I loved the Shatner books until Preserver when they just got weird and I couldn't handle it anymore. Shame too, because the mirror universe novels started interesting.
I read The Return before Ashes and it is still one of my favorite Trek books; I don't think I was lost by starting in the middle either. But Ashes does need to be read before Avenger. I loved the starship Monitor in the book, especially when it flew inside a Romulan Warbird and blew it apart from the inside.
So there is a comic version of Ashes? Who made it?