K. M. Szpara follows his explosive debut novel Docile with First, Become Ashes, a fantastic standalone adventure that explores self-discovery after trauma and outgrowing abusive origins over the course of an American road trip.
The Fellowship raised Lark to kill monsters.
His partner betrayed them to the Feds.
But Lark knows his magic is real, and he’ll do anything to complete his quest.
For thirty years, the Fellowship of the Anointed isolated its members, conditioning them to believe that pain is power. That magic is suffering. That the world beyond the fence has fallen prey to monsters. But when their leader is arrested, all her teachings come into question.
Those touched by the Fellowship face a choice: how will they adjust to the world they were taught to fear, and how will they relate to the cult's last crusader, Lark? For Kane, survival means rejecting the magic he and his lover suffered for. For Deryn, the cult's collapse is an opportunity to prove they are worth as much as their Anointed brother. For Calvin, lark is the alluring embodiment of the magic he's been seeking his entire life.
But for Lark, the Fellowship isn’t over. Before he can begin to discover himself and heal a lifetime of traumas, he has a monster to slay.
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Members of a secluded cult grapple with sudden immersion in the outside world in the intense latest from Szpara (Docile). Lark has been raised as an Anointed, taught that strict discipline and pain will unleash his magical powers, and that one day he'll be called to fight monsters. He's eager to leave the compound in Baltimore's Druid Hill neighborhood, where he lives, to put his training to the test, but two months before his 25th birthday the FBI raids the compound with help from Kane, Lark's former lover and a closet nonbeliever. Lark flees and stumbles into a fan convention where he meets Calvin Morris, a cosplayer who longs for magic to be real and who agrees to help Lark search for monsters. Meanwhile, FBI agent Miller pursues Lark with the help of Kane and Deryn, Lark's sibling. Calvin witnesses Lark performing what seems to be genuine magic and agrees to help Lark recharge his powers through pain as they hurtle toward an uncertain showdown. Szpara intercuts the thrilling chase with flashbacks to the abuse and sexual violence Kane and Lark endured in the Fellowship of the Anointed. The rotating viewpoints showcase Lark's intense certainty, Kane's guilt, Deryn's bitterness, and Calvin's urgent credulity. Szpara mixes trauma and magic to mesmerizing results.