Four shadowy figures on a ruined wall, staring at a firey sky

About the Book

Title: Firebrand (Elemental #2)
Published: 2013

Cover Story:Two Suns in the Sunset
Drinking Buddy:
My Element is Beer
MPAA Rating:
PG-13 (violence)
Talky Talk:
Bonus Factors:
Lost Colony, Whom Can We Trust?, Voltron
Bromance Status:
Don’t Let Me Down, Bro

Cover Story: Two Suns in the Sunset

Four shadows, a decaying fort, the ocean, and fire in the sky. Understated, yet evocative. I’d give it a read.

The Deal:

Thom and his family used to live on Roanoke Island, off the east coast of what was once the United States. A plague has killed off the mainland population. All of Thom’s neighbors and relatives each have an elemental power: they can control either earth, air, water or fire. Only Thom is pathetic and has no element. People won’t even touch him.

In volume one, the community is raided by Dare the pirate and his merry band of looters. It is then that Thom discovers his  element, a new one that’s never been seen before. After an intense battle, the survivors of the community steal Dare’s ship and head out to ports unknown.

In this book, Thom’s people arrive at Fort Sumter, where another colony has set up shop. Run by the kindly Chief, they discover a well-run, plague-free community. One they might call home.

Thom’s independent friend Alice begins fighting with Jerren, a hard headed local boy…and we all know what that always leads to. Even Griffin, Thom’s odd, deaf, psychic brother, finds a friend in Jerren’s sister Nyla. And now that Thom has better understanding of his element, his friend Rose doesn’t have to be afraid of touching him. She touches him a lot. Must be making up for lost time.

Only things aren’t perfect. The farther the elementals get from their home, the weaker their powers become. And the Sumterites have no elements and might be rather suspicious of people who can summon fire from the sky or cause fish to jump out of the sea. In order to stay, they’ll have to give up their powers forever. Is safety worth such a cost?

And though Thom proved himself a hero in the last book, some of the survivors still distrust him and blame him for their losses. Will he ever be accepted?

Plus, Fort Sumter has avoided contamination for years. They dislike visitors, especially ones who show up in stolen pirate ships. And when you’re the new guy, it’s your job to go hunt for food on the other islands. The ones with the rampaging plague rats, that are getting smarter and more desperate every month.

Drinking Buddy: My Element is Beer

Two pints of beer cheersing

After the confrontation with the pirates, there are only three surviving Guardians (adult elementals) left, and one of them–Thom’s father–is gravely ill. Some of the survivors think they need to dedicate themselves to their new home, doing whatever Chief demands of them. Others think that giving up their elements is not worth it, and that there’s something suspicious about these new people.

And then there’s Thom. Rose, Alice, and Griffin see him as the new leader, the most powerful elemental ever. Others blame him for the destruction of their colony and detest him.

So where does he go from here? Does he urge conformity or foment rebellion? Does he share his secrets or keep them hidden? And can’t he enjoy a little alone time with Rose?

MPAA Rating: PG-13 (violence)

Yeah, there’s pirates and plague rats and gun fights and rescues on the high seas. But what really got my engine running was Thom’s newfound relationship with Rose. You see, because of the nature of his element, no one has been allowed to touch him for his entire life. But now that it’s fading, now that physical contact is not longer dangerous…things start to get really dangerous. Good smolder here, with Thom/Rose, as well as Jarren/Alice and even Griffon/Nyla.

Plus gunfire and betrayal. And this from an author who once wrote a YA novel entirely about breasts.

Talky Talk: 1984

One of the great things about the book 1984 is that the hero was old enough to remember life before Big Brother.

That’s why I like the Elemental setting. The plague that contaminated the mainland happened less than a generation ago. Old people, like Thom’s father and Chief, remember what our world was like. Everyone knows the historical importance of Fort Sumter, for instance.

On the other hand, the kids have only know what it’s like to live on an island and to control the elements with their minds. It’s a nice balance. We’re not in Panem, where the society’s origins are lost in time. But we also realize that the National Guard is not going to send a landing party to rescue everyone.

Still, I’m hoping that part there does clear up some things for the readers. What’s going on in the rest of the world? Are there other colonies? Where is the pirate base? What happened to Thom’s mother?

Bonus Factor: Lost Colony

Black and white photo of an abandoned house

When I was in fifth grade, I learned about the lost colony of Roanoke, where everyone just mysteriously vanished one year. It drove my nine-year-old brain crazy, knowing that the mystery would never be solved.

Well, now it’s solved. Seriously. Read the book. Now we know. Huh.

Talky Talk: Whom Can We Trust?

Man in a suit, extending hand to shake

So very few people trust Thom. Fine. But the feeling is mutual. Is grandfatherly Chief really the nice guy he makes himself out to be? Is Kell, his right hand man, hiding something? And is Jerren, the handsome wise ass, someone worthy of Alice’s confidence? John keeps us guessing, and we still have another book to get through.

Bonus Factor: Voltron

Model of a futuristic robot

Remember the old Voltron cartoon, where the smaller robots would all form together to make the super huge Voltron thing? Well in this book, the elementals realize that they can combine their elements to create something much more powerful.  But now that they’re away from home, they cannot really experiment with this new reality. But c’mon, who really wants to be able to create a typhoon or enormous fireball? Where’s the fun in that?

Bromance Status: Don’t Let Me Down, Bro

I like this series. It’s been good to me and the sequel was well worth the wait. But I happen to know that the author really didn’t care for Mockingjay. Let’s see if he can pull of the ultimate trilogy. I’m cautiously waiting.

Literary Matchmaking

Killer of Enemies

Another book about badass people with minor superpowers in a post-apocalyptic future.

FTC Full Disclosure: Antony John is a good friend of mine, and he gave me this book. But I really, honestly liked it.

Brian wrote his first YA novel when he was down and out in Mexico. He now lives in Missouri with his wonderful wife and daughter. He divides his time between writing and working as a school librarian. Brian still misses the preachy YA books of the eighties.