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  • The Ashen Levels

  • Omnibus Version
  • By: C.F. Welburn
  • Narrated by: Jez Jameson
  • Length: 23 hrs and 33 mins
  • 5.0 out of 5 stars (5 ratings)

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Summary

When Balagir awakens at the fire with no recollection of his past, he discovers he is an ashen - a mysterious group of black-eyed vagabonds addicted to the smoke they must pay the ghostly piper in exchange for power.

With the help of the kalaqai (a sentient spark) and a band of nefarious companions, Balagir will have to traverse the northern wilds, cross seas, and survive foreign wars if he is to discover the truth behind the Ashen Levels.

©2018 C.F. Welburn (P)2020 C.F. Welburn

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The Elusive Smoke.

One of the best series I've read this year. Amazing worldbuilding, plot and setting. A dark world to emerse yourself to get lost for awhile and just enjoy the unfortunate Balagir's tale of woe and to find his life's meaning, Fabulous prose, CF Welburn's writing is so good. You will not want to put this down, Jez Jameson gives a great preformence and brings this beautifully written story to life, highly recommend..😁

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A dark, yet fabulous tale!

A dark, yet fabulous tale about a man called Balagir, this story begins as he awakens without memory of his past. Balagir is forced to go through trials and riddles, one more dangerous than the next as he tries to uncover what has happened to him.

Written in most exquisite prose, this tale is expertly told. The book gives off an intriguing and creepy, almost fairytale-like, feel (the old kind, mind you), which I found highly entertaining. Everywhere Balagir turns, there is a challenged he must face, and it is absolutely fantastic!

And what a satisfying ending to an otherwise great series! The threads weaved throughout this story are flawless, and how it all comes together at the end is expertly done. I loved the conclusion!

I cannot recommend this enough, for I've absolutely devoured this series listening to the audiobooks! I feel empty now, knowing Balagir won't be joining me in my day-to-day life. The narration done by Jez Jameson leaves me wanting for more on its own, let alone the fabulous story CF Welburn has penned here!

Fantastic world-building, great characters, superbly merged GameLit elements, intriguing mysteries, and great action! I cannot stress enough how great this series is. Just buy it already!

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  • Laura
  • 16-05-22

Impressive Fantasy

This was my first experience with C. F. Welburn's work, and it was awesome. There were five books in this omnibus verson, and they contained all the elements of a dark fantasy. The world building was formidable with unusual races and creatures. The unifying theme was a quest which led the protagonist and his companions to travel throughout the lands searching for the truth. The characters were dark and complicated. There was magic. There were twists and turns and surprising happenstances which kept the action flowing in each of the books. I recommend this series to others who enjoy this genre. Jez Jameson's narration was great and enhanced the story's entertainment. I was given a free copy of the audiobook, and I have voluntarily posted this review.

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  • Michelle Vess
  • 11-10-20

Beautifully written, dark fantasy adventure.

Overall, the story was wonderful. The characters and world-building were well done. I really enjoyed the magic system and mystery underlying the whole series. Jez Jameson's narration made this one of my favorite audiobooks I've ever listened to.
I originally reviewed each part, separately so here are my spoiler-free thoughts broken down by part.

Fledgeling: Part 1
From the first sentence I was excited by the clean, yet old-world style of prose. Every sentence was a delight to hear. Narrator Jez Jameson does a wonderful job capturing the characters and emotions throughout the book. The dialogue is so well written I feel like I’m eavesdropping on real conversations. Let’s talk about Balagir, because he’s my new best friend, and I already know I will be with him till the end of his journey. He wakes up at a campfire and has very few memories, only his name and mysterious old medallion no one can decipher. Through many trials and errors he figures out how the oaths, smoke, and paying the piper, all work for what he’s become, a black-eyed Ashen. The Ashen are like a tribe drawn from nearly every race and have bad reputations almost everywhere they go. It seems to be “every Ashen for themselves,” but Balagir is often torn between helping others and making his own way to find the truth of his origins. Eventually he decides his answers lie South, and makes his way as far as he can.

Journeyman: Part 2
Balagir’s journey continues, at sea this time, with the unsavory crew of the Spite Spear. He proves to be just as conniving as the rest, Ashen or otherwise, and deftly turns tables as often as they are turned on him. The worldbuilding only gets richer, mysteries deeper, and the seas stormier. The prose and dialogue are just as wonderful in the second book, building the world and characters in a way that makes them feel alive in the mind. I’m an absolute fan of narrator Jez Jameson, who really captures the world and characters.

Adept: Part 3
“Why are you here?” Balagir’s need to answer this question continues to drive him South. Who is the piper, and why must he be paid in smoke? Not only did I want to know, but I desperately wanted Balagir to know too! He reconnects with some old companions and meets some new ones. The way is harder, the enemies more vicious, and the question of the Ashen’s existence is still more mysterious. The beautiful prose and wonderful narration keep drawing me back again and again.

Hero: Part 4
War looms, and someone is pulling the strings. Can Balagir untangle the web and make a difference in the fated outcome? I was on the edge of my seat through the whole book. Action, intrigue, deception and misinformation swirl around Balagir and a ragtag company of Ashen as they meddle in the politics of men. Balagir finds himself thrust into a leadership position among the Ashen who have never been united for anything before. The battle scenes were incredible, and at one moment all hope was lost. As the battle rages, so does Balagir. I’ll cheer on Balagir to the bitter end!

Paragon: Part 5
The final book of the Ashen Levels takes Balagir to the very bottom of the Ashen mythos. He manages to unearth long lost things that were perhaps better off left alone. In the end, the Good Company prevails, though at heartbreaking costs to all involved. I loved the way so many things from early in the series were brought back around, loose ends tied, and comeuppances had. The ending was both bitter-sweet and very satisfying. I loved the titles of the 5 book sequence, and though they all fit perfectly with Balagir’s journey, start to finish. Balagir and the Good Company will stay in my heart for a very long while. Thank you CF Welburn for a wonderful tale, I truly enjoyed the whole of it.