Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Review: Wildefire by Karsten Knight

Genre: YA fantasy
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.

My Take: 

*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.

Cover: 5/5
Premise: 4/5
Characters: 2/5 (for Eve)
Story: 2/5
Overall Rating:


Alexa said...

Yes this is an odd book. I agree with you on most parts though. This is a 400 page novel in which nothing really happens for a great period of time. I feel like Karsten left out big plot elements even though he had some good characters, setting, and unique gods and goddesses. The plot was missing for most of the story though which makes the book suffer greatly. Every day when I think back on this book I don't really know overall what rating I would give it. Certain parts of the book I highly enjoyed but the missing plot does kill a certain flame in the book.

Sorry for the long winded rambling! :)

Cait said...

So good to read a review of this book I agree with!! I can't believe it was 400 pages long. could definitely have cut at least 100 out IMO

The Cait Files

Kat said...

@Alexa-- Yes, it is insane how the book was unnecessarily long, yet he didn't include so many important elements! I found this one hard to rate as well.

Angelica Joy said...

What a pity I had high hopes for this book, thanks Kat for the wonderful review :D

Brodie said...

Aw sucks this book didn't work out for you. I've been hearing a lot of mixed opinions, so you're not the only one who felt this way. I only read a tiny bit of this when it was on S&S GalleyGrab, but seeing as I fail reading ebooks, I never finished. Unsure whether I'm going to pick up a print copy.

But you have encouraged me to read the rest of the Percy Jackson series! :D I only read the first book ages ago but never got around to reading the rest, shame on me!

Kat said...

@Brodie-- I have a hard time reading e-books, too! It took me over a month to finish Wildefire, in fact. The Percy Jackson series is fantastic-- the books really just keep getting better. Hope you pick the next book up. :)

@Angelica Joy-- I had high hopes as well. Don't let my review put you off entirely, though-- some people gave the book very positive reviews and really enjoyed it. Thanks for commenting, all of you! :)

Aylee said...

Oh, bummer. I have read mixed things about this one but ultimately, hearing from you that the characters are largely unlikeable is what's truly turning me off. I have tons of other books on my TBR that I want to read much more (among them The Percy Jackson Series) so I think I'll read those instead. Thanks for the review!

The Happy Booker said...

Great review. I felt exactly the same way about this book. I so much wanted to like it because I LOVED the idea of Gods and Goddesses from many different mythologies coming together. I, too, hated that over-dramatic cliffhanger ending. I may still read the second book of the series with the hope that it drastically improves because the premise is fascinating.

Donna @ The Happy Booker

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