I recently had the opportunity to interview American author Candace Knoebel, which some of you may already know after having read it. Well as a kind gesture, Candace sent me a complementary copy of ‘Born in Flames’, which I have finally got around to reading and as debut novels go, this one is a special gem.
For those of you who have not heard of this, ‘Born in Flames’ is YA Urban Fantasy novel whose lead characters Aurora and Fenn, soon realise that they are unlike everybody else in their small Hawaiian town. Aurora has always know she is that little bit different, yet she cannot put her finger on it, but all she does know is that her weird ability to withstand fire is part of it. Despite not knowing her early life, Aurora had ploughed through life with her foster mother and now has her own little place and is beginning to live life on her own two feet.
Imagine her surprise when she discovers a prophecy that tells of her lineage with dragons and how she must go on a quest of personal discovery to realise her true destiny. Aurora is unique, one of a kind, half dragon half mage and for some that is a dangerous thing. Danger is after her, ready to kill in order to rid their realm of this girl who is destined to return the balance and win the war that is looming on the horizon. Alongside her is Fenn, who naturally takes a step backwards to the feisty, confident Aurora, but soon discovers himself that he is very much a part of this prophecy and must live up to expectations set on him from a past life back in the realm hidden in the caves.
‘Born in Flames’ is perhaps the first Urban Fantasy I have read and I was pleasantly surprised with how realistic the novel was despite the obvious expectation a fantasy genre presents. The whole story has a nice balance of what we know is real and what we perceive as myth and the whole pressing issue of Aurora’s lineage keeps you hooked until the end, because Candace Knoebel does a wonderful job with not letting many secrets slip right at the beginning.
Aurora is wonderfully crafted with a spunky personality yet with the first person perspective in which the book is written as the reader, we get to see more of the internal Aurora; raw feelings on show for all of us to digest. We will her to succeed and we go on a journey with, discovering everything along the way as she does. It is a brilliant connection. She isn’t without her faults though, sometimes she comes a bit whiney and a little bit stubborn, so much so to hinder a situation, but she readily admits this to us along the way.
I actually had the most fun with Fenn. I long to find out more about him and yet the little tit bits of information just doesn’t seem to satisfy his awesome character. I really hope we find more about him in the next book. I almost became dismayed when Fenn leaves and there is a good chunk of the book without him. A romance does start between the two and although it becomes obvious very early on, it isn’t done so in an awfully cheesy way. Aurora knows she must focus on other things and shuts Fenn’s advances down on more than one occasion.
Sometimes with novels such as this, I find it can always be the smallest of characters that actually have the biggest personalities that make you think about them long after you have put the story down. For me in ‘Born in Flames’ it was the old librarian that helps Aurora and Fenn with the tales of Dragons and of the ancient ruins on the island. His inclusive may have not been very original, but his chapter in the book for me was one of my favourites.
As with debut novels, there has to be lot of time spent on characterisation and building up relationships. This is integral in building up the book and the history, but sometimes can slow down the progression. Candace counters this with small interesting action scenes, where Aurora somehow phases into the other realm and faces her rival head on. It is all exciting stuff! I particularly enjoyed the magical action scenes towards the end of the novel where everything starts to come to a head. It is full of wonderfully creative, imaginative and magical jaunts of spell casting and realistic and necessary violence.
It can be hard to review a book without giving too much away, yet Born in Flames comes across as a quite simple book. Girl discovers prophecy, must complete quest, must return home. It isn’t until you start to sit back and really think about everything going on together than you realise and appreciate just how complex this book is and especially the worlds that Candace creates. Everything has there own set of rules and laws and I for one, will be looking forward to finding much much more about this other realm in the subsequent books that follow.
If I were to pick out a criticism about ‘Born in Flames’ then I’m afraid it must be the ending. It leaves us with so many questions, which is good because it grabs a hold of your imagination, forcing you to ponder what comes next for Aurora until the book is out, but it does so with an almost happy ending. I would have loved for it to be left with a much more compulsive addictive cliff-hangar. Perhaps I am being a bit too picky, but perhaps not. I feel it is a fair comment.
If you love fantasy and YA fiction then you will simply fall in love with Candace Knoebel’s ‘Born in Flames’. It offers magic, myth, love, action and is done so in a tightly knit mysterious plot that doesn’t answer all of its questions, but leaves you wanting to find out more and for me that is the very essence of a trilogy or series. ‘Born in Flames’ is part of something much bigger and reading the various interviews on her blog tour, I am very excited about what is to come next. Let’s just hope we see a bit more of Fenn next time around *cheeky face*.
Born in Flames on Goodreads