Wildefire (Wildefire #1)by Karsten Knight Published 26 Jul 2011
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|Publisher||Simon Schuster Books for Young Readers|
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Every flame begins with a spark.
Blackwood Academy was supposed to be a fresh start for Ashline Wilde. A secluded boarding school deep in the heart of California’s redwood forests, three thousand miles from her old life—it sounded like the new beginning she needed after an act of unspeakable violence left a girl in her hometown dead. But Blackwood is far from the peaceful haven Ashline was searching for. Because terrifying, supernatural beasts roam the forests around campus. Because the murderer from Ashline’s hometown—her own sister—has followed her across the country. Because a group of reincarnated gods and goddesses has been mysteriously summoned to Blackwood...and Ashline’s one of them.
"Wildefire (Wildefire #1)" Reviews
Wildefire by Karsten Knight is what The Goddess Test should have been and wasn't.
In fact, Wildefire does many things right that the YA genre has been getting wrong. Those involved in the recent uproar over the lack of cultural inclusion in this genre can take a nice, refreshing, Polynesian breath of fresh air.
Or, you know, enjoy one of the many OTHER aspects of Polynesian culture...
Ashline is the modern reincarnation of an ancient Polynesian Goddess. Her sister, Eve, is also a reincarnation of a goddess. Like most ancient Goddesses - when they're happy, they're happy and when they're not - you're dead.
As it turns out, Eve is just the wrong side of insane and her fixation is on her little sister. Knight does an amazing job of translating the fickle, petty, violent moods of an ancient goddess come to life.
Luckily for Ashline, she's not alone and this novel brings about an epic gods/goddesses mashup without turning it into a corny 80's cartoon superhero rendition of the Justice League.
Alas, it doesn't quite get this awesome, but I can imagine, right?
This novel wasn't perfect. Though I felt the characterization, plot and overall themes were fantastic, I wasn't quite sold on the ending and I had a couple of minor concerns. Mostly, there wasn't nearly enough full frontal male nudity for my tastes.
I'm STILL wondering why he turned up in an image search for "Hot Polynesian Man" but whatever...
Overall though, this novel thoroughly deserves the hype and I strongly recommend it to all my YA loving friends. I look forward to reading the sequel and future works by Knight.
Also, my respect for Simon & Schuster has gone up like a bajillion times for publishing this.
This is not for me.
A shocking amount of pointless, gratuitous, glorified violence that is written in such a way as if it should be applauded by the readers (and to my chagrin, yes, apparently some do think it is perfectly OK, no, cool, for a girl to beat up another girl for messing around with her boyfriend); everyone's flippant attitude towards this violence (really, a week's suspension for knocking someone unconscious?); a girl with her teeth knocked out trying to be mouthy with her victimizers and, like Terminator, coming back for more and more abuse, while everyone, including the vice principal, is standing around the school yard doing absolutely nothing.
It is disturbing, it is unrealistic, it makes no sense.
I don't need to finish this to know this is all wrong.
No. Just no.
This is going to be a very long review – I probably shouldn’t even say review. More of a discussion, really, of what I thought about this book and why I was not impressed by it.
The last book that produced such a visceral reaction in me was the latest one in the Strange Angels series. That one, I didn’t complete because well, I disliked it that much. This one I felt compelled to complete because people whose reviews I follow assured me that this book gets better. After completing it, I have come to the conclusion that our tastes differ. A lot.
Anyway, let’s move on to the book. I need to collect my thoughts just a little bit because as I said, there are many things I had issues with.
Let me preface this review by saying that I have read books where the main character is a girl who is written by a guy. A lovely example of one such book where the male author correctly and accurately portrays a female main character is the Bloody Jack series by L. A. Meyer. I understand that this is Mr. Knight’s first novel and with subsequent novels, he will surely hone his craft and improve. That said, I feel that while creating Ashline, Mr. Knight utilized the popular stereotypes that exist about what teenage girls are like instead of creating an original character with whom a reader can empathize. It felt as though Ashline was a caricature of a teenage girl rather than a girl. When you are writing, you need to become the character and this gets really difficult if your character is…so foreign to you. Hey, teenage girls may as well be aliens for all the sense they make sometimes.
The book begins with something so stupid that I immediately felt like whacking someone on the head. The scene opens with Ashline engaged in a smackdown with a girl called Lizzie Jacobs who, according to Ashline, “stole her boyfriend.”
