This Golden Flame / Emily Victoria / Book Review

This Golden Flame


Karis needs to find her brother. They've been separated ever since they were caught living on the streets by the Scribes. Karis was taken to the Scriptorium, dressed as an acolyte, trained to do their bidding. But Matthias was too much trouble, and she hasn't seen him since. The Scriptorium might be obsessed with the dead automatons littered throughout the country--their magic lost since the Lapse that destroyed the Scriptorium's power--but Karis couldn't care less about the automatons or the magic runes of the Scribes. She only wants her brother. But then Karis discovers something that shouldn't exist: an automaton who is still alive and who looks, surprisingly, human. And when Karis unwittingly awakens him, she finds that Alix might just be the key to all of her problems: able to break the locks that keep her bound to the Scriptorium, able to break into the record hall that tells her where her brother was sent. But Alix isn't just good at breaking locks, and he might stir up more trouble than Karis leaves behind as they set out for a new destination: the infamous Magistrate's Library, where the head of the Scriptorium awaits. 


  • Ace Awareness: Asexuality is rarely represented, especially in YA where romance is a main driver of plot. An asexual, aromantic character is unique, for sure. This book doesn't rely on romance for this reason, which makes it quite different than the majority of YA books--and especially important representation that often doesn't make the page. This asexual representation is great in addition to the varied cast of other LGBTQIA+ characters scattered through this book as well. 
  • Light Adventure World: Though this book deals with potentially heavy consequences--and has some of the dramatic tension needed to carry the plot because of those potential consequences--everything works out just right in the end. That happily-ever-after world is rare in YA where dark, gritty fantasy is the current norm. For those looking for an adventure story with high stakes that don't actually take a turn for the worst, this book is for you. There is no blood, death, and gore here. It's just good high-seas adventuring. 
  • Greek Worldbuilding: Himations, scriptoriums, even a(n automaton) Colossus: this book builds up a very different sort of European fantasy world. Sure, it's still Europe-esque, but at least it isn't feudal Europe. It evokes the ancient world to build its fantasy backdrop, and that's a uniquely fun experience. 


  • Generic Voice: Though this book has a unique backdrop and diverse characters, the narrative voice unfortunately sounds like every other fantasy narration out there. This is especially unfortunate when it is narrated in first person--and when there are two supposedly distinct narrators. The voices sound the same as each other, and they don't sound otherwise unique at all. 
  • Sensitive Pirates: Pirates are not a good deal. I know, we like to romanticize them. High seas adventures, sea monsters, gold: it might be fun to imagine this backdrop for a fantasy world, but it's also overused. Just for once, I wish there were pirates who were, you know, pirates. Not swashbuckling "gray" characters who care enough to tell their prisoners--yes, prisoners--their preferred pronouns. It's a cliché and a bad one. 
  • Quick Alliances: Everything in this book just moves too quickly. The characters don't have a lot of time to get to know each other or learn to trust each other--and yet, they explicitly do trust each other. There's a lot of telling that goes along with this (narrative telling along the lines of "she's such a closed-off person. It's so hard to make friends with her"). This telling seems to show growth in the relationships, but it is just presented at face value. This growth, this learning to trust, is by no means proven in the text itself. 



Those who enjoyed the steampunk-with-magic world of Elizabeth May's The Falconer will appreciate this new fantasy of rusty automatons. Anyone looking for another cast of colorful characters on the high seas after Adalyn Grace's All the Stars and Teeth will sink right into this new adventure. 


Publisher: Inkyard Press
Date: February 2, 2021
Series: N/A


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