Title: True Fire
Author: Gary Meehan
Age Group: Teen/Young Adult
Genre: High Fantasy
Series: True Fire, book one
Star Rating: 2 out of 5 stars
This book was given to me by the publisher, Quercus, through Edelweiss in exchange for an honest review.
When I saw this review copy available on Edelweiss, to everyone, not just in the UK--I'm not going to lie. I jumped at it. I love dark stories with high fantasy elements, especially those involving witches. Unfortunately, the blurb was the only thing that was really attractive for me about this novel. Not to say that there were not good things in the novel, they were. But they were few.
Megan is sixteen and pregnant. Sounds like a cliche, doesn't it? She hasn't told anyone but her sister, Gwyneth. But when her small village is destroyed and her sister captured, she flees the ruins of her home to find out the truth--and gets far more than she bargained for in the process. Accompanied by Eleanor, a displaced aristocrat, and Damon, a boy thrust out of the priesthood, she is forced to confront perhaps the most frightening thing of all: herself.
There were some good things about this novel, as I've said before: I enjoyed each of the main characters, Megan, the young pregnant woman struggling just to find her sister and gets far more than she bargains for, Eleanor, the woman with cloudy motives and even more obscure morals, and Damon, the young man whose devil-may-care attitude hides a dark, even shameful, past. Each character was nuanced and had some amazing depth. I enjoyed the ending as well, and how it cleared space for a sequel.
There were some things that really needed work, as well: The pacing stuttered often, try as the author might to make it smooth through gory shows of action and blood-letting--not that I minded the gory factor of the book. It was one of the things I most liked about it. The world-building was at best confusing--I didn't really understand any of it, and the whole witches and priests thing really didn't work for me--it was far too difficult to even follow, and I was lost. Another thing that broke the pacing: the flashbacks were so hard to follow, integral to the story though they were. The second half of the story seemed to be muddled up by political intrigue, so quick and with so many people I couldn't follow it.
The bottom line: A showy debut novel promising much, but a lot of things were lacking. Not a complete dud, but just a 'meh' kind of novel. Next on deck: Damaged by Amy Reed!