The Ash House – Angharad Walker

Stars: ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

Ash House tells the story of a boy with a mysterious illness who is taken to The Ash House to find a cure.

When he arrives he notices that there are no adults around; children are left to run the house in the absence of the Headmaster. Each of them is named after a Niceness that they are all expected to embody: the new boy is named Solitude on arrival.

But the longer he stays, the more he realises things are not as they seem. With dangerous creatures roaming the grounds, magical huts that change location and children who keep secrets, will he actually find a cure or is he at risk of an even worse fate?

This was a book I couldn’t put down. I was gripped – it was packed with action and drama, as well as a twist I didn’t see coming!

Dom and Sol were a brilliant pairing, and each of the other children’s characters was created to produce an interesting dynamic within the group. My personal favourite character was Con. His background and development throughout the book really endeared me to him.

I loved the themes through the book of ‘Niceness’ and ‘Nastiness’ and considering if these are always exclusive or whether there are times for each. I also thought it was interesting to consider how the children at The Ash House had been conditioned into the beliefs that they held.

To tell you more about the book, the author, Angharad Walker, has written a piece about the setting and inspiration of the book…

The Ash House is about a boy with a mysterious illness. He is sent to the Ash House to get better, only to find himself in a house made entirely of ash and smoke, where green-eyed hounds stalk the grounds, and ever-watchful drones hover in the air. A group of children live there, seemingly abandoned and sleeping in a dilapidated greenhouse. This boy, named ‘Sol’ by the others, tries his best to fit in as he learns the secrets of the Ash House.

There are a lot of rules for Sol to learn at the Ash House. All the children are named after virtues, or ‘Nicenesses’ as they call them. There’s Freedom, Concord, Liberty, Love, Patience, Prudence, Wisdom, and many more. You can see the whole cast with their beautifully illustrated portraits in the UK paperback published by Chicken House! Every day, the children watch recorded lectures about Nicenesses. They carry out their daily chores, play together, eat together, all the while trying to be the epitome of all the Nicenesses all at once.

The Ash House has been hugely shaped by my fascination with institutions. How insular they can be with their complex, unspoken rules, and how alienating they are to outsiders. Because when writing book, I knew I wanted to tell a story about a prison break. But just breaking out of locks and walls wasn’t exciting enough for me. I wanted to know how people go about breaking out of the rules and conventions that have governed their whole world. That’s where Sol comes in. He’s the outsider, which is both a curse and a blessing. He is not accepted by most of the children at the Ash House, but he’s the only one who can see what’s really going on—and just how dangerous it could get.

Hopefully you’ve had a taste of how exciting this book is – it’s one you definitely need to read curled up inside now the autumn nights are creeping in!

If you like the sound of this book, buy it here.

Emily x

📚 Book gifted by publisher

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