Ember Boys (and the Flint and Tinder series) is a spin-off from Gregory Ashe’s Hollow Folk series and continues after the last book in that series. Reading this review will naturally reveal events that transpired during Hollow Folk.
Emmett Bradley has survived the unimaginable. Along with his friends, he battled ancient evil in a small Wyoming town and sacrificed himself to remain scarred forever and now Emmett is locked away. He left Wyoming and those he loved in the rearview mirror of his motorcycle and now finds himself in a California psychiatric hospital. The only person Emmett might have on his side is his former teacher, Jim Spencer, who also lands in the same small California town on the coast.
Life in the hospital is taking its toll on Emmett though. The more he opens up, the more he’s told his memories are only the result of his drug addictions and every day Emmett slips further away from his truth. But not everything is well in the hospital; in fact, nothing is, and the monsters that Emmett ran from are not only local to Wyoming.
Meeting Chloe in the hospital only confuses Emmett more and when he is attacked in the hospital, he knows it’s time to get out any way he can. On the run with Chloe and Jim, Emmett knows he needs Jim’s help. But their relationship is complicated and with a 15-year age difference between them, Jim knows that is just one reason he should stay away from Emmett Bradley.
Emmett Bradley. If you are familiar with Ashe’s Hollow Folk series, you will know the name. Ember Boys starts the first book of the spin-off series after Hollow Folk. Emmett left Wyoming at the end of that series and now finds himself in a psychiatric hospital that his parents have arranged for and, from the start, it’s clear there something going on at this hospital. Jim Spencer, Emmett’s former high school teacher, also returns here and he is homeless and drifting and trying to get his bearings and that involves visiting Emmett often.
Emmett is struggling with everything—his withdrawal, his treatment, his memories, his scars, and his feelings for Jim. He’s Emmett Bradley dialed up as every thought and every gesture is calculated. He’s still cruel, he knows that, but he can’t help himself and I still find him a fascinating character. Jim is also struggling with everything, including his feelings for Emmett and controlling his fire (the real flames that he can create), and both of their abilities have changed since leaving Wyoming.
This book doesn’t so much as wrap up the events of Hollow Folk, but takes the story in a new direction with the men learning about new families and a new war in California. They are reluctantly dragged into it and they have no interest in staying in it, they just want some peace.
I can’t say that I fully have a grasp on where this series is going with new families with new abilities uncovered, how or if Chloe will continue to fit in, and how this will tie back to events in Hollow Folk, and I had questions about Emmett’s recovery. I had questions about the hospital and if Emmett’s parents, who are off page, knew where they put him and there is no closure for what is exactly going on at the hospital. Also, Emmett is disfigured and scarred and there is no mention of his parents ever questioning what happened to him. I also don’t feel like I know Jim anymore at the end of this book and there wasn’t that much we knew about him in the previous books and most of what we see here is his struggle with his feelings for Emmett. Emmett and Vie had such a special chemistry and I don’t feel any of that with Jim and, really, I just want Emmett to get back together with Vie. I know I always do want more Vie and more of Vie and Emmett together. I also want to be able to say that you can start here with this book, but this book pulls so much back story along that I know readers starting here will wonder about past events.
I am truly happy that there is more of this world. However, I am used to more character development for Ashe’s characters and Jim read as bland and neutral to me and there wasn’t that spark (the romantic kind-not the fire kind) between him and Emmett. I do wonder about the choice of putting them together, as well as then reeling in and tightening up the larger story line. After the ending though, (the ending!) I do know I will check out the next book to see where it goes.