Let’s take a moment here, okay?
Honey, you can’t steal something that is freely given. Why blame the girl for taking what is offered? THIS is exactly the kind of thing that gets me feminist side roaring. Why doesn’t Ashline confront the cheating boyfriend first before engaging into gratuitous violence with Lizzie? Oh okay, you hit her hard enough that she loses a tooth and then your sister comes in to bang her up some more. And even after ALL THAT, Lizzie comes to your house to get revenge? With two black eyes?
Um. I don’t know about you but realistically? The only place she’d be going is to the doctor to probably spend the next few weeks in the hospital. Why aren’t the police involved? That is assault, you know? And the sister who shows up out of nowhere and then kills Lizzie. Right.
But this is not the only violence there is in the book.
The “gods/goddesses” (more on that later) kill a lot mercenaries who are trying to capture them without showing the least bit of remorse. There’s no sense of horror that they actually took a life – what, these beings don’t feel remorse? Don’t have a conscience?
Let’s talk about Lily and Rolfe. So, from the beginning we are told that Lily is in lurve with Rolfe who likes toying with her but does not want to commit to her.
Nice, huh? But then SOMEHOW Lily becomes the bad guy. Rolfe chooses the much hotter Raja (whose name always gives me pause because in Hindi Raja means King and I’m always thinking it’s a guy but in this instance, the name refers to a girl) and ditches Lily. After sleeping with her, leading her on and we’re supposed to feel bad for Rolfe because Lily attempts to “rape” him. Honestly, this could have been an interesting twist if I wasn’t too busy hating on Rolfe for his assholery.
Ashline was unpleasant. She had no depth, no substance to her. Nothing in her that I could relate to or empathize with. She beats up a girl and then starts to judge her sister for doing the same thing. She wasn’t developed at all. Her thoughts, her actions, her justification for her actions… they were all unbelievable. The thing is… she doesn’t reach much like a girl. A teenage girl, I mean. I was one. I know many. I know what I’m talking about. But we’ll get to that when we talk about language.
All other characters were pretty much cardboard cutouts. Ah wait, I felt that the strongest part of the book was when Ade’s “moments” in Haiti were being described. If only the main character of this novel had been a guy… think about how much better it might have been. And the headmistress? There’s a certain distance that a person in authority needs to maintain – the lack of discipline in the school was laughable. The parents were not of much use and in fact, they were shoved to a different coast for most of the story so…
The dialogue does not sound like exchanges between teenagers – like the way teenagers talk. Especially Ashline’s exchanges with the love interests. I think this book could have done with a better editor who could have pointed out all the things that were unnecessary or sounded artificial.
Ashline’s habit of calling Colt by his last name seems like an affectation and her incessant snarkiness leads the reader to be less forgiving of her. Her moments of remorse or introspection are not convincing because they seem less sincere and more like the lines an actor would speak at a cued moment. Because she is expected to.
But what irritated me most? What annoyed me enough that I wanted to throw the book out and scrub my eyes? I don’t know if it’s just me and my feminism (I refuse to apologise for my feminism, I like it) was how twice (or maybe more) in this book, the word “pussy” was used when a person wanted to say “I’m scared/weak/not good.”
I’m sorry but girls don’t speak like that. One moment.
Okay. Let’s continue. What’s wrong with using “chicken?” Girls, at least the ones I know and I know many, don’t use the word like that. It’s a derogatory term. PEOPLE SHOULD KNOW THIS. It’s not cool, it’s not witty, it’s not entertaining and my opinion of the book sank right down to the gutter and perhaps below ground level after I read this. I can’t fathom any woman being okay with this and if they are, they should not be. Terms like these should NOT be used in daily life, it should NOT be normalized. I don’t understand why the editor/writer thought that it would be okay to use this.
The Love Interests
The first guy who cheats on her, Rich something. The second one who tries to sex her up, Bobby Jones. The third one she’s in lust with and tries to sex up before burning him. There’s less love and more lust in this book which would have been okay had the lust not been wrapped up prettily as love or well, tried to be wrapped up as love. The third guy, Colt Halliday is an older guy, his age is not mentioned but his actions are enough to colour him some sort of stalker and give you the creepy vibe that does not make Ashline’s proclamations of interest in the dude palatable. Well, not that I cared anymore.
