We Are the Fire / Sam Taylor / Book Review

We Are the Fire

Blurb

Ripped from their families at a young age and conscripted into the army of Vesimaa, Pran and Oksana have undergone a horrifying alchemical process to transform into Tuliikobrets--the Emperor's monstrous, fire-summoning soldiers. This process has not left them undamaged, both physically and mentally. They dream for a better life. Oksana wants to return home to the family she lost. Pran dreams of revolution, a new age where all Tuliikobrets can be free. Together, they wrestle the horrific reality of the empire they serve: pyres and pillaging, death and fire. When the emperor's demands grow more cruel by the day, Pran and Oksana realize they cannot continue to live in his service. But their goals differ drastically, and in freeing themselves from the emperor, they might lose each other along the way. 

Pros

  • High Fantasy: Alchemy and monstrous antlers, reluctant fire-breathing soldiers, a cruel emperor: this book is full of fun fantasy elements and great visuals. Sam Taylor writes a more traditional type of high fantasy than most recent YA. Not nearly as romance-driven as its contemporaries, this book has an old-school feeling--in a good way. 
  • Friend Tension: High fantasy can fall into the good-versus-evil trap. Everyone who is on the "good" side is always right and agrees with every other "good" character. Everyone who is on the "bad" side is always wrong and agrees with every other "bad" character. Taylor avoids that pitfall. Though the two protagonists are on the side of righteous revolution, they disagree with each other and argue as the plot progresses. There is a significant amount of tension between them, even as they love and support one another. More books should feature this type of dramatic tension, because it is this sort of gray-area tension that makes the world go 'round--not a strict friends-enemies divide. 
  • Fire: This book is full of fire. From punny names to dramatic billowing flames, Taylor manages to produce a lot of great passages revolving around fire. Hellions and Imps, burning pyres, smoke and flint: the pyromaniacs of this world will appreciate this book's dedication to the fiery end. 

Cons

  • Overwhelming Worldbuilding: This book unfortunately starts out with a smattering of over-described world terms. These terms seem to be almost thrown at the reader to get them out of the way so that the immediate (yes, immediate) action can begin. I prefer a softer opening than this. The combination of heavy world-dumping and inexplicable action was overwhelming in the first chapter in a way that made it hard to get a footing in the world. Without a proper footing, it is hard to stay connected as the action develops. 
  • Emotional Disconnect: Though there are plenty of reasons why this particular cast of child soldier characters would be full of hatred, angst, and the desire to rebel, there was an ultimate disconnect for me as a reader between the reasons and the results. The actual emotions are more assumed than on the page. The passion of the characters doesn't translate, even when they are meant to be inspiring rebellion--stoking the flames, so to say--and that emotional disconnect between reader and characters is a major problem. If I can't resonate with the characters, why do I care whether their rebellion succeeds?
  • Lost Interest: About a quarter through this book, I set it down to head to work, and then I had no interest in picking it up again. I set it aside for the rest of the week until I finally had to pick up something else to get me out of my book slump. I forced myself back to this work in order to give it a full review (I never review a book I haven't finished, as that isn't fair to the author). If someone who adores fantasy (like me) can lose interest so quickly and so completely, this book might have another major problem. I have been on the lookout for good fantasy this year. I thought this book might be it, but I was disappointed and disinterested in the end. 

Rating

⭐⭐
2/10

Those who enjoyed the twistedly alchemical body alterations of Marie Lu's Skyhunter should check out these fire-breathing soldiers. Anyone who shivered at the body horror of Julianna Bagott's Pure will want to experience this gruesome new fantasy. 

Details

Publisher: Swoon Reads
Date: February 16, 2021
Series: N/A
Buy It HERE

Note: I was provided with an ARC by the publisher through Netgalley in exchange for an honest review. All opinions here are my own.

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