Overall Rating: ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐
“Finally, throughout all my centuries of ruling this Earth, I had found my heart’s desire.”
I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again – fantasy has never been my go-to genre, and it takes a lot to grab me and make me finish reading until the end. It’s rare that happens, but Maria’s words seemed to put me under a spell and captivate every part of me until I read that final page. Her words are magic, enchanting and almost poetic, and the story behind them was one every book lover needs to experience! I’m beyond thrilled to share my review for my wonderful friend and her extraordinary novel. Your hard work paid off!
Only the Beginning is about the handsome and kind God named Hyperion. Despite ruling Earth, he feels something is missing: companionship. One day he meets a Goddess named Persephone, and he has a premonition. He sees himself and Persephone with their children running around in a bright and beautiful field. Hyperion’s visions are NEVER wrong. Persephone’s mother, however, does not like the idea of her daughter being married to a shadow God; therefore, she forces her back to Olympus. Times passes and Hyperion turns to Light Magic, casting spells to make his visions come true. With no results, Hyperion is lured toward Dark Forbidden Magic which threatens to steal his mind and corrupt his kindness.
Impressive is the only word I can think of to describe everything we see in this book before the story even begins! It’s instantly clear just how much work and effort has gone into creating Maria’s world. I found myself studying the pronunciation guide over and over, as well as reading through each sentence slowly to truly take in its beauty. Reading such delicate words and perfectly described environments was enough to take my breath away, even more so as we’re introduced to Hyperion and the beautiful Persephone, and read of the enchanting moment they first meet. Description is clearly one of the many strong points for this author, and no matter what is being described, whether it be a person or an environment, the words flow so effortlessly, like they needed to be told. I loved how languages and spells are translated for the reader, giving us such an unforgettable experience, something which makes us feel so involved in each and every event. The opening to the story was complete perfection and I couldn’t help but wonder how Hyperion and Persephone’s story would continue.
Hyperion begs for Persephone’s presence in his life, promising her safety at his home for winter, assuring her that she deserved to see the world in all its beautiful seasons. However, her mother is not in agreement, threatening Hyperion and crushing both of their hopes and dreams in the process. I felt each word of anger from Goddess Demeter, and felt she was not someone to cross or to upset. The author has portrayed this character exceptionally well, as well as each of the other characters we’ve met so far. Development of these characters has been written brilliantly, and getting attached to Hyperion and Persephone in particular was so easy. As Persephone goes against her mother’s wishes to be with Hyperion, what would the consequences be? The author already gets readers thinking, concerned for the safety of these characters we’ve already grown to love over a short period, but also making us so happy they’ve done all they can to be together. I loved the story so far and was pleasantly surprised by just how much I was enjoying a fantasy story!
“Demeter stood on the landing of the stairs and seemed to tower higher than before. Anger replaced her ocean eyes with crimson pearls of hate.”
Back when he first met Persephone, Hyperion had a vision of their future together; Persephone as a beautiful bride and children’s laughter filling the air. Seeking the help from her mother and being denied her wishes, Persephone becomes inconsolable, distraught that she can’t have what she craves. However, Hyperion saw the vision – it had to come true! Was it really his fault? Had he forced this life upon her? With his trusted Graeaes by his side, he needed to find a way to put this right, to give his Queen exactly what she wanted and for them to continue their lives together, exactly as he’d seen in his vision. I shared Hyperion’s intense determination at this point in the book and the author seemed to have captured every bit of my attention as I imagined all the ways he could give her what she needed. What I wasn’t expecting was the path he chose! I was thrilled with how exciting everything is in the book as well as how important each character was to me. I felt so attached to them and I only knew this would continue until the end.
I loved how the author had combined fantasy, Greek mythology, magic and the most heartwarming love story all in her own unique style – it was something incredibly addictive to read and captured my heart almost instantly! There were so many elements of the beginning of this book that worked so well, that was also perfect to ease me back into a fantasy world. I loved how mythological characters were given a whole new lease of life, and the author’s creativity shines through to give them an unpredictable path ahead of them. Even though we’re so early on in the book, the words and the story we’re presented with is just so powerful and impactful, creating such a memorable experience and a story I just couldn’t put down. With so much left to come and so much left to discover, I couldn’t wait to get into the middle of the story and see how Hyperion and Persephone’s lives change – would it be for the better or take a turn for the worse?
Perhaps some would think sacrificing their soul is too much of a price to pay to get what the heart desires, but not Hyperion; he’d do absolutely anything to please his Queen, and it isn’t long before he trades blood and life in the first steps to a new existence, for a child. He experiences pain unlike anything he’s ever felt, but deep down, he knows more horrors await him before he can get what he and Persephone desire. The description in these scenes was out of this world, so dark and captivating, as well as incredibly shocking to the core. We feel Hyperion’s pain and suffering, but also understand just how important these action are for the future of his existence. However, as he tells his wife the news of what he’s done after his plan proves unsuccessful, everything becomes too much to bear and she returns back to her mother in Olympus. Reading this part of the story filled me with emotion and knowing Persephone couldn’t be truly happy without a child was particularly saddening.
We see Hyperion slowly change into someone he didn’t want to become, his experience with the book of Ancient Blood Magic altering his moods and personality so violently that The Graeaes don’t know who their saviour is any more. Years and decades pass by with Hyperion venturing out to his gardens in hopes of seeing a returning Persephone, but luck isn’t on his side. The change in this character was impressively written, with Hyperion even carrying out the worst act imaginable to get the child he needs, birthing a new legacy. I was so shocked at his actions and knew there would be serious consequences for what he’d done. I could tell we were really delving deeper and deeper into this dangerous web, with so much at stake, but also so much for Hyperion to gain… The story quickly turns insanely gripping, and I couldn’t predict what was in store for us next! Just how much would the Royal Blake Family play a part in the book from here? Could so much more danger and darkness be in store for Hyperion?
