Release Date: July 26, 2011
Published by: Simon & Schuster
Wildefire by Karsten Knight
Every flame begins with a spark.
Ashline Wilde is having a rough sophomore year. She’s struggling to find her place as the only Polynesian girl in school, her boyfriend just cheated on her, and now her runaway sister, Eve, has decided to barge back into her life. When Eve’s violent behavior escalates and she does the unthinkable, Ash transfers to a remote private school nestled in California’s redwoods, hoping to put the tragedy behind her. But her fresh start at Blackwood Academy doesn’t go as planned. Just as Ash is beginning to enjoy the perks of her new school—being captain of the tennis team, a steamy romance with a hot, local park ranger—Ash discovers that a group of gods and goddesses have mysteriously enrolled at Blackwood…and she’s one of them. To make matters worse, Eve has resurfaced to haunt Ash, and she’s got some strange abilities of her own. With a war between the gods looming over campus, Ash must master the new fire smoldering within before she clashes with her sister one more time… And when warm and cold fronts collide, there’s guaranteed to be a storm.
1. (+) Protagonist: Ashline Wilde - Ash is sarcastic, powerful, and not afraid to stand up for herself. But she is afraid of her sister. Despite the rough exterior, you feel for her because you see that it's half-act, half-truth. She is strong, but she's also vulnerable and easy to sympathize with... (for a reader, at least. If someone was that sarcastic with me in real life, I'm not sure I'd know what to make of her.)
2. (+) Diversity - A Norse god, Egyptian Goddess, Zulu God, Polynesian Goddess, Shinto Goddess, and Greek Siren. Can you get anymore diverse than that? I liked the way Mr. Knight incorporated all of these mythologies and religion together and allowed them to define the personalities of each character.... Though I was disappointed that we didn't get to see Ash's past, but I think the explanation for that was that she blossomed into her abilities later than the rest of them.
3. (+) Idea - This goes along with the diversity part, but I liked the idea that the gods were not being reincarnated as they should be... and Ragnarok is not something I've read before. I'm still confused as to which side to trust? or to think is the villain? but I have some sort of idea where the series is going. And I like the idea that the gods have to know themselves before they can master their problems. Linking self-discovery to powers is a nice touch for a YA book.
4. (+) Humor - The dialog is witty. There's not much to say about this except that I could actually picture the characters and their back and forth. They felt alive. Very few YA books that I've read have had the same authenticity that the characters in this book have.
5. (+/-) The Writing - And yet even though the dialog is a plus, there were other parts to Mr. Knight's writing that I didn't enjoy. For one, look at #9 for the reflection aspect. And yet another negative, for me at least, was when he was explaining each gods's power. The characters can see each other's past, but Mr. Knight chose to employ second person narrative here in what I believe was meant to be a "showing" rather than "telling" scene visa-via dialog... In my opinion, this did not work. You don't often come upon second person narratives because they tend to isolate the audience, which is exactly how I felt. I was a lot less attached to the characters in those pages and honestly? I had to chug through those pages despite my curiosity. On the whole though, the rest of the writing was fine.
6. (+) The Romance - This wasn't the typical paranormal romance. There were no teary-eyed "I love yous," and in fact, sometimes it got brutal. Other times, it was snappy dialog and what I'd actually expect to find in a boarding school... or even in college, to be honest. It was realistic, and for that I give it props.
7. (--) Cliff-Hanger - WTF. That is my reaction to the end of the book. I also looked up the information I got at the end and am now thoroughly confused/wondering about Ash's instructions. Not good at all. It's not the type of ending that gets you excited for the next book... For me, the ending was more like... Couldn't you have found a way to establish this better? So I wouldn't be more shocked at the end of 400 pages?
8. (+) The Villain - Eve vs. Ash. A very compelling battle throughout the book. Eve is not the storybook villain... nor are the other potential villains. You can feel the threat of Eve throughout the book while still seeing her vulnerable side. I really wish I got to know more about why Eve changed so radically, though. Was that about the time she found out she was a goddess? Or what?
9. (--) Lack of Reflection - Sometimes Mr. Knight's cliff-hangers (at the end of individual sections) left me so confused that I wanted some explanation, at least some reflection, but Ash does not seem to think extra about the events around her. I am thinking of one part in particular when I found that perhaps their source of information was wrong / coming from the enemy? but the next chapter featured very little on it. Ash had maybe three sentences of commentary and that was it. I was expected to just roll with it as a reader, and it was terribly frustrating. Also, perhaps this is because of Ash's lack of reflection (and her tendency to not push other people unless provoked), but one of the characters surprised me with his/her personality shift. Even though there was a scene to "set it up," it was like a 180 twist that didn't feel realistic at all.
10. (--) The Cover - Honestly? This cover does not attract me to this book at all. Yes, it's different than the typical YA book, but what the hell is it supposed to even be? Volcano flames for Ash? If that's the case, it doesn't look like them at all, and the image makes it hard to see the title.
Wildefire has compelling characters, a unique exploration of gods & goddesses, and an action packed relationship between the protagonist and the villain. I'd recommend this book to anybody who likes their characters to have a spark in them and enjoys a paranormal book with romance that isn't plagued by the "zomoghshga!! hawt boy alert-instant connection!!" deal.
This is my first 30 books in 30 days review. Hope you enjoyed it :).