by Camille Longley
**I received a copy through Netgalley for my honest opinion.**
The book revolves around two individuals, Sol and Kenan, who are forced to rely on one another after an avalanche leaves them the only survivors. While this may not seem so bad—I mean, it is better to be in the wild with company than no one at all—Kenan is a flameskin and Sol has been taught to fear and hate people like him. Flameskins are humans who share their bodies with a pyra, a fire spirit or demon, that hungers for violence and death. It gives the human host immense power but it can take over their lives. Through much of the book, Kenan struggles to maintain his humanity while Sol only sees him as a demon. The more time they spend in each other’s presence, the more Sol starts to question her views of flameskins. As they get closer to their destination, the decision to go their separate ways becomes increasingly more difficult.
I enjoyed the book largely due to it being character-driven. Sol is clearly the more capable of the two protagonists. She is a hunter (huntress as the book calls her) and a tracker able to survive in nature whereas Kenan is a soldier who would otherwise have been lost without her. I immediately liked Sol but it was hard to justify my partiality to her after the way she treats Kenan during their trek to the city of Olisipo. She constantly refers to him as Demon and initially refuses to see him as human. Throughout the first half of the book, she is constantly struggling with her feelings for Kenan, contrasting the person that Kenan is with a hatred of the “unnatural” that her father (someone she idolized) has instilled in her. It doesn’t necessarily give her a free pass, but it tells us a lot about what she has to overcome when she finally makes up her mind. Because of this, Sol is the one that experiences the most growth throughout the novel. Kenan doesn’t change very much from beginning to end with the biggest difference being how he feels about Sol.
The romantic buildup, at least in the beginning, lacked chemistry. Kelan’s attraction to Sol happened pretty quickly, and it initially surprised me. Sol spends much of the beginning trying to reconcile her feelings for him, mostly fighting her attraction, so it was surprising to me when it was love. Once the initial bumpiness of their attraction is overcome, the development of the relationship becomes much better. In all honesty, I am back and forth about whether the romance was a necessary component. At the outset, it doesn’t feel organic to the story. I wonder if it was possible that another type of relationship may have fit with the story better and would have still served as an impetus for Sol to make the same decisions. Four weeks alone together is a lot of time but romantic love does not necessarily always need to be the outcome.
With romance dominating the book, the world building is a bit lacking in some aspects and is not very complex. It’s just all very surface level but a few cool things do happen (I know, I know…I’m being pretty vague but I cannot spoil the maybe 3 things that I really liked that happen). How magic works is interesting. It is channeled through stones and limited by how much it can store. Wielding magic comes with a price (Once Upon A Time anyone? Anyone?), individuals will lose their emotions.
While I can go on and on, I should probably stop here. I ended up liking the book more than I thought I would. This likely has a lot to do with some revelations I didn’t catch onto until just before they happened as well as an explosive ending. This book is a prequel, noted as #0 in the Flameskin Chronicles, so I hope to read the rest of the books as they come out. I would like to know what happens to Sol and Kenan.
It seems like I am nitpicking at everything, and it seems like a tossup in being a worthwhile read. The book has it’s shortcomings but what it comes down to is that after I finished reading, I was left with an overall feeling of contentment. I’m not sure how else to describe it. It’s like what the book tries to tell us about love–when you know, you just know. In this case, I knew it was a 4 star.