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Out of the Frying Pan

Teenage pregnancy, crazy religious cults, and fighting—lots of fighting—can all be found in Gary Meehan’s True Fire.

Out of the Frying Pan

BOOK REPORT for True Fire by Gary Meehan

Cover Story: Three-Alarm Fire
BFF Charm: Maybe
Swoonworthy Scale: 2
Talky Talk: Medieval-ish
Bonus Factor: Prophecies
Anti-Bonus Factor: Fights on Fights on Fights
Relationship Status: Let's Be Friends

Cover Story: Three-Alarm Fire

This book is about fire, y’all. Not only is the title True Fire, but it’s literally spelled out in flames. If those two things didn’t get the point across, there’s also the tagline:

In a world of lies, everything will burn …

Which I know, in your head, you just read in this voice.

The Deal:

Megan has always been a pretty good girl. She helps her grandfather at the family’s mill and keeps her nose out of trouble. Her twin sister, Gwyneth, has always been more of the wild child. So when Megan gets pregnant—during her first time—the roles have seemingly reversed. The father wants nothing to do with the baby, however, so when Megan receives a message that he wants to meet, she’s curious.

During the meeting, Megan witnesses the father get killed by a group of strange soldiers. She runs back to the mill to warn her family, but arrives just in time to see her grandfather get killed by the same soldiers. The rest of the village is no more fortunate, so Megan assumes the same for her sister.

When she attempts to escape the town, Megan is nearly captured—but is saved by a highly skilled, snarky older woman named Eleanor. Eleanor gives Megan a glimmer of hope that Gwyneth might still be alive, and so the two set off on a quest to find Megan’s twin and save her from what surely are dire circumstances.

BFF Charm: Maybe

Megan seems to be a trouble magnet. There are so many brawls during this book, and most of them seem to just crop up wherever Megan happens to be. She’s lucky she’s got a partner/bodyguard on the trip, because she’d have otherwise died in the first chapter. I’m not a big fighter, so I’m not sure I’d do well with a friend who’s constantly getting involved in squabbles that end in people bloodied or dead.

Additionally, there’s the whole bit about her believing Gwyneth when she assures her that you can’t get pregnant your first time having sex. (Spoiler alert: YOU CAN.) I mean, I suppose I need to chalk that ignorance up to a lack of sex ed in Megan’s feudal village, but for an otherwise intelligent girl, that was a dumb assertion to just accept.

Swoonworthy Scale: 2

Megan’s baby daddy is a worthless d-bag who gets killed in the first chapter, so there’s no swoon there. Megan and Eleanor have more of a mother-daughter relationship than any sort of romantic one, so again, no swoon. The two woman do pick up another party member along the way—a guy with questionable ethics named Damon—but he’s more of comic foil than any sort of romantic lead.

Talky Talk: Medieval-ish

The setting and plot of True Fire are definitely medieval. Fighting is done with hands or hand-held weapons. Megan and Eleanor travel via horses or on foot. Plus: There’s a distinct lack of bathing. (I’m very glad books don’t yet come with smells other than ink and paper imbued into the pages.) And yet, Gary Meehan’s characters often feel more modern than one might expect. The language, even when the characters are talking about places and situations totally foreign to the reader, feels familiar. This both works and it doesn’t. If I want to read something in Old English, I’ll pull out one of my college textbooks. But I like a little bit more of the medieval in my fantasy stories than Meehan provided.

Bonus Factor: Prophecies

I do love a good prophecy with my fantasy. And although the one in True Fire isn’t discovered into more than halfway through the story, it adds a level of interest to the plot that wasn’t there before.

Anti-Bonus Factor: Fights on Fights on Fights

There are SO MANY fights during the course of Megan and Eleanor’s quest. They fight innkeepers. They fight soldiers. They fight mercenaries. They even fight their friends. At times I felt like the actual plot of the story was only there to fill the space between fights.

Casting Call:

Bella Thorne as Megan

Andrea Risborough as Eleanor

Matt Barr as Damon

Relationship Status: Let’s Be Friends

Well, Book, you certainly packed a lot into our first date. It was a little more violent than I had expected, and I think you might need to find an outlet for all your angst that doesn’t involve stabbing someone. But it wasn’t the worst date ever, and if you wanted to hang out again at some point, I wouldn’t say no. But let’s keep it platonic, OK?

FTC Full Disclosure: I received a copy of this book from Quercus. I received neither a private dance party with Tom Hiddleston nor money in exchange for this review. True Fire is available now.

Mandy Curtis's photo About the Author: Mandy is a small town girl living in a nerdy world, or—if you want to get literal—an editor/writer living in Austin, TX. In addition to yearning for YA books—the more dystopian or fantastical, the better—she can also be found swooning over superheroes, dreaming of The Doctor and grinning at GIFs.
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