Title: The Secret Fire
Authors: C.J. Daugherty and Carina Rozenfeld
Series: The Alchemist Chronicles, #1
Format: Paperback, bought
My rating: 3 / 5
French teen Sacha Winters can't die. He can throw himself off a roof, be stabbed, even shot, and he will always survive. Until the day when history and ancient enmities dictate that he must die. Worse still, his death will trigger something awful. Something deadly. And that day is closing in.
Taylor Montclair is a normal English girl, hanging out with her friends and studying for exams, until she starts shorting out the lights with her brain. She’s also the only person on earth who can save Sacha.
There’s only one problem: the two of them have never met. They live hundreds of miles apart and powerful forces will stop at nothing to keep them apart.
They have eight weeks to find each other.
Will they survive long enough to save the world?
-- As seen on Goodreads
Being a huge fan of the Night School series, I was really looking forward to reading more of CJ Daugherty’s works. I knew that her new series was going to be more fantasy focused, and I was so happy about this. Fantasy is my all-time favourite genre, so combining one of my favourite authors with my favourite genre seemed like it would be a win-win scenario. By contrast, this was my first time reading any of Carina Rozenfeld’s works, and I was intrigued to see how both authors would collaborate and how the story would develop.
Well… it wasn’t quite what I was expecting. When I began reading I quickly realised my fantasy expectations might be a little off. I kept reading and realised it felt like I had unexpectedly picked up a YA Contemporary novel that just happened to have a few paranormal and supernatural threads woven in. Now, here’s where I need to clarify something. All of this is not necessarily a bad thing… however, I’ve read dozens and dozens of Urban Fantasy books over the years and I’ve seen all these tropes many times before. Combine all this with lots of familiar YA Contemporary tropes and the story just wasn’t that unique to me, and I found my interest in the story wandering more than once.
The narration is split into two separate points-of-view. Taylor is an English teen and Sasha is French, and over the course of the book both characters stories become intertwined and they need to work together despite various outside groups trying to keep them apart. Each character had their own distinct voice throughout the book which was awesome to see and I always knew which character was narrating throughout. Out of the two main characters, Sasha was the one I was intrigued by the most. He does have a cheeky-chappy kind of personality, and they’re usually the most entertaining characters to read about! Taylor, on the other hand, I wasn’t that connected to. She was Little Miss Perfect incarnated, and to be honest, I find perfect characters to be very unappealing. Give me flaws and questionable morals in my characters any and every day! Personally, I find them more fun to read about.
I absolutely loved the family dynamic that both Taylor and Sasha had in their own respective homes. Absentee parentism is a plague that haunts Young Adult literature, and to see that both teens had a parent that was present in their lives, cared for them and took an interest in their wellbeing was EXCELLENT to see.
Now I move onto something that didn’t work for me. On the back cover of my book it says three sentences in lovely sparkly golden font: “A Battle Against Fate. A Race Against Time. The Clock Starts NOW” So after reading this I expected a blisteringly fast paced plot with the constant threat of impending doom as each day ticks by until death, destruction and despair. I hate to say it, but I never got any sense of fear, or desperation, or that time was actually running out. Everything felt very slow and cushy and cozy for well over half the book, and it didn’t match the sense of urgency that the synopsis on the back cover was promising right from the beginning.
I was really hoping to love The Secret Fire more than I did. Maybe my expectations were too high? Or maybe it was bad timing? I did begin reading it straight after reading A Torch Against the Night and Crooked Kingdom, and they were my two most anticipated releases of 2016! Yeah, okay, looking back on that decision, it probably wasn’t the best timing, was it?! Maybe it did have more of an influence that I thought, but I’ll never know for sure. Personally, I think this book would be a perfect fit for any contemporary readers that are looking to branch out and explore some new genres – Urban Fantasy in particular. Overall, I thought it was a good read, but didn’t quite live up to all my expectations.