I found this to be confused. The characters in the novel were pretty diverse, hailing from different parts of the world. Obviously reification is not something I veer towards but it was cool to see people from different cultures come together… and then lose whatever they had to become nothing different from anybody else. There’s a Norse God, Egyptian Goddess, Polynesian Goddesses.
A Japanese Goddess. This, I found very interesting. Lily speaks Japanese because she’s half Japanese and has been speaking it her entire life. I didn’t understand why that sentence was important. Or why that fact was important. Did I miss something?
Anyway, the mythology wasn’t compelling. There was a big “so what?” dangling all over the story and the mix-match of various mythologies did nothing except confuse me.
Why is Ashline Polynesian? What was the purpose of this?
I’ll tell you the main reason I wanted to read this book. Because I thought it would be set in Hawaii. I mean, hello, we haven’t had ANY YA books set there or anywhere exotic really. But I thought since we were dealing with a volcanic goddess, we would be somewhere volcanoes are more common.
I’m from Fiji. Not a native but I was born and lived in Fiji for the first seventeen years of my life. My people are not Polynesian but Melanesian (darker skin). However, these are just cosmetic differences and there are certain similarities where lifestyle, theology and philosophy are concerned. They may also have similar Gods and Goddess. Of that, I’m not sure. However, I truly believed I was going to be given a glimpse of that wonderful world and culture that remains largely unexplored in fiction and literature.
Wildefire may have done many things but it failed at the most intrinsic level: to entertain me. It went one step further and offended me. As I said, this is less a review and more of a reaction to the book. I can’t be honest and recommend it to you. But as I always say, make up your own mind.
Do you know how you are really excited about a book and you have this feeling you are going to LOVE it. But soon as you start reading it you start to wonder if you have received the same copy as others who fell head over heels in love with it? Well, that is exactly what Wildefire was for me. I have a confession. I totally fell for the hype with this one. I really wanted to love this. Even when I felt like giving up halfway through, I continued on in hopes that it would get better. But, alas, for me, it did not. Did I hate it? No, that wouldn't be fair. Saying I hated it would put it on the same pathetic shelf along City of Fallen Angels and Marked and Wildefire wasn't *that* bad. But, was I disappointed? Immensely.
I gave this book 2 stars because while I didn't really like it, there were a few things I did like. So, I'll start at the good.
One of Wildefire's best qualities was the diversity of ethnicities. In the beginning, I'll admit I had trouble keeping up with who was who. The plus side to this is that it caused me to Google images of people from different cultures to get a better visual picture in my mind.
Ashline and her sister Eve are both Polynasian
Ade is Haitian
Rolfe is Scandinavian
Lily is Japanese
Raja is Egyptian
Ok, so don't laugh. *snicker, snicker* But as I was reading this book it kind gave me flash backs to Captain Planet.
We're the Planeteers! You can be one too! 'Cause saving our planet is the thing to do!
Other than the diverse cultures, I found the banter between the characters funny and entertaining at times. But, it was hard to determine who was speaking unless Knight told me who it was. Every character was snarky and it seemed like their personalities often times just blended together.
And that is pretty much where my warm fuzzies for this book ends. Ready for the bad? NOTE: This part may contain spoilers.
Our story begins with Ashline Wilde in a confrontation with a classmate over a boy. At first, I really liked her. I thought she was spunky and a strong MC. However, that image of her quickly died as the novel wore on. But before we even get to her, let's start off with asking why the Principle was just standing around in the first scene of the book with a student sprawled out on the ground unconscious? Hmmm? He might as well have stayed in his office for all the good he did. I don't care that he was scared of Eve, can we at least help the poor girl up?! If you are wondering if this book has more of these irritations, the answer would be, "Yes, yes it does."
Let us continue our discussion of Ash. I spent most of the novel asking questions that Ash should have been asking herself. It was quite frustrating. For example, it seems she just accepted her sister's weird powers in the beginning before she even knew what she herself was. I didn't find that very realistic. She didn't even question it.
Another example would have to be the love interest, Colt. First off, any book that proposes insta-love with me already gets on my bad side. I don't have an issue if there is a mystery or reason clearly behind it and the MC actually *questions* it (that's the key point here). But, it was like, they meet in a bar one night and he is completely captivated with her. Ok-tay, fine. I can get with that. But then he shows up randomly at her tennis practice (major stalker vibes). To giver her credit, a day or so later she does ask him why he is so interested, but he gives her the most creepy, stalker answer ever. He borderline tells her, she has given his life new meaning and she just accepts it and decides to go out on a date with him.
