Amanda Bouchet’s debut novel, A Promise of Fire is a strong start to a writing career. While there wasn’t anything about the book to launch it into timeless favorite status, it’s a good story that I devoured in one day.
Cat is living a quiet life in the circus, hiding from her past, when warlord Griffin Sinta, recent conqueror of one-third of the world, shows up and outs her as the Kingmaker, a person with powerful magic. I don’t want to discourage you on reading this book too soon, but I also want to end on a high note, so let’s do the cons first.
First off, I have to admit that I did not look at the cover as closely as I should have. The book is clearly marketed as fantasy romance.
Missing that, I launched into this story expecting epic fantasy. Which is exactly what I got until it somehow turned into a romance novel, though it still had hefty doses of epicness sprinkled throughout.
While I can’t complain about something I should have known before reading the book, I do feel like the romance created pacing issues. Cat’s fighting a dragon! Cat’s…not sure how she feels about Griffin kissing her? Cat’s taking out 30 men single-handedly! Cat’s…reluctantly admitting that she doesn’t hate Griffin even though it’s pretty obvious she doesn’t after repeatedly almost dying to save his life. Which leads me nicely into my next point.
Cat is almost unkillable, but she nevertheless has a ridiculous series of near-death experiences. The problem with this is, each time you do this, it loses some of its punch. The first time Cat almost dies, it means something. By the end of the book, it’s become part of a cycle. Stop milking it Cat, you’ve had worse. Suck it up and go fight with Griffin some more.
I hope leading with the cons didn’t turn you off too soon. I would say this book’s flaws mainly boil down to romance and fantasy both being rather predictable genres. But don’t stop reading now because even though A Promise of Fire falls into a couple of pit holes, it avoids other ones spectacularly and we are just now getting to the good part.
A pretty basic but good starting point here is that I like Cat. She has some fairly stereotypical traits, like a dark past that forces her to keep everyone at arm’s length and an excessive use of sarcasm, but they fit her story. And even though she’s almost immediately attracted to Griffin, it takes her a while to get over the fact that he literally abducts her from her home. Everyone else acts like she’s being unreasonable about this, but I think she has a good point. Her god (actually a god) father Poseidon plays a huge role in this abduction, which saves Griffin from being the bad guy, which is the normal role for a kidnapper.
Another thing I like about this story is that magic makes sense. As you may have guessed from Poseidon showing up, Greek mythology makes up a huge chunk of this world. It saves Bouchet from having to explain everything to her readers, which usually bogs down a story. It also provides a framework so things can pop up unexpectedly without feeling like they came out of nowhere.
These are great things, but I think Bouchet’s best accomplishment in this novel is her flow of information. One of my greatest pet peeves when reading fantasy is when I feel like I’m not being told something important for no good reason. Cat’s past is dribbled out throughout the book, but I never feel like I should know things about her that I don’t. At the end of the book we still don’t know everything (book 2 is out: Breath of Fire) but we’ve been given enough information to fill in the larger gaps, even if it hasn’t all been spelled out for us yet.
Cat and Griffin’s story might be somewhat predictable, but it’s still a fun and enjoyable read. I’d give it an 8 out of 10.