Tobias, his father and all like them possess superhuman powers due to a genetic anomaly:
“They call us aberrants. Aberrant genetics. Aberrant psychology. We are sociopaths, psychopaths, sadists, freaks—a sickness of the worst kind, rejected by man and nature alike. They fear our power, but our power isn’t what what’s truly frightening.
From the Ashes © Adrien-Luc Sanders
Langdon is studying the genealogy of aberrants and Tobias made sure he was assigned as the scientist’s assistant to monitor and investigate the doctor’s studies. Tobias and other aberrants fear humans will find a way to reverse the essence of who they are or, worse use science to wipe out their kind. The other side of the coin is that Tobias very much wants a recommendation from Langdon for his pre-doctoral qualification. He wants to study and understand what he is but the cantankerous Landon is is difficult at the best of times.
From the Ashes is told in the first person by our hero Tobias and Adrien-Luc Sanders carves a conflicted character who has been raised by his father to be a master assassin and villain. According to Blaze all aberrants are bad to the bone, they have no capacity or room for compassion. While Tobias has a strong sense of self-preservation and fully understands his role as Blaze’s “sidekick” he is questioning his father’s maniacal view of world domination. I could sense that despite the evil Tobias has perpetrated in his father’s name he feels unfulfilled, uneasy in his role.
Tobias becomes intimately involved with ethics professor Dr. Sean Archer when a completely unexpected initial attraction evolves into much more. Tobias doesn’t understand his burgeoning feelings for Sean but when Blaze sends Tobias and a team of aberrant assassins on a grisly mission and giving up his lover proves painful he then finds himself making some difficult choices.
As noted in the book details above, From the Ashes is a 157 page novella and Sanders has crafted a multi-layered story with a dark superhero comic feel. Admittedly, Tobias is a nasty who kills without mercy and seems irredeemable but I couldn’t help but like him, thanks,in part, to his self-depreciating and sarcastic wit and struggle for independence. This is a coming of age story about a being who has never been given the opportunity to explore his true self. It’s Blaze’s way or the highway and I empathized with Tobias’ longing to break free of his father’s tyranny. This is not an erotic tale, the love scenes are subtle and sweet, but you can sense the tenuous, growing bond between Tobias and Sean. Sanders isn’t afraid to incorporate graphic and grisly violence so you can expect kill and action scenes that include humans with enhanced superpowers fighting to the death.
From the Ashes offers an all around great escapist read and establishes a strong foundation for the next story in the author’s Fires of Redemption series. This novella is an impressive debut and I’m looking forward to reading more of Adrien-Luc Sander’s work.