As for the other characters in the book, I didn't really connect with them. I would have liked to see what happened to make Eve the way she was. What was the catalyst to her wild behavior? The rest had relatively small parts. I thought we would see more of them considering their whole mission to save the world and all. But there was no saving. Not even a small attempt. The book compromised of classes, shopping, visits from psycho big sis, a date and school dance. Oh and what the hell! Let's throw in a fight scene at the end.
OK my biggest beef with this book: (huge spoiler) [spoilers removed]
The cliffhanger was OK. I kinda figured it was headed in that direction. I will check out the next book in the series because I'm curious to were Knight is planning on going with all this. This series has a lot of potential. It would be wrong to give up so soon.
ARC was received through Simon and Schuster's galleygrab program.
More reviews and more at Cuddlebuggery Book Blog.
(Actual Rating: 3.5 stars)
Wildefire by Karsten Knight is a strange beast of a novel. Nearly 400 pages, it's a bit of an intimidating novel – especially if you had been reading many iffy opinions about it as I had. Too much senseless violence. Unsympathetic heroine. Creepy love interest. So many one-star reviews had been coming into my Goodreads feed that, after a while, I had simply deleted the book from my shelves despite my having had the book listed to-read since August 2010.
But something happened a few days ago. I had one of those panic-stricken moments when I wanted to read a book but nothing was sticking with me. Then my eyes turned to my neglected e-galley of Wildefire that I had yet to delete off my e-reader. Curiosity, however morbid, eventually won out – and I started reading.
I'm not going to deny it: all of those negative elements listed above are present and accounted for in this novel. But you know what? Strangely, by book's end, all of those things somehow make sense in the scheme of this story (and that's a lot more than I can usually say for paranormal YA).
Wildefire is a mad mix of X-Men and Neil Gaiman's American Gods. The story revolves around gods and goddesses, all from different cultures (meaning that there's not just a focus on Greek myth deities or Norse myth deities, but a mixture – very fun), being reincarnated into mortal forms over and over again. But for what purpose are they being reincarnated? And why are five of them suddenly being drawn together in a school in the middle of nowhere? There are answers, but they definitely don't come easily. . .
I'll be honest: knowing that the heroine and her sister were reincarnated goddesses, I didn't have as much trouble swallowing the initial violence as I thought I would. Sure, the reasons for it – Ashline basically “taking revenge” on the girl who “stole” Ash's boyfriend – are rather irksome (especially since it would have been more ironic and even a bit funny if Ash had been wailing on the boy with her fists instead), but I get why Knight chose to write it that way. How many times in Greek mythology did Hera go all “hell hath no fury against a woman scorned” on the mortal women who had caught Zeus's eye? In all those cases, Hera should have been taking her anger and divine retribution out on Zeus, her husband, but did she? Uh, no. She went after the women. ALL. THE. TIME.
Anyway. . .the violence didn't bug me because I knew beforehand that I was dealing with goddesses who didn't have mortal-sized tempers. However, I can't say that any of the violence helped to warm me to Ashline as a heroine. Yes, she has a sister, Eve, who is somehow even more likely to embrace her psychotic side than Ash is – but is that in and of itself enough to make me sympathize with a girl who beat up another teenage girl just for sucking face with a boy the heroine didn't even care much about in the first place? Not really.
One of the flaws that never quite resolves itself is that Ashline doesn't become a sympathetic heroine in this first installment. Personally, I came to look at her as the means through which this potentially awesome and epic story of gods and goddesses warring against each other could take place. The story just as easily could have been told from another viewpoint (fellow deity Raja or Ade in particular might have been intriguing) and I would have been satisfied just the same. Is that a flaw that I might have enjoyed the story even more from a different viewpoint? I don't know.
Characterization as a whole is a bit of an issue in this book. Though all the god characters have their own specific backgrounds and stories, we never truly get a feel for them. It doesn't help that Knight's particularly snarky style of dialogue somehow leaks into all of the characters. Not every person has a witty or snarky one-liner for everything! The similar voices made it a bit difficult to latch onto any of the characters, so I was a bit disappointed that I did not come away loving any of them.
