The saga of Lottie Thorn and Lady Peruvia Ashlington-Voss’ journey to save the world continues. Ash & Thorn #4 brings a formidable foe into their lives that attempts to turn them against one another. The recipe of the issue involves teacakes, candied oranges and, in the case of this review’s author, thunderstorms.
Lottie and Peruvia are finally ready to avert the apocalypse, but unfortunately for them conflict has begun to come from inside of the house. Tired of being demoted to sidekickhood, Peruvia strikes out against Lottie — only to be find herself making a deal with Court that leads to a fairly orgasmic conclusion. Left without her guardian, Lottie chooses to stay and fight, and Sarah suggests that she learn the fine art of apocalyptic baking. With a pep talk from Pickle and a cookbook in her hand, Lottie waits for the apocalypse to descend — but she’s not going down without a fight.
Ash & Thorn has been one heck of a rollicking ride for the reader, and this issue doesn’t scrimp on the Lovecraftian horror, nor does it stop its off-kilter and fun character pieces. The book has fun playing chess with its cast and isn’t afraid to get messy. While there isn’t much action in this volume, we do get tentacle-based demonic mind sex and demonic backing assistants. Lottie is a wonderful, memorable heroine — filled with gumption, spirit, and a never-quit attitude. Pickle is amusing, and Sarah smart and gritty. I don’t know what to make of Peruvia’s new deal with Court. I’m not sure if it ultimately works in the end, but I’ll leave the ensuing issues to solve that puzzle.
Especially noteworthy this time out is Pippa Bowland’s gently patchy color work, which is muted but with a sense of purpose, and gleams wonderfully when it needs to. Mariah McCourt’s writing is fabulous. She makes each character distinct in tone and voice, with Lottie especially a standout. Soo Lee’s art is sharp — quite literally, in its way, with pointy elbows and ragged features making our creatures most fearsome compared to the gentle rounding of the humans involved. The ragged tentacles of Lee’s monsters are complimented by Bowland’s living green and purple color choices.
The recipe this issue was Lavender Earl Grey Teacakes with Candied Orange Peel. I’m an avid baker in my hobby time, but it’s been a long time since I made teacakes — and never tea cake that calls for actual tea to be baked into them. Fortunately, the recipe for the cakes was smoothly translated and handled.
Because I’m not super wild about lavender, I separated the recipe into two halves, put the earl grey in half of the batch, and vanilla roobios tea into the other. I thought that the latter would enhance the vanilla flavor of the cakes.
The end result was a pleasing, rich-looking batter that reminded me of the sort one uses to bake up cupcakes. One big problem: the recipe doesn’t specify whether or not one should use muffin liners in the cupcake tins when baking the cakes, or if instead they should be greased (or if silicone molds should be used instead). I chose to use liners, to make the process easier.
Onto the process of candying the oranges, which required both hands and resulted in me taking no pictures of my work. The process of pithing the peels, as always, proved a little annoying and time consuming, but that’s not the fault of the recipe. You can blame that on the fine art of sugaring itself. If you have a thin pairing knife, I urge you to use it to peel the orange, then chop the peel into chunk before putting it in the simple syrup, because a simple kitchen knife will spend your time sorely.
The scent of the teacakes baking proved to be perfectly heavenly, and the end result was lovely to look at. Texture-wise, the cake was somewhere between a muffin and a cupcake, and taste-wise, I definitely preferred my own choice to use the roobios, which really did enhance the vanilla flavor of the cake. Both versions had a creamy vanilla flavor with caramel undertones, and a distinct tea taste (And aftertaste). The candied orange peel added a bright accent to the treat, tilting the flavor wheel toward creamsicle. A good experience – especially when cooked up in the middle of a thunderstorm, which I had to do! – and a very lovely recipe overall.