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Book Review – The Ashen Levels: Journeyman, by C.F. Welburn

The Ashen Levels Journeyman

Rating: ★★★★✪ (4.5/5)

Genre: Fantasy

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About

Continuing where Fledgling left off, Journeyman puts us straight back in the boots of Balagir, who has once more undertaken a perilous journey.

Set largely on and around the ship known as the Spite Spear, Balagir continues to weave his way around those who get in his way, by accident or not, and builds on his experience of the world he previously awoke in.

He also encounters a wide range of new faces, some more pleasurable to look at than others, and will ultimately need to dabble in leadership to succeed.

Plot

As with any significant journey, many challenges will be thrown our way, and that is no different for Balagir. I think, however, that perhaps the main difference is the sheer oddity of what befalls him; I don’t want to spoil it, but who knew a frog could be handled so well?

The themes of Fledgling continue to be present, and are integral to Balagir’s approach to the situations before him. The side quests he embarks on fit well into the overall picture, and they’re never too laborious to read about, or too insignificant to forget.

In short, I don’t think the second book detracts from the plot of the first, and instead builds well upon it.

Characters

Just as a fire starts to grow in strength, so to do the characters in Journeyman; their foundations are familiar to us and slowly we discover the layers upon them.

The strongest development continues to be Balagir, in my opinion, as his reactions seem natural and yet learned from experience, perhaps an accurate representation of someone who has lost their memories.

Those who accompany him felt grounded and well thought-out, with believable personalities as per the first book.

I do however feel that more could be explored between them, for although their usage is handled well, sometimes it would be nice to have a break and hear their own tales. On one hand, we can say that this fits the nature of the book overall, but on the other, who doesn’t want to know more?

World Building

With a ship comes the sea, and with the sea comes new lands and adventures. Journeyman certainly uses this to its advantage, and a good variety of events and people are experienced as a result.

The Spite Spear was an interesting plot component but was integrated well throughout, and added motion to Balagir’s world; it’s easy to make a character ‘travel’, but it isn’t always so easy to make it interesting to read about.

I still do feel that there is missed potential to explore the world in greater detail, and not because this is missing entirely, but perhaps it is a decision made out of pacing. How much of this is a personal requirement, and whether the desired impact of the story really needs it, could be debated; there are still plenty of avenues and lore that could be expanded on.

Writing

The style is consistent between the first and second book, which is a plus in my mind.

I did notice though, particularly in the opening, the sentence structure felt a little jarring in parts; it could have, in my opinion, benefitted from greater connectivity and flow.

This seemed to pass after a short time, though, and once again nothing out of the ordinary stood out – Welburn clearly knows how to use words to great effect.

I will come back to the world building aspect though, because I still don’t know what a ‘chisp’ is, for example. Occasionally there are words which are far from the ordinary English vocabulary, and whilst I totally respect this (language is about expression), it does sometimes break the flow.

Summary

Journeyman greatly added to Balagir’s story and was again an enjoyable book to read. I’m not a book aficionado, despite the fact I am writing my own, so wanting to come back and carry reading is the best praise I can probably ever give.

It maintains the cleverness that was so integral to the first, and that also rewarded and punished in a way that always felt satisfying. There continues to be a balance between hopes, dreams and reality.

If you enjoyed the first, then you would be a fool to not pick up the second.

If you haven’t read the first, do yourself a favour, and then another by reading Journeyman afterwards.


In conclusion, Journeyman does a great job of building on the merits of Fledgling. I would like to have seen more expansion, but this can be easily overlooked for another great read overall.

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2 thoughts on “Book Review – The Ashen Levels: Journeyman, by C.F. Welburn”

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