The more I read of this novel, the more I had to wonder: why wasn't this written for the adult urban fantasy market? I easily could have seen the characters aged a few years and living in a large city – and the story would have fit well in UF since I'm sure it would have had a smoother reception than it has had/will likely have in the YA market. The high-school age characters were already acting like adults, so why not just move them up a few years and be out on their own when the 'god calling' strikes? There could have been potentially even more awesomeness and epicness down the route of UF.
However, whatever the flaws of this novel, I must say this: this book should be required reading for anyone who intends to write a mythology-influenced novel. This is how gods and goddesses should be written. A book about deities with supernatural powers to shift the earth or cause storms or what have you needs to take advantage of the “epicness” that walks hand in hand with mythology. Why do you think the myths were first created? Just to tell a story about some truth or explain away some aspect of nature? Yes, there was that component – but the ancients were also trying to entertain themselves with these stories. (That should be obvious enough with the number of “funny” myths to be found – such as the Norse myth where the thunder god Thor dresses up as the beautiful goddess Freya at the trickster god Loki's insistence.) And, undoubtedly, Wildefire entertains (and offers quite a few plot twists and turns along the way to keep you guessing).
For me, the good outweighed the bad with Wildefire, but I know that it won't be everyone's cup of tea. However, I will say that anyone who's even a little bit intrigued should read the first few pages and see if it works for you. You may just end up reading the whole thing and enjoying it just as I did.
Over the past few years, in the wake of the sparkle madness, we’ve seen a wide variety of paranormal mythologies saturate the YA market to the point where much of it has become derivative, overdone and frankly, a little dull. To find something original in the market is always pleasant, so a novel centred around a reincarnated Polynesian goddess was automatically a must read for me. So far, my GoodReads friends have been mixed in their opinions on the novel, so I will have to be the dull one here and fall right in the middle.
Ashline is a great protagonist. She’s often stubborn and incredibly sarcastic – the banter she shares with her friends is a particular highlight of the book – and makes stupid mistakes, but she also suffers with consequences and has to learn how to mature and figure out what to do with her life and newfound destiny. Her relationship with her friends, family and the culture clash she has known through her whole life made her an often complex but always interesting heroine. This was also an instance where the obligatory romantic element didn’t bother me so much; she and Colt had great chemistry, actually took time to get to know one another and didn’t spend all their time obsessing over one another.
Aside from Ashline, the supporting cast ranges from good to bad in terms of development. Her group of close friends and fellow gods were especially humorous and their interactions made for some of the best parts of the novel. They actually felt like teenagers, not adults in smaller bodies, and their own personal journeys, while handled a little clumsily (the prose is serviceable but nothing particularly groundbreaking), brought further layers to the mythological elements, another high point in the book. However, I had a strong dislike (and not in the way the author intended) to Eve, Ash’s sister. She was a straight up sociopath with nothing beyond her two dimensional destruction and selfishness. I can understand what Knight’s intentions were with the character, and there are hints of bigger repercussions in her relationship with Ash, but they were overwhelmed by her psychotic behaviour. The moments where she is supposed to develop beyond this felt hollow, making her ultimately an underwhelming antagonist to the story. Another possible antagonist is introduced late into the novel who is even more two dimensional than Eve, complete with Bond villain style exposition of her past, but she’s dropped almost immediately.
From the first chapter, the book grabs you and is paced to keep you invested in the mystery, rushed ending aside. However, this opening may also put off many readers because of its violence. There is a lot of violence in the novel and it verged dangerously close to being gratuitous for me. I can understand the inherently violent nature of the gods and goddesses, and their struggles to keep control over their strange, burgeoning powers, but the characters often take a disappointingly flippant view of this violence which I found to be grating as the novel progressed. The opening chapter’s fight was a particularly bad example of this – I don’t care how violent or peaceful your neighbourhood is, there is absolutely no way you’d only get one week’s suspension from school for that sort of fight. The fact that this fight takes place over a boy didn’t please me much either. As well as the violent elements, I felt that the group accepted their fates a little too quickly, and seemed to take control of their powers with the same unrealistic speed.
While I didn’t love “Wildefire” in quite the same way many of my reviewer friends did, it was refreshing to read a paranormal YA with unique mythos, a strong, complex female protagonist and a circle of friends with witty interactions who actually cared about one another and did more than act as plot devices. Now that the first part of the story is told, I hope Karsten Knight can further develop a great story free deserving of that killer cliff-hanger, which will leave you both infuriated and waiting for more.
I received my e-ARC of "Wildefire" from Simon and Schuster's Galley Grab programme.