✧I review comics for Monkeys Fighting Robots. ✧I write content for Screen Rant and CBR. ✧I write book reviews for The Review Crew.
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