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We’re Gonna Start The Fire

Cinda Williams Chima’s Flamecaster expands her Seven Realms world into an engaging new generation of characters.

We’re Gonna Start The Fire

BOOK REPORT for Flamecaster (Shattered Realms #1) by Cinda Williams Chima

Cover Story: Why Yes, This is a Fantasy Book
BFF Charm: Yay x 2
Swoonworthy Scale: 4
Talky Talk: He Said, She Said, They Said
Bonus Factor: Seven Realms Addition
Factor: Series Starter
Anti-Bonus Factor: Murder
Relationship Status: Dipping a Toe In

Cover Story: Why Yes, This is a Fantasy Book

I’m all for fancy bling, and there are pendants galore in the novel. So … good job cover designer?

The Deal:

Adrian sul’Han (more commonly known as “Ash”) used to be a prince. But a devastating death, which happened thanks to his family’s long-standing war with the neighboring country of Arden,  sends young Ash into hiding. Years later, Ash has become a powerful wizard/mage and healer who wavers down the line between saving the lives of those who are worthy and taking the lives of degenerates and people who do the dirty deeds of Arden’s king. Every move he makes takes him one step closer to his true goal: killing the man who caused his family so much heartbreak.

Jenna Bandelow used to work in the king’s mines. Until the fateful day when the king came for a visit and killed people who meant the world to her, and she became a rebel. Years later, Jenna keeps up appearances by working in the mines (and dressing as a young man), but in her spare time she works with the rebels to wreak havoc as best she can. When a lieutenant in the King’s Guard comes to her town looking for a specific young woman, Jenna first thinks it’s because of her rebellious ways. In truth, they’re looking for her because of the unusual birthmark on the back of her neck.

BFF Charm: Yay x 2

Although Ash is occasionally a little too hell-bent on vengeance for my tastes, he does balance said thirst with a selfless side. He’s always willing to help out those who need it—and truly deserve it—even if it means risking his own life. He’s had a rough time of things, and has made some poor decisions (such as leaving home “to keep his family safe” … that sort of thinking always seems to backfire), but he’s still got room to grow and learn. And, thankfully, he’s more than willing to admit when he’s wrong and learn from his mistakes.

Jenna is the kind of kickass girl/young woman who I would have loved to read about when I was actually her age. She’s got a crazy loyal streak that causes her to get herself in hot water on occasion, but typically she’s a cautious and confident person. She’s also super smart, and knows her way around blasting materials. Definitely someone I’d want on my team. (Do I need things blown up? Not at this moment, but you never know.) Of course, there’s also her whole mysterious birthmark and weird abilities thing, which has me totally intrigued.

Swoonworthy Scale: 4

This is semi-spoilery, so skip this section if you want to remain blissfully unawares of the relationship aspects of this book. The swoon isn’t a major novel plot point, but I know some of you might prefer to decide that for yourselves.

At the start of Flamecaster, Ash and Jenna are 12 and 13, respectively. So I assumed that there wouldn’t be any real swoon in the book. However, soon after we first meet the characters, they experience life changing events … and then the plot jumps forward four years. So they’re on the older end of the teenage range for most of the book. They also find their way to each other, thanks to events beyond their control, and are immediately smitten.

But, to be honest, as much as I was hoping for swoon, I would have liked it to feel a little less neat and a lot less sudden. As much as they talked about their passion, I never really felt it.

Talky Talk: He Said, She Said, They Said

Flamecaster is divided into chapters from Ash and Jenna’s points of view, with a few chapters from secondary characters thrown in here and there. Thankfully, Cinda Williams Chima does well at writing characters who are all disparate enough from each other that it never got confusing as to who you were reading about. (This is also likely due to it being in third-person.) I enjoyed reading about each of them separately, but found them all that much more engaging when they were working together. (What can I say? I love teamwork.)

It’s also apparent why Chima is a well-known and well-loved fantasy writer. The world in which Flamecaster is set was completely new to me (more on that below), but I never struggled to understand its “rules.” Looking back, the book was definitely a set-up for what’s to come in later books in the series, but the action never dragged.

Bonus Factor: Seven Realms Addition

As a newcomer to the Seven Realms world, I was worried that I wouldn’t know enough backstory to fully enjoy the story in Flamecaster. That wasn’t the case, however. Chima has created a book that stands on its own feet, but also makes one want to go back and learn more about what brought the realms to this point.

Factor: Series Starter

Personally, I think fantasy stories are often better as series, because there’s more time to flesh out the world and the characters and the plot. But I’d be remiss not to call attention to the fact that his is only the first in an as-yet-unknown number of books.

Anti-Bonus Factor: Murder

The deaths that occur at the start of the novel lead to Ash and Jenna becoming strong, dedicated individuals, but they’re hard to read. Particularly in Jenna’s case, due to the (young) age of the victims.

Casting Call:

Adam Hicks as Ash

Kaya Scodelario as Jenna

Relationship Status: Dipping a Toe In

I’m totally new to your world, Book, but you never made me feel lame for not being well-versed on your history. Plus, you spun a great tale, and left me wanting more. I’d definitely agree to a second date, and will have to do some research into your family tree on my own.

FTC Full Disclosure: I received a copy of this book from HarperCollins, but got neither a private dance party with Tom Hiddleston nor money in exchange for this review. Flamecaster 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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