Sequels can be tricky. You want them to be as good, as captivating as the first instalment, yet you also want them to progress the story in a way that evolves the characters and relationships you’ve become accustomed to. Embracing the Flames is US author, Candace Knoebel’s second instalment in the Born in Flames trilogy, and with all eyes on the progeny, Aurora must learn to adapt in the new world we find her in, as well as come to terms of what is expected of her.
If you remember from the first book, Aurora always knew she was slightly different than everybody else in her small neighbourhood, and with the creepy insights by a crazed stalker, she learnt of her true fate. Part dragon, part mage, Aurora followed the clues in the prophecy, guided by her trusted friend Fenn, and accepted her identity, arriving in a new realm. Embracing the Flames picks up where Born in Flames left us, and fans of the original will love what is on offer.
Second instalments are often seen as the bridge that brings together the beginning and the end, and this is true enough for this novel, although it is nowhere as mundane as that sounds. Believe me, there is plenty of action here. We follow Aurora not only with her training in the magic arts, the transformation into her dragon self, but also through betrayals, secrets, loss and truth. This is one complex young adult fantasy. And the title is a real clue to what you can expect.
What really brings this book to life is the world in which Knoebel creates, along with the mythology, religion and way of life. Aurora is new to this realm, and we learn with her. It’s a rich delicious way of storytelling that can leave your head craving for more. I found myself longing to know more about these meddlesome ‘Fates’, the guilt-ridden necromancers, the deathly devious Dark Saar. Whereas the first book was more urban fantasy, Embracing the Flames is very much a true fantasy novel that brings to life juicy elements of magic and intrigue. And it is Knoebel’s storytelling that weaves all the elements together into one fine gem of a story. It is a little obvious where Knoebel’s influences come from, Harry Potter being one prime example, especially with the vocal exclamations when it comes to preforming spells, but this story is so much grittier, more accessible for an older audience than Harry Potter will ever be.
Characterisation is always a big key in young adult books, and Knoebel doesn’t falter here either. Aurora and Fenn’s relationship is taken to the next level as they must understand and trust each other in a way they never thought imaginable. We got to see the beginnings of their love blossom before, but here things really get spicy. The sexual tension between the two adds a real maturity to the story that is quite fresh and wonderful to read. It is neither cheesy or over exaggerated and for that, I’m thankful. With the addition of another character, we really start to see how love is actually a complex thing, and this is where trust must come to the fore. It was great to see how Aurora and Fenn managed to react and cope with this new angle.
Speaking of characters, there are two stand-out in here for me. The first is Astral, Aurora’s guardian and confidant of sorts. He’s wise, reflective and with a dash of secrecy, his character is fabulously told. I really wanted to know more about his own personal story. You can’t help but respect the choices he has taken, as well as some of the burdens one must take for the greater good. I also fell in love with an extremely minor character too. Irisi. She is one of the necromancers who helps Aurora half way through the book, and I was a little sad not to see her come around again before the end. Hopefully it wasn’t the last we saw of this woman; a woman who surely has layers of depth to her.
Themes also play a huge part in this instalment, even more than you really notice. Acceptance is a big one. Not only does Aurora have to accept what is expected of her with fulfilling a prophecy, she must also accept her own capabilities and learn to handle her sometimes act-first-think-later attitude that see’s her get into some real trouble. She often goes against the advice of her elders, as she starts to take the reins and find out what Zordon, her arch-nemesis, is after, and why he is hell bent on bringing war to this realm.
As I finished this book, I sat back and thought about how far Aurora has come. That is when it truly hits you with how epic this fantasy is. We start off learning the way of life here, and of the magical capabilities of Aurora. But when Astral is taken from her, there are battles, both personal and physical, kidnapping, threats, torture, love … it really takes your breath away, and it still isn’t over! There’s the final instalment to come!
I did feel at times though, that some parts became a little unoriginal. I love the world in which we find Aurora in, and as a classical and ancient mythology lover, I loved the deep layered mythology in here, but I had to draw the line when it came to Alistair. Alistair runs the Biblium, a place to find out anything and everything. The problem was I loved the concept and Alistair’s character, I only wish he wasn’t an owl, as I felt this was a little obvious and an almost child-friendly approach. I also don’t particularly like Zordon’s name. I grew up watching the Power Rangers and I can’t help but get Zordon’s image out of my head, everytime it is mentioned, but that’s just me. I also felt like some people may feel alienated if they hadn’t have read the first book, as quick recaps sometimes aren’t enough.
Embracing the Flames not only matches its predicessor, it excels it in every way. The storytelling is magical, mind blowing, gritty and so full of depth. There are plenty of shocks along the way, shocks that will make you gasp out loud, give you goosebumps. I really felt the weight of expectation and the burdens of Aurora’s destiny in this story, which is key to following her plight. There is also a sincerity to the people in her life, so when betrayal and backstabbing comes knocking, the pain is that much worse, and with the new sexual tension between our heroes now obvious, this novel feels so much more compelling and developed. This story just got serious, and I can’t wait to see what happens in the final book; let me tell you, it is going to explosive!
Embracing the Flames is available in eBook from:
Born in Flames is the first book in the trilogy and I reviewed it last year. It is available in eBook and Print at:
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