Title: The Secret Fire
Author: CJ Daugherty and Carina Rozenfeld
Cover Artist: Typeset by M Rules
Publisher: Atom books
Release Date: 10th September 2015
Genre: YA Supernatural Fiction
Page Count: 432
Original Language: English
Format Read: Paperback ARC
Other books in series: The Secret City
Movie Adaptation: N/A (but I would love to see this)
I was given a proof copy of The Secret Fire by Atom Books a couple of weeks ago in exchange for an honest review. I am so happy that they sent me this book, as I have become a tiiiiiny bit obsessed. I'm so grateful for the chance to review it!
Taylor Montclair is a regular girl from the quiet backwater of Woodbury, England.
Sacha Winters is a darkly mysterious boy from the City of Lights - Paris, France.
While Taylor's focussed on her dream of attending Oxford University, school couldn't be further from Sacha's mind . . .
Sacha knows exactly when he's going to die. Because he's done it before.
On the appointed day, Sacha's time will run out. And his death will fulfil an ancient destiny that could unleash chaos and catastrophe.Taylor is the only person who can save him. Neither of them knows that yet. Because they haven't even met.
Hundreds of miles and a body of water separate them.
Deadly forces will stop at nothing to keep them apart.
They have eight weeks to find each other and unravel an ancient web of mystery and danger.
The clock starts NOW.
*SPOILER ALERT: This review does not assume you have read the book*
I'm just going to start off by saying that this book will always have a special place in my heart since it is my very first ARC that I have ever received. This fact, however, will not manipulate my view of it as a piece of literature.
I didn't know what I was going to make of this book since it isn't something I'd usually pick up, even though it is of the supernatural genre. Thankfully, I didn't miss it, because I am so glad to have read it now.
The novel begins with French boy Sacha performing all kinds of crazy stunts for money since he can't die, and his friend tries to exploit this, although he assumes Sacha uses trickery to survive the falls he jumps. I instantly connected with this character, not because he reminds me of myself (which he certainly doesn't) but because his character was just written really well.
On the other side of the ocean in England is Taylor, a studious girl with a best friend who loves to gossip and a boyfriend who happens to be the most popular guy in school. This I really liked, because she wasn't your typical 'nerdy' protagonist, and was a really strong feminist figure in my opinion. If there was ever a film adaptation, I would sooo cosplay her.
Taylor's English teacher tells her that she must be Sacha's English tutor and teach him via email, which would be fair enough... if Sacha didn't already speak perfect English. So something is definitely wrong, and this novel explores the reasons as to why Taylor and Sacha both should and shouldn't meet.
The imagery was strong in this book, and so I could fully immerse myself in the plot. I just love books like that - it gives you a clear enough description of everything that you can almost imagine yourself in Paris with Sacha and Taylor. This was enough on its own to keep my interest.
I also loved the collaboration on this project! I am a keen French learner and being able to see the influence of English and French writing made me really happy and comfortable with this book. There are even some French words and phrases thrown in, and if you speak limited French like me you should be able to spot the curse words! Their ideas didn't conflict at all and I couldn't tell where Daugherty's writing ended and Rozenfeld's writing began, which is a sign of a good collab.
There are just a couple of things that I felt were stopping me from completely loving it, but it didn't have a huge effect on my enjoyment of the book overall.
For me, as someone who has read a heck of a lot of books, the romance element of the novel was predictable and didn't excite me (but the rest of the book did). It brought nothing to the plot in its early stages, and I thought it could have developed a bit more naturally. It seemed as though, despite the protagonists only talking on a forum in the first chapters, that they were falling for each other. This wasn't brought in gradually, and so felt strange to read so early on in the book. However, I completely understand why a romance would eventually blossom, since the story works on the basis that they have such a strong emotional bond.
Additionally, there were a couple of clumsy phrases near the beginning which thankfully didn't carry on throughout the rest of the book. One that really stood out for me was from Taylor's point of view: "His cheekbones were ridiculous". Arrgh! I'm not even sure what that's supposed to mean. Were they good cheekbones? Just the right amount of cheekbone? Or Benedict Cumberbatch 'no-need-for-a-knife-because-there-are-two-on-his-face' cheekbones?
Despite these two minor issues I had, I still found myself wailing in frustration when I'd finished the last page of the book. I need the sequel. Much like a caffeine addict needs their morning coffee, I need to know what happens to these characters who I have found myself attached to. Sacha only had eight weeks to live at the beginning of the book - don't make me wait eight months for the second instalment!
Overall, I really liked this book, and I think most people can overlook the issues I had with it. I wish I could have done the same, but I guess that's what three years of blogging and reviewing has done to me! I hope Daugherty and Rozenfeld have a lot of success with this book, because they really deserve it for the brilliant writing. I've given it 4/5 cups of tea!
PS: Here's a tip for anyone who decides to read this - look out for the Taylor Swift reference!
About the authors:
A former crime reporter, political writer and investigative journalist, Daugherty now a full-time novelist. She has previously worked for several US newspapers, including the Savannah Morning News and the Dallas Morning News. In addition, she has written several books about travel in Paris and Ireland for Time Out and Frommers. Night School was her first fiction novel.
Carina Rozenfeld (born February 13, 1972 in Paris) is a French author who writes children's books in the science-fiction and fantasy genres. In 2004, her first novel Lucille et les dragons sourds was published.