Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Review: Trial By Fire

Title: Trial By Fire
Author: Josephine Angelini
Published: September, 2014
Publisher: Feiwel & Friends
A dash of radish root, some grated mandrakes, a lover's memento, tears from a crocodile, three slappish stirs and you get... my mixed feelings for this book!

If you've been following my reviews (hi mom!), you know that books that combine multiple genre elements put me off.  (See Frozen) So, that's my main complaint with Trial By Fire.  The book combines parallel worlds, science, technology, and witchcraft together in a way that seems a little crowded.

The book follows Lily Proctor, a teenager with a bundle of mysterious allergies.  Lily's been captivated by her best friend, Tristan, for like ever, so she's overjoyed when her romantic feelings start to be reciprocated.  Against her better judgement, she attends a high school party (full of allergens!) with Tristan and winds up being humiliated in front of her peers.  She decides to listen to this little voice in her head who offers her the chance to peace out of her life for a while.  However, that little voice turns out to be an alternate version of herself, and she's taken to a parallel world that is run by witches.

So, about that. Angelini's puts a good effort into world-building, but as I mentioned before, it turns out to be a bit of a mish-mash.  For some reason, I really dislike magical and technological elements being put together.  Angelini tries to explain magic as a form of science, but I'm not buying it.  I especially disliked the inclusion of the "Woven."  They are monsters that resulted from a witchy experiment gone wrong, when the witches decided to slap together the genetic codes of different animals.  Which, okay. But, we've seen weirdly-assembled monsters too often in YA lately, and the novel could really do without these vague, random, hastily explained creatures.

The plot, too, was a little dull.  I found myself speed-reading through the particulars, just so I could get back to the parts with character development. Angelini's "allusions" to The Crucible bothered me, too, especially as she doesn't ever mention Arthur Miller's play. It seemed more like a creative rip-off, and less of a reference. I rolled my eyes a ton, as well, over cheesy moments, contrived situations, cliched language....

Why on earth did I finish this book then?!

I can break it down to three things.  One, the book has been getting a lot of buzz from online reviewers.  Book bloggers have been really excited over this book, so I went into Trial By Fire wanting to be pleased.  Second, the characters were pretty solid.  I found myself finishing the book for the main purpose of finding out what happens to our mains — Lily and Rowan.  They had a hot romance, what can I say.  Thirdly, Angelini has a manner of writing that can pull you in. Especially in moments of character development, Angelini's prose is both realistic and vivid, making it very easy to picture the narrative unrolling in your head like a movie. And, as a bonus, I know I'll be reading the second book in the series, because the ending of Trial By Fire was so juicy.

However, I just can't get over my dislikes to give this book a good rating, or even to respect it. I give it 3 stars, just barely.


  1. Ouch. Three stars, just barely, is a rough rating. Good to know though:)

    1. What can I say, I had to follow my heart! Thanks for stopping by and commenting; I always appreciate feedback. :D

  2. LOL! I need to read this...eventually. I also hate the mixture of tech and magic. I think magic should JUST be explained by magic. I'm also not a fan of parallel universes+magic. *shrugs* Great review! :)

    1. Read it! Or at least give it a shot. I'm all for people coming to their own conclusions over books. You never know when something will strike a pleasant cord. Thanks so much for stopping by and commenting!