The eternal pitfall of judging a book by its cover — I have to say, had I not read an excerpt, I might have refused the review copy. I am after all one of those closet romance readers who prefers to deny any interest in the genre and only reads such novels late at night in the hidden corners of my bedroom (of which there are many).
But the excerpt convinced me to give it a try. I sat down with the review copy and before I knew it, I had finished the novel and it was past 2 o’clock in the morning.
Fire Burn is what I term popcorn reading — that guilty pleasure read that you can’t help but crave after a long day at work. The story follows Jolie Wilkins, an LA-based psychic who runs a small fortune-telling business with the help of her best friend. Enter her latest client, Rand Balfour, who is not only stunningly attractive but a powerful warlock to boot. It is thanks to Rand that Jolie discovers the true extent of her powers, but this discovery comes with unpleasant consequences: she becomes a hot commodity for everyone in the Underworld. Will Jolie survive the custody battle between Rand, a 600-year-old vampire, and an evil witch bent on world domination?
Warlocks, witches, vampires, werewolves and fairies — every kind of supernatural creature has its chance to shine in Fire Burn. Mallory has put thought into the Underworld hierarchy, creating a compelling supernatural world. As a matter of fact, the world-building is among the strongest aspects of this book, not only in terms of the paranormal but also in terms of the physical location—considerable effort is dedicated to giving readers a sense of place.
The plot is fast-paced and involves a lot of supernatural political machinations—in that respect, Fire Burn feels very much like the introduction to a series, because much is left unanswered. Perhaps overly so: while I did enjoy the taster Mallory has given of her world, I longed for something more substantial. A contributing factor was that this novel is more of a paranormal romance than an urban fantasy—while there is a larger plot at play here, the focus is more on relationships.
Speaking of relationships, I must admit to being intrigued by the male love interests, particularly by Sinjin the vampire. Mallory’s male characters captured my imagination the most—while I didn’t like all of them, I could understand their motivations. I was less convinced by the female characters. Jolie, the lead, wasn’t always credible in her decisions, and her best friend came off as a stereotypical girly-girl. However, Jolie does develop throughout the novel, and I expect will become more likeable as the series progresses and she acquires some much-needed confidence.
The writing is reminiscent of many current bestsellers; the informal first person voice seems to be meeting a lot of success lately, and it certainly adds to the engaging tone of this novel. My only nitpick would be with the choice of some descriptions and phrases: occasionally the prose was repetitive, and I wasn’t convinced by the Briticisms which (as a long-term UK resident) did not sound native to me.
In sum, Fire Burn is a solid introduction to what promises to be an engaging, light-hearted series – there is much left unanswered and a definite promise of more heat to come. If you like your urban fantasy with a large dollop of romance, then this might be the book for you.
This book is one of my 100+ Reading Challenge!