Tuesday, August 2, 2011
Pages: 400 (hardcover)
Published: July 2011 by Simon & Schuster
Recommended for: don't really recommend it
Disclaimer: This is a review of an ARC, which I received from Simon & Schuster in exchange for an honest review
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.
*Sigh*. The synopsis sounds so amazing and that cover is incredibly alluring. Seriously, it's a gorgeous cover! I had very high expectations for this one, so its failure to meet said expectations was semi-devastating. I'm going to be an optimist here, and highlight what did work in Wildefire. First off, I liked Eve. Ash's sister was by far the roundest character (by that I mean complex and realistic, not portly ;) in the book. She is a bad-ass, there's no denying it. Even though she never really succeeded in coming across as the villain of the piece, I would've liked to learned more about her and what happened to her after she ran away from she and Ash's adoptive parents. I also think that Karsten Knight is a great descriptive writer... maybe a little too much of a great descriptive writer at certain times. The writing can get kind of flowery and paragraphs are spent describing the architecture of the boarding school and the surrounding redwoods, etc, etc. I also liked how our teenage god and goddess incarnates aren't based on Grecian mythology, but rather on loads of different mythologies from around the world.
Now for the bad news. While reading the story of Ash-- a somewhat belligerent, apparently amnesiac teenage girl who flees to a Californian boarding school and discovers she's a Polynesian volcano goddess-- I found myself kind of wishing we could skip all the compulsory teenage shenanigans and skip to the part where Ash comes into her own as a goddess incarnate and she and her friends kick ass. There's a kind of prolonged prologue (by 'prolonged', I mean forty or fifty pages) which for the most part feels strangely unnecessary. Almost like the editor should have advised against it. I think the author might have been better off leaving Ash and Eve's scary-and-shocking-past to be revealed over the course of the book rather than implementing that gigantic and unwieldy prologue. Ash's romance with Colt, park ranger and stalker extraordinaire, fell completely flat for me. The climatic ending: ditto. It's also pretty rare to read a book that is 400 pages long and yet finish it thinking that almost nothing happened. Or maybe just nothing that a reader would care about, since none of the characters are very sympathetic or likable.
I know a lot of people really enjoyed this book, but I can't say I did. My advice is that if you want to read a funny, fast-paced and inventive YA series about mythological adventures, skip this book and read the Percy Jackson and the Olympians series by Rick Riordan. If you want to read an awesome and epic novel about gods and goddesses living in the modern United States, skip Wildefire and read American Gods by Neil Gaiman instead.
Characters: 2/5 (for Eve)