I recently finished reading Wildefire by Karsten Knight, and all I have to say is, “Meh.” Not an auspicious start to a review, I know. I picked this one up for a couple reasons, mostly because the cover art is beautiful, and partially because the synopsis on Amazon made it sound interesting, and a perfect fit for Baffled Books’ 2012 Speculative Fiction Challenge.
Here’s the thing, I think the book had some great concepts, and some really new ideas that I wish we’d see more of in YA Lit, but at the same time, it felt very hodge-podge. By that I mean, it felt like all the characters and plot points had been drawn randomly from a hat and inserted into the story in no particular order.
Let me start with the things I did like about this novel, first and foremost being the protagonist, Ashline. I had no trouble feeling a kinship with Ash, and I really enjoyed how her character developed played out over the course of the story. Most especially, I appreciated that some major information about who and what she is if held back until about halfway through the novel, so that when you discover it about her finally, it makes the reasoning behind her previous behavior just click into sensibility.
The use of under-represented mythologies was another great thing about this novel. Each of the characters has a tie to a different pantheon, which, while not overly well done in my opinion, was refreshing. Speaking of Ash, she and her group of compatriots represent a level of race and class diversity rarely seen in YA Lit, and I found that to be refreshing. It might have been a bit heavy handed, but Knight made it work, and make sense with regard to the characterization. Speaking of those major characters, one thing that I did like was the messages they received at one point in the story, and how those messages weren’t revealed all at once, or even all revealed within this novel. It was an effective hook to keep me engaged as a reader, and even with not loving the story I’ll probably read the sequels, just to close up the story in my head. In that, I suppose, Knight succeeded, from a business perspective. I will end up buying the next book, and likely the next, just to finish up the story.
He could have stopped right there, and I would have come back, but along with that general hodgey-podgey feeling, that brings me to the second thing that I really didn’t like about Wildefire: Holy cats people, stop ending your novels in cliffhangers! Let me read the next story because I really want to see the next steps for the character, don’t FORCE me to buy a second book just to find out how the book I already paid for ends.
TL/DR: Wildefire had a lot of potential that I don’t think it lived up to. It’s an entertaining read, but wasn’t engaging enough for me to really recommend it.