Trial by Fire
Author: Josephine Angelini
Release: September 2nd 2014
Genre: Fantasy, Witches, YA
#1 in the Worldwalker trilogy
Sequels: Firewalker (#2), Witch's Pyre (#3)
This world is trying to kill Lily Proctor. Her life-threatening allergies keep her from enjoying experiences that others in her hometown of Salem take for granted, which is why she is determined to enjoy her first high school party with her best friend and longtime crush, Tristan. But after a humiliating incident in front of half her graduating class, Lily wishes she could just disappear.
Suddenly, Lily is in a different Salem—one overrun with horrifying creatures and ruled by powerful women called Crucibles. Strongest and cruelest of them all is Lillian . . . Lily's other self in this alternate universe.
What makes Lily weak at home is what makes her extraordinary in New Salem. In this confusing world, Lily is torn between responsibilities she can't hope to shoulder alone and a love she never expected.
Wow. This was surprisingly good? Like, I'm seriously speechless right now. Coming from Josephine Angelini, author of the Starcrossed trilogy, I honestly expected not to like it that much. And I didn't, at first. However, this book managed to draw me in and even though I did buy it in the hopes that Angelini had improved as an author, I wasn't really expecting to end up liking it.
I am extremely happy, however, that this novel turned out much, much better than I expected. Like I said, the book and me were indeed off to a not so great start, and I was already shaking my head and thinking I was gonna have to punch myself through this one, but around page 100 it actually started getting good.
The only thing that's still sort of nagging at me is that these characters are, again, flawless and perfect as well as very black and white, at least for the most part. I liked that the villain was complex and not easily categorized as purely evil because she did have unknown motives and constantly came across as indeed having a moral compass that's still working. Nevertheless, most of the heroes and secondary antagonists could effortlessly be put into their respective archetype drawers. I mean, personally, I still ended up mainly liking the characters, but it's not good that they're this one-sided. Some of them have struggles, some of them have struggles that are never ever delved into, some of them are just cardboard. I don't know what to do with that.
It is largely the plot, though, that makes this book as good as it is. Because it seems like a mix of a lot of popular media rolled into one and it is surprisingly well executed. Angelini explains the how and why behind the whole crucible/mechanic/witch thing perfectly satisfactorily in bits and pieces throughout the novel; whenever it's necessary to expand your knowledge about the whole process, she'll give you another scrap of information for you to soak up. I truly loved the concept behind it because while it was partially scientific (and scientifically correct, as far as I can tell!), it also needed you to kickstart your imagination and just go with it. Books are fictional, it's okay if something is magical and doesn't make logical sense. I totally dig it.
Also, the world-building, while not quite as extensive as the witch stuff, was explained and laid out nicely as well. No complaints there.
What came as another huge surprise was that Angelini didn't focus as heavily on the romance anymore. There's some actual plot development going on, stuff is happening aside from the usual heart eyes,s stolen kisses and whispered sweet nothings! Shocker. No, seriously, I thought I'd be in for another painstaking love triangle, but nope. While I can't say I particularly loved the relationship between Rowan and Lily, I can't say I minded, either. They were cute, in a way I can see why they'd fit together and they didn't grind on my nerves. I'm hoping their connection might be even more developed in the sequel(s), so that I can really start shipping them, because as of now, they have the potential.
In the end, Trial by Fire is far from perfect, but considering how disastrously the Starcrossed trilogy ended, I think this is a humongous step forward for the author in terms of improvement and becoming a better writer. I am definitely going to be keeping my eyes out for the sequel.