Book Review: Mouth Full of Ashes by Briana Morgan

My Kindle became well-used during the pandemic, which finally made me get over my stigma about e-books. But then I found myself missing the tactile sensation of holding a book in your hands and flipping through the pages, so I’ve bought more paperbacks and patronized the library more often lately. There is just something about the smell of a new book. 

I bought the paperback for “Mouth Full of Ashes” by Briana Morgan and didn’t regret the purchase. I often find myself disappointed by self-published books, which is why I usually buy them in ebook form; if the quality of the writing stinks, at least it’s not taking up space on my shelf. But I was glad to have “Mouth Full of Ashes” on my shelf. For one thing the cover art is beautiful and minimalist, and the formatting is well done; no large text with skinny margins. It was professional, and edited cleanly. I feel like that is something you always need to remark on for self-published books. It’s so rare that it’s remarkable sometimes. 

“Mouth Full of Ashes” is the queer vampire story you wish traditional publishers would embrace but since they have decided that we are in a post-Twilight era, vampires are hackneyed now. Indeed, I too have a slight stigma about vampires. There is just so much vampire content out there, it’s difficult to do something original with the subject anymore. But I really loved “Mouth Full of Ashes.” It was just the kind of escapist, comfort horror that I was looking for. 

This is the story of Callie Danoff and her grief over the loss of her sister in a car accident. The family, still in mourning, moves back to her mother’s hometown, a place with a boardwalk and carnival and a string of disappearances of local girls. Callie’s brother Ramsay meets a guy who works at the carnival on a dating app, and they fall in with a gang of pickpockets – Jabari, Elijah, and Maeve and Tahlia. Soon Callie finds herself pulled along with the maelstrom of this gang, and finds out the truth about the darkness on the edge of town. 

The writing style was strong and vivid, with lovely descriptions that made me feel as if I was right there in the action, smelling and hearing the sights on the boardwalk. It had a literary pastiche to it that I appreciated. The characters of Callie and her family were well-developed but I wanted a little more history and background of the vampire gang; we only really got surface level with them. At first I found it hard to believe that Callie would feel like she knew Maeve so well after only two days, but I really enjoyed their romance and its constant pull of danger. Part of me wanted this book to be longer to get more back story but part of me thought this was the perfect length for an escapist, dark circus fantasy. 

All in all, well done, and I’d read more by this author. 

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