“My hand tightened into a fist, and heartbeat raged like the flames of hell. And in that moment, it became painfully clear to me that I had traded my soul for nothing.”
By this point, I was mesmerised by the uncertain direction of so many characters and became more and more intrigued by how The Secret would have an impact on the future. The author surprised me with action-packed scenes between two brothers at war, and the language used had me completely hooked. With his child’s location hidden from him, Hyperion (or now, Hades) sets off on a quest of his own to find his daughter, a journey that messed with my emotions and had me rooting for characters I never thought I would along the way. After coming face to face with Zeus once again, Hades is banished to his own prison of The Underworld, with these scenes so powerful, so full of action that they’ll be hard to erase from my mind. The plot became so unpredictable and uncertain, and it was becoming near impossible for Hades to get anywhere near his child. With the direction things were taking here, this was probably a good thing. I loved getting inside the mind of Hades, and the author has clearly put her heart and soul into providing such clarity for the reader.
After ordering his Graeaes to collect the ingredients needed for a new spell and taking each of their souls as they were so willingly offered, it isn’t long before Hades acquires The All-Seeing Sight, and is no longer confined by the boundaries of Zeus. The impending danger was positively overwhelming for this story, and with this new power, I was a little nervous about how Hades would use it to his advantage. Who would suffer at his hands? It seemed that with each chapter we get through, the darkness just gets more and more intense. I loved the feeling of how unpredictable Hades’ actions were and the lengths he’d go to in order to get what he wanted. I couldn’t believe the change in this character from right at the start, and I just wondered how much more he’d change before he was satisfied. With the ending of the book near, I couldn’t wait to see how the author used her story-telling talents to round off the story and to set us up for the next one! I already knew I wouldn’t be disappointed.
The All-Seeing Sight gives Hades the option to see the Past, Present and Future, and I loved the detail packed into these few pages of discovery. However, a bit of rule breaking sees him suffer the consequences. His power just wasn’t strong enough; he needed something bigger, better and more powerful to reach his daughter and be reunited with his beloved. But could it ever be possible? Seeing events in the past was such a fantastic concept which suited the story well, and even allows us readers to visit parts of the story we never saw as they played out. I felt so deeply rooted into the story here, each snippet of the Past and Present helps us become more involved with the plot and these brilliant characters. The author has experimented so much with this book, but each risk just made the story better in my eyes! With his plans developing, I felt Hades was getting closer to finding a route that worked to his advantage. But would it be a success?
Taking the form of another, like when he took the form of Hugh the night his daughter was conceived, was the next route forwards for Hades. He had another plan, one that could change everything and lead him to success. Laurence Blackwell is introduced quite late on in this book, but even so, this character stood out so much, and I was intrigued by his innocence and concerned by just how easily he agreed with Hades’ deal. He’s certainly someone to look out for! What did the future hold for this man? Did he really know what he was getting himself into? Hades has deeper thoughts – what if he could rule the darkness of The Underworld as well as Earth? His dreams and visions of being reunited with his wife and daughter and living a fulfilled life become possible as his plans set in motion, and I was beyond curious about how this would play out. The suspense certainly begins to creep in as those final few pages arrive!
“And it was then I realized that even the loneliest and most desperate souls could so easily be pushed to the dark side.”
I became on edge as scenes of the Hades to Laurence transformation were described, but I loved how this was executed and secretly loved how this plan was working out for Hades! Learning spells and conversing with another character, Eric, was such a crucial part of the story, and if Hades could pull this off, everything could change. He was close to tricking this man, and if all went to plan, he’d finally have his own way. The description of action and danger here was fantastic, and I found myself holding my breath as Hades makes himself known. The way the author fills you with a mix of dread, horror and excitement all in one was pretty spectacular, and really gave the ending of this book that show-stopping feeling we all want to read. It’s clear the author has had such immense enjoyment writing this book, and these final scenes just show how well the whole story fits together. I was dying to see how the end made way for the next book!
Oooh, the darkness!! My god, it’s been a while since I’ve read an ending that isn’t warm or happy, or even a completely rounded off ending, and this just made me so desperate for the next book, Only Hayden! I left that final page with so many thoughts, feelings and questions, and this was such a welcome surprise. I don’t think I’ll stop thinking about this until I get another book from this author! Hades’ power becomes as dangerous as ever as he gains total control over others. I’m not going to give anything away, but I loved how unpredictable and thought-provoking things became. Even though I’m sad to have finished this book, I know Delia Blake’s story will be such an interesting and gripping one to focus on next. It’s clear this author has put her heart and soul into every paragraph of this book, and I couldn’t be prouder of her after reading the final result. This book is incredible!
I’ve read a LOT of books, especially in recent years, but nothing else quite compares to this one. The author cleverly and seamlessly combines Greek mythology, magic and fantasy with the modern age, introduces us to so many unique and unforgettable characters, and sways our opinions on these characters back and forth to create the ultimate reading experience. I’m so thrilled with how all the author’s ideas have worked in harmony to create such a masterpiece, and I’m genuinely feeling a little desperate for the next book! Five stars without a doubt, and definitely one I’d read again in a heartbeat!
Only The Beginning by Maria Ashen is available now over on Amazon, available in paperback! It also makes sense to give a huge shout out to Justin Gladstone and Danielle Novotny, who I know have played a huge part in coaching and editing to help Maria bring this story to life. The absolute dream team! Make sure you’re following Maria over on Twitter and Instagram for more updates!