Title: Fire Lines
Author: Cara Thurlbourn
Genre: Young Adult, Fantasy
For seventeen years, Émi, as well as the entire citizenry of Nhatu, was taught that the high walls isolating their city from the rest of the world were built to protect them against the armies of Mahg, a power-hungry wielder of black magick. Beyond the walls lay barren wastelands and unsightly ruins of the three other cities, which were completely destroyed by Mahg’s wrath.
Upon turning seventeen, Émi’s magical bloodline awakens, and she discovers inherent abilities that could get her killed by the government. From there, everything else begins to unravel as well, including the history fed to them by the government of Nhatu.
Eventually, she is forced to flee, making her escape by going beyond the wall and into a foreign world she’s only ever known through her deceased father’s stories – a world teeming with winged watchers who soar through the skies, elephant riders, and sorcery.
To be completely honest, I agreed to participate in this blog tour without much of a second thought. I went into this book totally blind, lacking any preconceived expectations. I was even unaware of its genre. But I digress. Since I went into this without really knowing what to anticipate, I am at a loss with how I feel about Fire Lines.
The premise of the story was intriguing, albeit the idea of an entire magical world existing outside the borders of a completely isolated community isn’t really new. Still, I enjoyed learning about the other cities and their respective cultures. I particularly liked the lifelong bonds formed between the people in Tarynne and their elephant companions as well as the ceremonies they conducted in order to nurture these bonds. The world the author created was immensely fascinating. The life in all four cities sustained by a fire gem, which was eventually split into multiple pieces after Mahg attempted to possess its power – consider my interest effectively piqued.
The characters of Fire Lines were likable, and for the most part, well-developed. It was not particularly hard to invest in them and in their smaller narratives. However, admittedly, reading about them – Emi in particular – became extremely frustrating on more than one occasion. I guess this was mainly because every now and then, I could not fully fathom the rationale behind their actions. Seriously, sometimes I had to stop reading and ask myself, “Are they deliberately being idiots and making thoughtless, impulsive decisions just to move the plot forward?”
Since Fire Lines has yet to be officially released and out of courtesy, I will refrain from revealing too much about the plot and/or writing explicit spoilers openly. Should you be interested in reading a relatively short rant on aforementioned character idiocy, you can check out the spoiler tags in my Goodreads review.
My main problem with Fire Lines lies in its plot delivery, and by that, I don’t mean to say that the plot itself was awful and contained too many holes. The plot itself was fairly okay, in my opinion. However, it lacked, for the lack of a better term, oomph. To put it simply, I found the story in Fire Lines neither enthralling nor compelling. In the first part of the book, I was impressed by the authentic portrayal of abuse of power perpetuated by socioeconomic inequalities. In fact, the manner in which the author wrote about poverty and class-related injustice was very much close to home.
Unfortunately, the more chapters I read, the more my interest gradually waned. I was no longer able to truly empathize with the circumstances the characters were dealing with, and I think this is largely because I kept thinking that these circumstances could have been avoided if they just made more sensible decisions. Furthermore, there was so much material that was largely left unexplored!
Overall, Fire Lines was a fairly decent read. I’d say that I enjoyed the first half a whole lot more than the latter half of the story. Definitely far from the perfect novel, but I do genuinely believe that it’s still worth looking into.
Excerpt from the book:
Nearly fifteen years have passed since they sealed the gates and anyone who remembers what life was like before is too afraid or too tired to care. The visions they have shown us, the scenes I draw on my posters, of what lies beyond the wall – dark magick, decimated landscapes and ruthless scavengers – they have crushed peoples’ curiosity. I wish mine was crushed. You’d think that after everything that happened, with my father, it would be. But it’s not. Every night, in the few moments of sleep I manage to snatch before sunrise, I dream of Abilene. I see Watchers gliding through the sky and a lake so blue it is imprinted on the backs of my eyes when I wake. . .
Nor nudges me out of my daydream. “We’re here.”
When we disembark at the Green Quarter jetty, we go through the permit-checking process in reverse. Out on the street, Nor turns left and waddles towards the hotel where she works as a cook. I cross the road and veer right, away from the canal but towards the wide fast-moving river that flows from the Green Quarter, down through Silver and Gold, under the city walls, and out into the ocean.