Published by HarperCollins on April 5th 2016
Genres: Fantasy, Young Adult
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Adrian sul’Han, known as Ash, is a trained healer with a powerful gift of magic—and a thirst for revenge. Ash is forced into hiding after a series of murders throws the queendom into chaos. Now he’s closer than ever to killing the man responsible, the cruel king of Arden. With time running out, Ash faces an excruciating choice: Can he use his powers not to save a life but to take it?
Abandoned at birth, Jenna Bandelow was told that the magemark on the back of her neck would make her a target. But when the King’s Guard launches a relentless search for a girl with a mark like hers, Jenna assumes that it has more to do with her role as a saboteur than any birth-based curse. Though Jenna doesn’t know why she’s being hunted, she knows that she can’t get caught.
Eventually, Ash’s and Jenna’s paths will collide in Arden. Thrown together by chance and joined by their hatred of the ruthless king, they will come to rescue each other in ways they cannot yet imagine.
“Hope is the thing that can’t be reined in by rules or pinned down by bitter experience. It’s a blessing and a curse.”
Okay, let’s break this down:
1) This is one of the most promising starts to a fantasy series I’ve read in a long time.
2) I haven’t read the Seven Realms series but, if you have, there is something that happens at the start of this book that will give you serious feelings. I almost feel them just by knowing what I know, even though I never read the original books.
3) Flamecaster was an exciting and engaging book, but not quite what I expected. In some ways, though, it was so much more.
4) There is magic and dragons and pirates and revenge and evil royalty and characters that may be good or bad… must I go on?!
I want to say some more about #3 because, based on all the reviews I’ve seen, I went into this book expecting something and that wasn’t exactly what I got.
When it comes to fantasy, I tend to expect one of two things: 1) A long, dense work, filled with description and a slow-moving but intricately-woven plot (think Sanderson or Rothfuss), or 2) Lighter, simpler fantasy, filled with lots of drama, action and romance (think Maas or Bardugo). Both have their merits, but I was under the impression that Flamecaster was going to fall easily into the second – fast-paced, action-packed and probably romantic. And it didn’t.
Don’t get me wrong, Flamecaster does not quite follow the pattern of long, wordy, adult fantasy novels either. But Chima writes like the seasoned author she is, with a knack for building up her storytelling, crafting a perfectly-told scene gradually, and developing multiple interesting characters over the course of the novel. The one romance that surfaces is not particularly central to the story and falls into its rightful place behind survival, intrigue, and a web of mystery and lies.
There’s a richness to this novel, and it’s well-written in a way I don’t see too often in YA fantasy anymore. I liked how the story unfolded gradually, fuelled by the characters’ and the reader’s need for vengeance and justice.
I’m coming to understand that the words “fast-paced” and “engaging” are not necessarily the same thing. It is possible for a book to be packed full of random action and never pull you into the story, just as it is also possible – and as is the case here – for a book to reveal its secrets slowly and gradually, but be all the more engaging because of it. Good old tension, how I have missed thee.
Flamecaster is a book that is clearly meant to be read as part of a series. This first installment does not follow the standard format of conflict and resolution, saving many things for the bigger story arc and leaving gaping questions at the end. But, honestly, it just made it even more thrilling. I can’t wait for the next book.