by Karsten Knight
Warning! Minor Spoilers!
Knight's style of writing does take some getting used to. This is definitely a no-nonsense, leap-headfirst-into-the-action type of book that doesn't dive too deep, and if you stop to breathe, then the story will be ten miles ahead of you. The opening scene alone introducing our budding volcano goddess, Ashline Wilde, and her older sister nemesis, Eve, demands a huge suspension of disbelief. Ashline gets into a fight with the popular girl at school who stole her scummy boyfriend, soundly kicks her *ss, but then said popular girl returns for vengeance and Eve kills her.
There's been a lot of reader discussion about the rather flippant attitude toward the violence in the book. Some readers have announced frustration that Ashline got into a fight, but I wasn't so bothered by that. Young literary guys don't get as much backlash for fighting--our culture seems to think it's expected of them, so why is it so taboo for girls to vent steam, too? After all, Ash is a young teenager prone to making mistakes--and a brooding volcano goddess at that. Pele isn't known for sweeping issues under the rug.
I did, however, find myself jarred from the narrative when Ashline sees Eve kill the popular girl and has a moment or two of guilt, but nothing earth-shattering. The book immediately moves on before giving Ashline time to grieve for her loss of innocence, the pointless violence of Lizzie Jacobs' death, the craziness of her sister, or something that would make her more 3-D than two-dimensional. I felt like I was the invisible person on the sidelines, screaming, "Hey! You do know Jacobs is actually dead, right? Your classmate? Someone's daughter? She can't come back. She's gone." Unfortunately, the moment just felt too glossed over, leaving the reader with the feeling that a) Okay, Eve is a psychopath and b) What does Ashline stand for? I don't know yet.
The flippancy continues at Ashline's new school, where she breezes by rules and regulations. Do you remember in Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone, when Harry and his friends are breaking curfew even though they risk losing tons of points for their house, and then the strict, not-to-be-messed-with Professor McGonagall catches them? That's a kid's book, and I was still inwardly screaming, "Holy shit, Harry! Run! She's going to take away your POINTS!!" Yeah. Well, Ash and her friends go to a bar, sling back a couple cold ones, and when they get caught--the headmaster gives them a mild-mannered talking to. I mean, where's the authority figure or shadowy nemesis who's supposed to put the fear of God into me? Eve the crazy psychopath who doesn't seem to have any interesting ulterior motives? The unconcerned headmaster or Ash's adopted parents, for that matter? Weird blue-eyed monsters who float around?
I didn't like Ash and Colt's insta-love, but at least Colt grew ten times more interesting at the end when his secret's out.
I also didn't like the handling of Lily's character. Sure, have her betray the group, but her reasons for doing so... she was really that much of a raging jealous b**** over Rolfe? At least say they hooked up in their past lives! I just couldn't buy that reason as justification for again, KILLING SOMEONE.
In some ways, this book feels like a set-up for the rest of the series. It has a chaotic feeling to it considering the shambles the group is in at the end, and the newly awakened gods barely develop their powers. However, I'm writing this review after reading Book II: Embers and Echoes, and I can tell you that I enjoyed the second book immensely more than the first. There's a lot more of the gods in action, fighting off baddies, and Ash might even mature a little. As far as diversity of cultures goes, this book is top-notch. I appreciated that Ash was always the undisputed leader of the group, she doesn't put up with sh** from anyone, lover or friend, and despite her juvenile nature in Book I, there's just something endearing about her. Like Pele, she is all passion and emotion, and perhaps that's what's so frustrating to some readers, that it is impossible for her to be tamed or controlled.
Recommended for fans of: Eoin Colfer, Rick Riordan, Holly Black
Upcoming January Book Review: Angelfall by Susan Ee