Book Review by El: From the Ashes, by Xen Sanders

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from the ashes xen sanders

From the Ashes, by Xen Sanders
Series: Fires of Redemption, Book One
Publisher: Entangled Publishing
Release Date: January 2, 2017

Rating: 4 out of 5 stars


Sociopath. Killer. Deviant.

Monster, devoid of morals, incapable of human emotion. The villain known as Spark has been called this and more, and as a super-powered aberrant has masterminded countless crimes to build his father’s inhuman empire. Yet to professor Sean Archer, this fearsome creature is only Tobias Rutherford­—antisocial graduate researcher, quiet underachiever, and a fascinating puzzle Sean is determined to solve.

But one kiss leads to an entanglement that challenges everything Tobias knows about himself, aberrants, and his own capacity to love. When his father orders him to assassinate a senator, one misstep unravels a knot of political intrigue that places the fate of humans and aberrants alike in Tobias’s hands. As danger mounts and bodies pile higher, will Tobias succumb to his dark nature and sacrifice Sean—or will he defy his father and rise from the ashes to become a hero in a world of villains?


M/M Pairing
Gay Characters
Contemporary Romance
Paranormal (Powers)
Good vs. Evil
POC/Person of Color

Warnings For:
Death (Murder)


Confession: Xen Sanders could write a book about a guy watching paint dry for two hundred pages, and I would probably still read it, because he’s a master with words and phrases that hit me hard in the feels.

My name is Tobias Rutherford, and I am the instrument of mankind’s destruction.

This is not a happy book. It is a love story, but it’s also a bleak journey through the eyes of a young man who believes that he’s incapable of love, of hope, of human emotions. Tobias is a graduate student in California, but he’s also hiding a dark secret: he’s an aberrant, a genetic mutation of humanity gifted (or cursed) with special abilities. And Tobias’ father is dictator of an aberrant-run nation called Xinth, hellbent on waging all-out war against the humans who seek to wipe them out.

There’s a lot of death in this book. Tobias doesn’t believe that he has any morals, and so he acts accordingly. But things change when he meets a professor at his college. Sean is everything that Tobias is not: kind, caring, capable of love… human.

I can’t say anything. I can’t do anything but close my eyes and kiss him again, savoring it. I know what this ache is now, this thing that isn’t quite pain. Soon I’ll smother that bright spark until it’s snuffed out, leaving me emptier than ever– but for now it burns hot, consuming.

This is the first in a series, so it’s clearly establishing some characters and plot arcs that I assume will come to play in later books. But while this book is heavy on plot and introspection, and light on romance, we do get to see a gradual evolution of Tobias as he slowly opens up to Sean. And it was a beautiful, slow-build that I really enjoyed reading.

I do think this book will put a few readers off, with how angsty it is. But if you’re in the mood for a dark novel about supervillains learning to love, then you absolutely need to check this one out.

… Plus, it’s not all seriousness!

“We’re doing a thing.”
“A thing?”
“Does it need a name?”
“I wouldn’t mind calling it The Grand Sexing. It sounds much more glamorous than a relationship.”

Highly recommend, but not for anyone looking for something light-hearted and sweet!


Xen Sanders is a New Orleans-born Southern boy without the Southern accent, currently residing somewhere in the metropolitan wilds of the American Midwest. He spends his days as a suit-and-tie corporate consultant and business writer, and his nights writing genre-bending science fiction and fantasy tinged with a touch of horror and flavored by the influences of his multiethnic, multicultural, multilingual background—when he’s not being tackled by two hyperactive cats. He wavers between calling himself bisexual and calling himself queer, but no matter what word he uses, he’s a staunch advocate of LGBTQIA representation and visibility in genre fiction.

He also writes contemporary romance and erotica as Cole McCade. And while he spends more time than is healthy hiding in his writing cave instead of hanging around social media, you can generally find him in these usual haunts:
• Email:
• Twitter: @thisblackmagic
• Facebook:
• Facebook Fan Page:
• Website & Blog:

You can purchase From the Ashes from:

Barnes & Noble

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I received an advanced copy of this novel in exchange for a fair and honest review.

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