ARC Review: The Secret Fire

The Secret Fire
The Secret Fire by C.J. Daugherty
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

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?

Reading the blurb, I though I was going to get an angst-romance-filled novel with a fantasy backdrop, but this book actually surprised me. It seems at first the book is going to be all about them, but it actually focuses on the two characters individually. But I’m getting ahead of myself – at the start, it did feel that way. I was a little irritated with the cliches and how their respective teachers seemed to have set them up, but as the book progressed, I started enjoying it. It also could be because it switched from probably-paranormal to full-on-magic-realism mid-way. The story is fast-paced, but takes place over a short period of time, and Taylor and Sacha really have only met. Which is why it felt so natural that they are not shown jumping into a relationship but instead being there for each other, as friends and support systems. The fact that they are tied together by the curse doesn’t really factor into the romance, but the attraction is there.

About the background of the book, it is constructed as magical realism – a world where alchemists are real, and there are people called Dark Practitioners. I don’t really get what the latter wants, or the former’s goals besides getting rid of the latter, and the pursuit of knowledge in alchemy. More pressing seems the former’s urgency to come after Sacha, and that is not really explained; a villain is only good as their motives. Taylor and Louisa have good chemistry as well, and I can fully imagine them strutting down the streets of her town – two bad-asses rocking their slightly rock chic looks. What was unfulfilled about the book was the ending – the blurb made it seem so urgent and we are left on a very non-urgent one – a change rather than a culmination. It does make me hope for more world-building in the sequel, but damn if that ending didn’t feel a bit unfinished.

Received a free galley from Bookouture via Netgalley; this does not influence my opinions or review.

View all my reviews

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