Monday 1 September 2014

Book Review - Trial By Fire

Trial By Fire
Author: Josephine Angelini
Series: Worldwalker Trilogy #1
Genres: Fantasy | Young Adult
Release Date: 28th August 2014
Publishers: MacMillan
No. Pages: 384
Source: Review Copy - MacMillan
Buy From: Amazon | Book Depository | Barnes and Noble | Waterstones
This world is trying to kill Lily Proctor. Her life-threatening allergies keep her from enjoying many of the experiences that other teenagers take for granted.. which is why she is determined to enjoy her first (and perhaps only) high-school party. But Lily's life never goes according to plan, and after a humiliating incident in front of half her graduating class Lily wishes she could just disappear..

Suddenly Lily is in a different Salem - one overrun with horrifying creatures and ruled by powerful women called Crucibles. Strongest and cruellest of all the Crucibles is Lillian.. Lily's identical other self in this alternate universe. This new version of her world is terrifyingly sensual, and Lily is soon overwhelmed by new experiences.

Lily realizes that what makes her weak at home is exactly what makes her extraordinary in New Salem. It also puts her life in danger. Thrown into a world she doesn't understand, Lily is torn between responsibilities she can't hope to shoulder alone, and a love she never expected. But how can Lily be the saviour of this world when she is literally her own worst enemy?

Let me set the scene for you. It's Summer 2013 and Amanda has just finished reading Starcrossed. It was amazing, fantastic - the romance, oh man, the world, absolutely fantastic, the author, a genius, so she's goes in search of other Angelini books to be released and adds the rest of the Starcrossed Trilogy as well as another unknown, surprising fantasy read that's coming in 2014, and although that's an entire year away, she can feel that she's going to love it just as much. Now lets fast forward to the now, the Amanda who's just finished reading this and is now wondering where on earth things went wrong, because if there was such a thing as parallel worlds and universes with many versions of ourselves, I honestly believe I'm not the only Amanda who would have been surprised by this turn of events.

Now let me make it clear, I didn't dislike this book. In fact, it was, to all accounts, quite good - even when I was seriously considering putting the book down, it still managed to keep my attention and encourage me to read, but enjoyable on the same level as Starcrossed? No. I'm not stupid, I was well aware that this wasn't going to involve anything that Angelini had used before, this was a fantasy novel with other universes with not an inch of mythology in sight, so I wasn't disappointed because of that, and neither was I really disappointed with the characters or the romance, because they were the two stand out features in this novel, no, for me, I think it's a mixture of expectations and genuine confusion. I had, and this is no exaggeration, huge expectations for this novel - I had my own high levels from having enjoyed Angelini's work elsewhere and after reading a few really positive reviews, they soared even higher, so imagine how I felt when things just weren't too good. The world wasn't complicated, but it wasn't exactly clear and defined either, with a few heavy info-dumps here and there and some really confusing scenes that essentially had me thinking I was in three worlds at once, things felt a little, dispersed and detached in areas, which made getting into the setting pretty difficult, and the plot was, if I could be so bold, both really hard to find and almost none existent. These were the two biggest issues I had, but there were more to come.

You ever read a fantasy book that just feels too easy, too coincidental and too quick? Trial By Fire was one of them. Lily, main character yo, don't get confused about Lillian, is essentially dying in the beginning of this book, she's near enough allergic to air and seriously has some issues with people, socialising and generally crushing on her best friend. This, I could handle, to an extent.. Then she gets swept away to another world like hers but more fantasy with creatures going around killing people, people swishing magic hands in the air like their creating mini solar systems in the sky and just generally doing very complicated, very difficult things right in front of her eyes, once again, I can handle to this, to an extent. But when Lily manages to complete magic way beyond her ability without really trying after maybe a week in this world? This I cannot handle. Seriously, I'm open-minded with fantasy, it is, after all, fantasy, but that's taking it to a whole new level. Why can we not have character who learn the art of whatever their good at over a good period of time, harnessing and learning the art perfectly without just being good at it naturally. Not everybody is au natural you know.. I don't think I even have to mention how really death defining scenes were gotten out of by a swish of the hand (near enough) or how Lily just seemed to get away just in the nick of time, I mean seriously, I really appreciate some realism in my fantasy..

That seems like a lot of negativity, but really, they were my only issues, the rest of the novel really was quite good. I really enjoyed the dynamics between the worlds and how their were some pretty cool overlaps between advancements in both world and the difference and similarities in characters between both world was really great to read too. Lily's character development and Lillians twisted and unhinged nature was really great too, nothing like having a villain who is literally your evil twin, good old childrens horror story brought life, but realistically, it was the romance between Lily and Rowan that really won me over. Honestly people, that romance, it was so damn slow burn and real and honest and raw and gave me adorable and cute feels, as well as a few slightly heart hurting feels, but wow, Rowan was such a wonderful romantic interest. He had depth and quite a lot of negativity in his past, but how he changed around Lily and how he learnt to appreciate the little things in life, it was just so cute, and how Lily developed and became more confident and less child like around him was wonderful. I appreciated how slowly they took their romance, how wonderfully paced it was and the change from disliking one another hugely to really caring for each other was really some of the best parts of this novel. You should never let a romance change your opinion on a fantasy book, but I don't play by the rules.

Trial By Fire was a good novel, it had a good premise that wasn't executed as well as I had hoped, characters whom were both good and bad, and a romance worth destroying an entire planet for. The touches of fantasy that really worked, like the world-walking, the different worlds, the actual magic involved, it was really good, but sadly, the unclear plot and inclusion too many questions and not enough answers really affected how much I could have enjoyed this novel. This isn't my favourite of Angelini's work, and I'll always recommend the Starcrossed Trilogy over this one, but that romance people, it might be the thing that encourages me to pick up the sequel.


  1. You've hit the nail on the head with my problems with fantasy/paranormal books - everything seems to be so damn convenient and the characters always seem to be a special snowflake. I like the sound of it though and that is a really good analysis, it's true that when characters are too perfect it doesn't help us connect to them any better. Glad to hear you enjoyed it somewhat though Amanda, lovely review.

    1. Oh it does! Special Snowflake, I'll remember that for the future, that's good ;) It was a good book, just not as good as I'd been hoping for, I guess those high expectations got in the way again..

  2. Love your review, you've done an amazing job of summing up your feels. You've also touched on the few issues I had with this book as well. Confession time, I think the romance was a huge part of the reason I loved this book so much. I just love those slow burn romances, they get me every time. Rowan totally won me over, haha.

    1. Oh the romance, it was the thing that kept me reading really. On reflection, it might have been a 3.5, but I can't be sure, it's definitely all about the sequel me thinks, that will either hit or miss for sure :) I'll fight you for Rowan though ;)

  3. Fantastic review as ever, Amanda. I'm sorry you didn't love this as much as you were hoping - I'm still eager to read this along with her Starcrossed trilogy.

    1. Thank you Ebony! I have a feeling people will love this, it just wasn't what I'd hoped for really..


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