I received this book for free from Macmillan Children’s Publishing Group in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.Trial by Fire by Josephine Angelini
Series: The Worldwalker Trilogy #1
Published by Feiwel & Friends on September 2nd 2014
Genres: Paranormal, Sci-Fi, YA
Source: Macmillan Children’s Publishing Group
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This world is trying to kill Lily Proctor. Her life-threatening allergies keep her from enjoying experiences that others in her hometown of Salem take for granted, which is why she is determined to enjoy her first high school party with her best friend and longtime crush, Tristan. But after a humiliating incident in front of half her graduating class, Lily wishes she could just disappear.
Suddenly, Lily is in a different Salem—one overrun with horrifying creatures and ruled by powerful women called Crucibles. Strongest and cruelest of them all is Lillian . . . Lily's other self in this alternate universe.
What makes Lily weak at home is what makes her extraordinary in New Salem. In this confusing world, Lily is torn between responsibilities she can't hope to shoulder alone and a love she never expected.
Whoa! Having had no luck with witch books lately this was a nice surprise. It’s unique and well written, with a quick pacing that turned it into an unputdownable read.
Trial by Fire starts with the introduction of Lily, a sickly girl who has had a rough life of weakness and fevers. I knew right then that this was going to be a great read. This girl was funny, awkward, easy to connect to, and with a compelling narrative voice. Plus you just knew this constant sickness was something witchy and had you craving to know more. Wanting to get away from all of it, Lily finally gives in to the voice inside her head that, unbeknownst to her, is from another world completely. When she suddenly finds herself in an alien world ruled by witches and full of flesh-eating monsters, naturally, she thinks she’s gone insane. And this is when the real plot starts. We start learning of the witch lore, and how it all fits in with the alternate universes. I was wary at first of a plot with such thick scientific aspects mixed in with the paranormal, but it ended up being fascinating, and not at all overwhelming. This new world we’re propelled to is much darker than ours. Flesh eating monsters and vengeful survivors makes this not for the faint of heart. It gets pretty gruesome at parts, though horror fans like myself will love it.
While Lily learns how to become a witch, a war is brewing in the background, giving the book an ominous vibe that persists throughout. There’s a lot to learn, including tons of secrets and the history of her other self – the seemingly evil Lillian who may not be so evil after all. I was anxious to learn what she was hiding, as we’re hinted throughout of some pretty huge secret she’s harbouring that has been a factor in all her evildoing and decisions. Unfortunately, we merely scratch the surface of her intentions in this book. We’re not even sure, yet, why she brought Lily over to this world. There are some easy speculations, but we’re mostly kept in the dark, still. While I know this is only book one in its series, I was hoping for a bit more to hang on to for the sequel. But, even though it keeps us hanging on some aspects, it does delve deeper than a mere introduction (as some first-books can be).
The world, character, and relationship building in this book are extensive. The witch lore is incredibly well thought-out and original. The use of willstones and head mechanics is truly creative. The cultural differences are apparent as well, giving more points to the world-building. Their comfort with nudity and sex, for instance. As well as their drive for scientific innovation and survival. I also loved the complicated relationship with Rowan who is a wonderfully crafted side character. Though he’s the most important, he’s one of the many well-written side characters we meet. Each one falls easily into the story as if you knew them all along. Their quirks and flaws, their strength and charisma, makes them memorable. My one complaint is pinned on Lily herself. Not her characterization itself which comes without complaint. Once you get to know her, you’ll love her, and her growth by the end of the novel is impressive. I just found she fell into being a witch too easily. She’s a very powerful witch and this was always within her, I know, but everything she tries is much easier than I would have expected it to be. Things that Rowan fears because she “isn’t ready” all go without a hitch. The spirit walking, too, which is thought to be impossible unless you’re one of the very rare shamans. But the way Lily did it so effortlessly, some witches could have done this by mistake, really.
The ending is a tad abrupt and leaves us with tons of questions and anxiety, but as a first book in the series, Trial by Fire has done a fantastic job. The complex world building and perilous plot alone are enough to keep you glued to the pages. I feel like my thoughts – and in turn, this review – are pretty jumbled as the book was one hell of a thrill ride, so I’m hoping I at least made sense. If not, just know that this is one book you should not miss if you consider yourself a fan of witches!
4 Hot Espressos