A novel comprising three connected tales: the previously published short works "Jack Daw's Pack" and "A Crowd of Bone", followed by the new, novel-length "Unleaving". Set in a mythic land akin to Britain, complete with fantastic dialect and its own mythology. Which, ahh. Love. So real and flawed. Over the course of the book, several characters take on this mythology and in the end radically alter it: this is the core plot, around which are the lives of various people affected by the Ashes myth.The two short parts are tightly written: the first flits around the myth of Ashes and the woman Whin's intersection with it, the second concerns Thea, daughter of goddess Annis, and her attempt to flee her mother's influence. However, the pace of "Unleaving" dawdled before running. Too much time is spent on Margaret - grand-daughter of Annis - who, having fled her prison in the myth-world, arrives at a country house and settles there with its owner Grevil and his staff. She helps Grevil with his academic pursuits, she makes a telescope and looks at the stars, she mets the "crow lad", illegitimate child of a woman who was Ashes. This takes a surprisingly long time and is not helped by Margaret's comparative blandness as a character - compared to, say, the rarely appearing Whin, the goddesses Malykorne and Brock, even Grevil, whose academic, kind nature is useless against the sinister powers that later appear. Still, put Margaret under the stars and she comes to life, and her quiet smallness is justified by her life before. (Whin, who featured prominently in the two shorter works, is also manouevred by the goddesses but is a harder, more determined, active character. Whin's just cool and I wish more of the book had been about her. She's also black, because Gilman is capable of writing a faux-Britain and not just making it about white people. My diverse nation sings its thanks.)Once Madam Covener appears, the plot starts to get going: Margaret is trapped, yet a way out through the myth and practise of Ashes is presented. From Hallows night onwards, I didn't want to put the book down. Margaret at the very end - who suffers and is central, at the same time - is far from a timid girl who sneaks out at night to watch the stars.I love Greer's myth-making. The Ashes myth, for instance. Each Hallows, a local woman is chosen by chance - her candle is the last to go out, as they all walk across the moors - to be Ashes until spring, telling deaths and choosing her own lovers. It's freedom for some. Playing the role of Ashes hurt Whin and drove an old woman to madness, yet Barbary longed for its freedom and it's said that other women enjoy the sexual release. You're a whore in this world if you sleep around, except as Ashes you're expected to, you're free to choose (although some as Ashes are raped, it's technically very bad to do so), you're even allowed to pick other women. A key factor: any child got on you is to be sacrificed at birth to the fields. Never mind its link to Annis, who got the original Ashes in her glass, a link very potent for Margaret and Whin especially.Then there's death - the Lyke Road - and what happens to the characters who walk it, but I'll leave off telling too much of that.Cloud & Ashes is a pleasure to read, not least because Gilman has an ear for language unlike almost any other author - although the style is not, shall we say, transparent - in places you have to pick at it a little, re-read some passages, but for me that's part of the enjoyment. (Could have done without quite so many repetitions of phrases like "There's all to do" and "unleaving", though.) It's clever, the characters real and sympathetic - or horribly sinister, in a couple cases - the world marvellous. If only there'd been less emphasis on Margaret in the house! It made a sizeable chunk of the book a bit ehhhh for me. Still, when I think of the book as a whole, words like "fantastic" and "marvellous" pop into my head over and over.