My reviews are written from a writer’s perspective, with an eye to dissecting good novels to find out what makes them work. Although I try to avoid explicitly discussing book endings, I am not as careful about avoiding all spoilers as some reviewers. I find if I employ too much caution about giving away plot twists, I am not able to provide a concrete analysis of the book’s structure. And frankly, I hate vague reviews.
So… there may be spoilers. If that bothers you, read the book first. Then come back and read my analysis and let me know if you agree…or what I missed!
Title: The Fire Seer
Author: Amy Raby
Genre: Fantasy Romance
Read: First Time
Style: Third Person Past
Type: Kindle ebook
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The Fire Seer is structured by a murder mystery, which the heroine and hero must solve together, much to the heroine’s dismay, because they have a history—and it’s not a pretty one! Honestly, the hero had done something so unforgivable to the heroine when they were both younger, that I was really on the edge of my seat trying to figure out how Amy would redeem him and make me want the heroine to forgive him, never mind love him. But Amy pulled it off.
Taya lives in a society where anyone with magic must belong to a monopolistic organization. The alternative is to drink a potion that eliminates one’s magic. Those who use magic without permission are called “jackals” and treated as criminals. Taya is on her first assignment after graduating her training, and her job is to investigate a murder and hunt down the jackal responsible.
Unfortunately, Mandir, the man assigned to protect and aid her in her mission was the same boy who tormented her in school—and even tried to kill her. Though he should have been executed or at least deprived of his magic for attempted murder, because Mandir is a prince, he was assigned only a year penance.
As Taya and Mandir work together to find the murderer, they discover that situation is rather more complex that it first appeared. Taya comes to question everything she’s been taught to believe, about her organization, her mission and her partner.
TAYA (Heroine): Most magic-users in their society are from the upper two castes, but Taya is from the lowly farmer’s caste. That made her feel self-conscious from the start… and being teased throughout her school years by popular Prince Mandir didn’t help her make friends or fit in. Her background has made her all the more determined to loyal and skilled, however. This makes it all the more difficult for her when she starts to question some aspects of her training and beliefs.
MANDIR (Hero): Mandir’s father might have been royalty, but he was also a malicious, manipulative bastard who taught his son only cruelty. Mandir has struggled to become a better person, but it’s taken harsh experience to change him. How can Mandir convince Taya that he’s not the same boorish boy who hurt her? How can he expect her to trust him? And yet, Mandir’s job is to protect her, whether she wants to believe it or not, and the danger to her is real.
I loved the culture based loosely on the ancient and mysterious Indian archeological find in Harrapa, because I am a total archeology geek. There’s a caste system and an interesting theology of Three Goddesses, which ties into the rules of magic as well as the themes of the book. The setting is well-developed and unique, not at all cookie-cutter, making it an excellent fantasy. However, the setting never overtakes the focus on the relationship between the characters.
The novel juggles the requirements of three genres: Fantasy, Mystery, and Romance. The elements of each are handled with finesse, in perfect proportion. The plot flows well, with no slow spots, and nothing hard to follow. There are enough suspects to give the mystery heft, but the mystery, like the setting, does not steal the focus from the changing relationship between the heroine and hero. There are 43 chapters, most with just one scene; 16 of 43 chapters have more than one scene, for a total of 62 scenes. Only one chapter, close to the midpoint, has 5 scenes. The Actual Midpoint = Scene 31, Chapter 24; the Story Midpoint = Scene 38, Chapter 26. This is the point when Taya’s tentatively growing trust in Mandir is shattered by a seeming betrayal.
As in a Romance novel, there are two PoV characters, Taya and Mandir. Taya’s PoV predominates, while 11 of 62 scenes from Mandir’s PoV. Nonetheless, the scenes from the hero’s PoV are critical, since they demonstrate his desire to be a better man is sincere, and brings the reader over to his side before Taya herself starts to trust him.
In addition, there are also 8 flashback scenes, covering three years (between nine and six years before the story), all brief and from Taya’s point of view. The flashback scenes are all well chosen and well positioned to caste light on the current events. They work well to add depth to the story.
Actual Midpoint = Scene 31, Chapter 24; Story Midpoint = Scene 38, Chapter 26
16 of 43 chapters have more than one scene
1 chapter has 5 scenes
11 of 62 scenes from Hero PoV
8 flashback scenes, covering three years (between nine and six years before the story)
Code: Pink = Heroine; Green = Hero; Aqua = Heroine’s Flashback
Although apparently the first book in a series, The Fire Seer stands alone. The mystery and the romance plots both come to a satisfying conclusion.
I have enjoyed the other Fantasy Romance series by Amy Raby, and I wasn’t disappointed by this one set in a new fantasy world. It was just what I was in the mood for. This is the first book in a new series. As of writing this review, I haven’t read the second book, The Fire Seer and Her Quradum by Amy Raby.
My reading time: 6 hrs.
Buy The Fire Seer by Amy Raby.
Buy The Fire Seer and Her Quradum by Amy Raby.
Read this month’s other Book Reviews: