A great war has practically eradicated human life, but there are two groups who have survived…the Insiders and the Outsiders. Arafel is home to the people who survived on the outside, they have learned from nature and have adapted to survive. Those on the inside live in the Dome, a militarized community sealed off from the outside. The citizens of the Dome have been led to believe that no one has or could survive on the outside by their vicious, cold and calculating leader Octavia.
One day, Arafel is invaded and some of Talia’s (our MC) family are taken. Arafel holds a deep secret, a secret that can save all of humanity and Octavia will stop at nothing to get it. What she doesn’t count on is that Talia will stop at nothing to get her family back.
Book of Fire is the first book in an upcoming trilogy and whilst it isn’t the most original story idea, it’s a good fantasy YA book for fans of the genre. When I first read the synopsis I was instantly reminded of Stephen King’s Under the Dome and Veronica Rossi’s Under the Never Sky but Book of Fire is different enough to stand on its own within the genre rather than seem like a rip.
“All those I cared about most were below me, in violent danger.”
Unfortunately, it’s not all good news – whilst the book overall was pretty good the characters and the world building were where the big flaws in this novel can be found.
The section with the biggest flaw is the characters. I honestly felt like the characters, all except August, were rather one dimensional and bland. No one really changed that much, no one had any major (or in some cases even minor) character development, and that’s something I really look for in a story. To me, everything else can crumble as long as the characters are interesting and develop. Regrettably that’s just not the case in Book of Fire and August’s kinda-of character development/motivations aren’t enough to make up for the others.
As for character motivations, I don’t think that the characters really did much, of anything. This is especially true of Grandpa Exposition – that’s obviously not his real name but that’s all he’s there for, other than to be one of Talia’s reasons for breaching the Dome.
Talia is our flawed hero, which is great – no one likes a perfect hero – but she’s too flawed. She’s too unbelievable and far too frustrating to me. I just can’t accept that the granddaughter of the wise village elder is such an idiot and can be so reckless. She’s also insanely repetitive not only in her actions and thoughts but her referencing. Honestly, if I had to read “feral cat” one more time I could have cracked my iPad screen!
“It was the most bone-rattling sound I’d heard any animal make in my life.”
The last thing I’ll mention about the characters is their relationships – particularly the romantic relationships. I hate to sound overly dramatic or critical but the romance is laughable. Utterly laughable. The timescale for this novel is less than a week, I think it’s as short as 48 hours and love is being professed by some of the characters. Deep, agenda changing, motive altering love. To top it all off, before this came the typical ‘torn feelings for the enemy because they’re so damn good-looking’ trope that is plaguing YA at the moment. The cringe is real with this one.
The world building was quite good. I like the contrast between the natural lush Arafel and the cold and sterile Dome. But there’s a lot roman/mythological references throughout the novel and I think they might be a bit too much for the intended YA audience. There’s a glossary in the back to explain what the creatures are and I think this is such a shame. If the creatures were described well enough in the main text of the book we wouldn’t need a glossary. It completely shatters the world building experience to have to flip to the back every now and then.
“We’d been played to perfection.”
The plot was a little bit thin (for example we have no idea what started the war in the first place) but this was probably because it’s building for the rest of the trilogy. It was also filled with a few too many coincidences and Deus Ex Machina’s for the characters. Perhaps this will be fixed in the next instalments but they aren’t massively distracting if they aren’t, just a little lack-lustre.
Book of Fire has a slow start but the pacing picks up at the end of the first third. It’s well paced after that and the chapters will keep you wanting to read on. Those new to fantasy will easily be hooked.
Book of Fire was certainly not a bad start for a debut YA author and I’ll likely read the rest of the series when they come out. It’s nothing incredibly original as most of the characters follow typical tropes and their actions are fairly predictable and Talia is dangerously close to becoming as annoying to me as Mare Barrow from the infamous Red Queen series, but it’s an easy and (for the most part) enjoyable read.
Fans of mythology or Roman times, as well as dystopia fans will love this book and will have an exciting new trilogy to look forward to.
“Hot anger flooded my veins. My priorities were Grandpa and Eli, not playing mind games with a genetic Roman throwback.”
[PLEASE NOTE]: All quotations were taken from an Advanced Reader Copy made of uncorrected proof. Quotations may be different in the final published version. I was given a digital copy of the ARC in return for an honest review. I was not paid or sponsored to write this review – all the opinions are honest and my own.