Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Wildefire by Karsten Knight

Title: Wildefire
Author: Karsten Knight
Publisher: Simon & Schuster/Simon & Schuster Children's Publishing
Release Date: July 26, 2011
Pages: 400 pages (hardcover)
How I Got the Book: S&S Galley Grab

Wildefire (Wildefire, #1)
Every flame begins with a spark.

Ashline Wilde is having a rough sophomore year. She’s struggling to find her place as the only Polynesian girl in school, her boyfriend just cheated on her, and now her runaway sister, Eve, has decided to barge back into her life. When Eve’s violent behavior escalates and she does the unthinkable, Ash transfers to a remote private school nestled in California’s redwoods, hoping to put the tragedy behind her. But her fresh start at Blackwood Academy doesn’t go as planned. Just as Ash is beginning to enjoy the perks of her new school—being captain of the tennis team, a steamy romance with a hot, local park ranger—Ash discovers that a group of gods and goddesses have mysteriously enrolled at Blackwood…and she’s one of them. To make matters worse, Eve has resurfaced to haunt Ash, and she’s got some strange abilities of her own. With a war between the gods looming over campus, Ash must master the new fire smoldering within before she clashes with her sister one more time… And when warm and cold fronts collide, there’s guaranteed to be a storm.


After an incident in her hometown leaves a girl dead by a lightning strike (that may or may not have something to do with her sister), Ashline Wilde is happy to get away to Blackwood Academy in California on the opposite side of the country. She just wants a fresh start, the opportunity to be normal, and maybe a romance with that really cute park ranger. Then she gets a bombshell dropped on her: she, a few of her classmates, and even her sister Eve are reincarnated gods and goddesses. When Eve comes back into Ash's life with intentions that aren't the kindest, Ash will have to master her fiery powers and face down Eve once again.

I got pressured into reading this book. Many of my Goodreads friends read it and their opinions fell on both sides of the spectrum with a few in the middle. Some of my friends (and you know who you are) asked me if I'd read it and said I should when I replied that no, Wildefire wasn't in my reading pile. Now I've read it and I'll parachute into that middleground. Not good, not bad, and certainly not a "me" book.

What seemed to attract so many people to it was the promising premise and the diversity of its characters so many readers were wishing for. On those, Wildefire delivered. The premise was a fresh one and the cast had a diversity in races I wish the rest of YA literature could embrace. I love having characters from all different backgrounds--Polynesian, Japanese, Haitian, and Egyptian, to start--but their actual characterization leaves a lot to be desired. None of them have their own distinct personalities that set them apart from one another and they sound almost alike in what they say.

I'm picky about romance in YA books and hardly notice them anymore because I'm not much of a romance person, but I kind of liked what Ashline and Colt had. Yeah, Colt says some pretty creepy things sometimes, but I've seen much worse and I can't expect every character ever to be good at words because some people (including me) are bad at words. Their development is good and their date into the woods at sunset was a great scene both for them and as a scene in a book. Certainly not my new favorite couple, but they're fun to read about.

The first chapter of the book is infamously divisive due to the violence and the book nearly lost me there too. I've read the myths too and I know the goddesses tend to go after the women and not the cheating gods of spouses, but that doesn't mean I can't be irritated. There were more than a few things off with how the characters acted, especially with the principal just standing by and letting a girl be beaten up by two different people. It isn't a book easily judged by the quality of its first chapter, that's for sure.

The prose and writing has its strong moments, especially during action scenes where Ash and her friends have to fight or in Ash's visions of a small girl being studied by scientists. Then it attempts to be pretty prose and only succeeds occasionally. There were more than a few "wait, what?" sort of moments to do with the prose. I would quote them so you could see what I mean, but I would rather not because it's an ARC. Cutting some of the failed pretty prose attempts before final publication would be a great idea.

Wildefire in its first half is somewhat dull. Ash is settling in at her new school, meeting and getting to know all the important players, but very little happens until about thirty-five or forty percent of the way in. Maybe this has to do with how impossible it was for me to concentrate on this book. I never became emotionally invested in the characters or their situations either. It's not a good thing when I have to sit down and force myself to read a book because I can't pay attention to it. It wasn't that I wasn't in a reading mood--I've been reading a lot the past few days--but Wildefire couldn't keep my attention.

The second half is when the story really starts to kick in, but close to the end of the book (and I admit this with shame), I skipped about seventy pages to get to the end because I still wasn't interested and I was ready to get the book over with. I don't feel like I missed anything vitally important. A truly good book is good from the first page to the last; readers shouldn't have to endure a dull first half to get to a worthwhile second half.

I don't know if I've said this before, but I'll close my review by saying it: I WISH PEOPLE WOULD STOP ENDING THEIR BOOKS WITH CLIFFHANGERS. You don't need to use cliffhangers to make people read the next book in your series. If the reader liked the first book, they'll probably read the books that come after it. Ending books with cliffhangers just results in frustrated readers. Wildefire definitely wasn't a "me" book with all its strengths and flaws, but give it a try if you're interested.

3 stars!

What am I reading next?: Revolution by Jennifer Donnelly


  1. None of them have their own distinct personalities that set them apart from one another and they sound almost alike in what they say.

    Ah, once again, you're reading my mind xD I had an issue with handing out diversity cookies for this one, as well, because you could really "hear" how every single character was being written by the same author. There was nothing to differentiate them, and no clues, aside from their physical appearance, that they were from different cultures.

    I couldn't do the Colt/Ashline thing though xD It was too creepy. He was too old, too persistent, and wow, that first date, with the blindfold and the forest? Uh yeah, I half-expected that to go in to serial killer territory. Just noooo.

    That being said, given the ending, I'm curious to see where all this goes.

    1. Well, considering the revelation at the end, no wonder Colt behaved like that. ;) For everything I disliked about the novel, I kinda appreciate that sort of foreshadowing now.

      The ending made me curious too, even if the cliffhanger drove me bonkers. If I can borrow a copy from someone else or score an ARC like I did with Wildefire, maybe I'll read it. Maybe. Heck, I don't know.


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