I’m not a spoiler person, so let me please forewarn you that while I will talk about the book, I won’t give away too many details. I don’t want to give away the twists that come with reading the plot, so I’ll give you a basic rundown, but I won’t ruin it for you. Promise!
The storyline is very unique–Jinn, or Fire Spirits, are far from vampires, werewolves, and faeries. There’s a long and built up history the author has designed and I’d explain it all, but it’s pretty tedious (plus I don’t have my book on me). I felt like I was being forced to read something for class, which made my eyes immediately skim for important keywords and move on to the next scene. I have trouble processing information given to me as a history book–I get why Young chose to do it this way and I don’t mind it terribly, but it’s just not how I want to read. It’s important for Ari to read it, but perhaps we could’ve gotten her Cliff Notes version.
I love the Red King–I think he’s not only the comedic relief, but also the supreme wild card of the story characters. He’s well-written, full of personality (I love that he has such a fascination with humans and their world), yet mysterious and just dangerous enough to make us not trust him, despite how Ari feels. We never really see what his true intentions are, except to serve his father Azazil. He may or may not come to care for Ari, but that doesn’t mean he won’t throw her to the wolves if it’s required of him.
And where do I even start with Jai? Okay–for me, Jai saved this storyline. He’s the best character in the story, especially where character development is concerned. As the youngest therefore impressive Guardian, he comes from a very complicated family history that really supports his viewpoint. With such awful family, I get why he has the attitude and personality he does–his silence or anger, his anguish over the new feelings for Ari versus the idea of responsibility towards an unloving father–it’s easy to like him and I found myself wishing more than a handful of times that we saw his POV more than just a couple times.
The language was sometimes a little varying–characters would speak as adults with logical issues, then turn around and call someone an “asshat”–which of course I still giggled at, but given the life-threatening situations, I found it difficult to believe there wasn’t more serious freaking the eff out going on. I think Young was trying to balance it, though–to keep Ari as a human teenager while hanging very serious situations over her head and it didn’t always compute well.
While reading, Ari gave me some frustration. I wanted to throttle her at times when she allowed herself to be a human doormat. She’s a loner by nature, which is perfectly believable, but her attitude to do whatever everyone wants drives me crazy. For someone who’s alone a lot, she spends the majority of her time thinking about Charlie or Jai and instead of making me feel bad for her, I want to tell her buck up (or be all, “Okay, we get it already, Ari.”). I also think she’s a little too cool for school–when she finds out she’s Jinn, she sticks her ostrich head into the sand and pretends she never heard a word. She flat out refuses to accept the news and when she finally does, it’s in a shrugging “meh, okay” way that made me grimace. There was no freak out, no uncontrollable crying or screaming…I’m sorry, I get that Ari likes ghosts like Ms. Maggie and whatever, but her reaction to the insane news supernatural creatures and of being a powerful, targeted Jinn is unforgivably unbelievable. I need reaction to circumstances and while she gives one to every other situation, this one was a biggie that fell flat. Like once she accepted it was all real, that was it. No problems, no questions asked, and suddenly The White King is her father in narration as opposed to “that scary motherf–dude.” Once decided she will leave her home to save family and friends (a fine hero personality), she’s very robotic about it. Other than Charlie, she seems to have no real problem about leaving home. I get that Ari’s making the “right choices” but there probably should’ve been a little more self-struggle with the decisions.
However, I will say she flashes a different, much stronger personality in many points of the story, which gives a good indication that it’s only a matter of time before she comes into her own. (In fact, I’ve read Book 2 of the series and while I won’t give anything away, I will say Ari is much more likeable when she realizes what needs to be done to save her existence.)
None of these things I listed, however, keep me from reading the series. As soon as I finished Smokeless Fire, I bought the second book (and I’ll hint that I think the second book is even better) and I’ll keep reading the series until she’s done. I was able to invest in these characters, despite their flaws, and that’s extremely important to me. It’s not necessarily about relating to them, but I do like them enough to care about them and wonder where they’re headed. I’m looking even more forward to Book 3, Borrowed Ember, to finally see how Ari is gonna nut up and take back her life. At the very least, she’s not a damsel in distress and that I can appreciate.
Wednesday and Friday we have interviews with Samantha Young on her favorite passage, her inspiration behind the series, and her advice to aspiring indie authors!