I’m at Ciara Knight’s blog today giving my two cents on the disappointing phrase, “I just didn’t love it enough.” I hope you check it out, but don’t go yet! (There’s a link at the bottom of this post.) Here’s my newest book review.
Wilde’s Fire, by Krystal Wade
Noble Young Adult, 2012
Katriona Wilde has never wondered what it would feel like to have everything she’s ever known and loved ripped away, but she is about to find out. When she inadvertently leads her sister and best friend through a portal into a world she’s dream of for six years, she finds herself faced with more than just the frightening creatures in front of her. Kate’s forced to accept a new truth: her entire life has been a lie, and those closest to her have betrayed her. What’s worse, she has no control over her new future, and it’s full of magic and horrors from which nightmares are made. Will Kate discover and learn to control who she really is in time to save the ones she loves, or will all be lost?
Katriona “Kate” Wilde got home from her first year of school at Virginia Tech yesterday. It’s Memorial Day weekend and the family had plans to go camping in the Blue Ridge Mountains, same as they do every year, but this year her mother is very ill. After waking up from a nightmare about a lover named “Arlan” being brutally murdered in front of her, Kate, her sister Brittany “Brit”, and her BFF Brad go on their own. On the road together, Kate and Brit pass the time singing, but Brad is very quiet. This is his first trip back to the woods after getting very lost at the age of ten. The girls know the trail very well, but before they reach their destination (a two day hike), she has a fainting spell, a strange dream, and discovers that Brit and Brad both want to talk to her, but neither with the other around. She also notices strange gold lights, which flash in the woods, and eventually lead her to her favorite swimming hole and an underwater cave.
The three enter the mouth of the cave together and fall face first into a midnight massacre of women and children. Kate pushes her sister back into water, now a portal behind them. Brad kisses Kate, and believing they’re going to die, she kisses him back. They’re attacked; Brad is impaled by claws that go right through him. When she wakes up next, it is two days later. Brad is hanging onto life by a thread, slowly succumbing to poison for which there is no antidote. And the bed she’s been sleeping in belongs to the underground bunker’s commander, Arlan, the same man she’s seen die a thousand times over in her nightmares.
Let me talk a little bit about Arlan Maher. I don’t know what I was expecting from the hero of this book, but I really wasn’t expecting him. He’s been commanding soldiers in a bunker for years waiting for Kate Wilde to return to their world, and when she’s finally in his house, he manages to avoid being either bumbling, insecure, or obnoxiously confident. Arlan is a gentleman, a warrior, a man whose life has been defined by destiny and duty, and he’s comfortable in his own skin. His secrets are simply withheld data; they never amount to masks. Responsible for the lives of 47 people under his roof, he succeeds in protecting them with a combination of decisive action and charm. All, that is, but Kate.
In one key scene of the book, Brad has woken from his drug-induced coma after three weeks and finds Arlan and Kate locked in a steamy kiss. Brad, whose obsession with Kate has led to a delusion that they’re together, is furious that she’s betrayed him. In stark contrast to Brad, Arlan is not a child. The sunless world in which he was raised never afforded him even moments of immaturity. Though only five years older, Arlan confronts Brad with a true leader’s wisdom…stern, quiet, and fully resolved to put the kid in his place. But Kate steps in front of Arlan just as Brad throws a punch, earning a quick trip to the floor and a shiner for her trouble. Protecting her is Arlan’s foretold destiny, and given that he loves her deeply the fact that this is just one of the moments recently that she’s saved him, he questions whether he’s worthy of being her guardian.
Kate is a very naive, very innocent; twenty-years-old and never been kissed until Brad plants one while thinking they’re going to die. When Kate loves someone, whatever the nature of that love, she gives with her whole heart. Looking back on her life, she remembers a boy who has been in every day of her life since grade school. Others around her see Brad’s behavior differently, and while they’ve tried to tell her, she either misses or dismisses their concern.
Setting the manly-men problems aside, Kate is also an independent girl who doesn’t like to be told what she will or will not do. People try to cover her escape; she stays behind to fight or die, which really is admirable. For a college sophomore who falls through the bottom of a river into pitch black hell, she handles the news that it’s her destiny to save this strange world rather well. What she doesn’t take well is learning all the secrets that have been kept from her, particularly the twenty-year-old betrothal to the creepy albino soldier in Arlan’s bunker. Perth serves as multitasking plot device. First, he symbolizes the complicated politics that surround Kate and the war being fought with Darkness to save what remains of humanity. Second, he’s an obstacle standing between Arlan and Kate. But there’s something about Kate’s mother, who joins her in the dark world, that makes me think that Perth will be either a big problem, or a persistent one…but not both. That’s pure speculation on my part, and speaking of that, this book left me with a lot of suspicions that I can’t wait for the sequel to answer.
Wilde’s Fire, written in first-person present tense, is a young woman’s adventure into the unknown. As past tense generally serves to tell a story remembered, even when there is great conflict or danger, the reader may rely upon those verbs as assurances that the narrator pulls through…like a tight-rope walker high above a waiting safety net. But Kate’s story leads the reader blind from one moment to the next, with only her remembered nightmares of Arlan dying to hold onto for hope that they survive the unfamiliar battle they fight now. Krystal Wade truly is a hot, new talent.
And I hope you’ll check out Ciara Knight’s blog.