Book Review: We Are The Fire
Author: Sam Taylor
Genre: YA Fantasy
I received an Advance Reader copy from my writing friend. Full disclosure: I was a beta-reader for various versions of this story, but not the final one in print. My last reading of this beta was closer to the Flint, Flare, Flame version that won the YARWA Rosemary Award for Speculative Fiction in 2018. Also, I don’t often read YA these days, and love Sam Taylor’s writing.
Sam has some awesome pre-order goodies for readers who buy We Are The Fire and those that put in a request at their local library (Global offer). See below for how to get your mitts on all the goodies.
We Are The Fire is an a tense story of love, endurance, revolution, identity, and maturing. Oksana and Pran are Tuliikobrets, stolen children from other regions forced into becoming fire-controlling soldiers for the Vesimaan emperor, a fate they share with hordes of other children. Together with their closest friends, Yalku and Anu, Pran and Oksana dream of leaving the slavery and inhumanity of the fort controlled by ruthless Commanders, to return to their homelands or finding their own path. Pran proposes a revolution, and while he knows the cost of freedom will be high, he can’t guess just how high a price of love, friendship and suffering they will all pay.
The Whole story
Seven long years ago, Pran and Oksana arrived at the fort of the Tuliikobrets from different regions of conquered lands. From the start, they depended on each to get through the brutality and pain inflicted by their training and transformation into fierce fire-wielding soldiers for the power-hungry emperor. Now, they’re in love, and Pran is determined to break the bondage of Tuliis while also giving Oksana her dream of returning home. When the emperor’s new ambitious plans put intolerable pressure on the alchemist Rootare and the Commanders, the whole fort suffers. With Pran and Oksana’s sudden promotion to Hellions, Pran uses his new role to seed a revolt while Oksana is blackmailed into working with the creepy Rootare to produce even stronger serums. Pulled ever further apart, and faced with betrayal and the heart-breaking deaths of those they love, Oksana and Pran come to realize that victory may only be the start of a more hazardous and dark path to freedom.
What I Loved About This Story
Pran and Oksana, naturally, but also their friends Anu, Yalku and, eventually, Sepp. Sam Taylor vividly brings to life the cold environment, desperate emotions of the enslaved kids, and the regimental and brutal life no-one ever chose. Despite the dark scenes, this story is primarily one of hope and resilience, and love. Both Oksana and Pran are asked to make difficult decisions and face the consequences with responsibility that commands respect. Rootare is despicable yet not one-dimensional, while the camaraderie of the Tuliis despite their cultural differences is encouraging. The plot is strong, believable, and with an ending that shows a much wiser Pran and a very empowered Oksana. I love the way Sam Taylor weaves current alchemical knowledge with Vesimaan lore and materials to create the serums, and I adore the little details that allude to widely different cultures and how similar they can be.
What I Thought Could Be Better
So, having been familiar with older drafts of the story that featured more of Anu and Yalku, I missed some deleted scenes at the beginning. I felt the first part of the story was racing along at the expense of my favorite characters and their relationships until I got about a third of the way through and began appreciating this story as it’s now told. Then I could see it’s a more satisfying story overall. If you’ve read We Are The Fire as Flint, Flare, Flame you may feel the same 🙂 But you won’t be disappointed with the final story.
So what did I learn from this whole experience?
As a writer, revising your story endless times does often make it stronger. As a reader, I learned a bit more about alchemy, and to appreciate the freedom I had as a child to be a child. Though set in a fictional world, child labour/slavery and soldiers are still a reality many innocents face.
I also learned that bread and cinnamon go well together 😀 And that I’d never want to be a human dragon. It just gets you burnt!
I Recommend to: alchemy lovers, DWJ fans who prefer her darker fantasies for older YA, X-Men fanatics, and bored Harry Potter fans.
Pre-Order We Are The Fire
Get awesome pre-order goodies by placing your order or requesting your local library get a loan copy. Go to https://www.samtaylorwrites.com/library-request-giveaway
River Bend Bookshop (signed copies, character art print, map, and bookmark): https://www.riverbendbookshop.com/SamTaylor
Edged in Starlight (sprayed edges, signed bookplate, bookmark) https://www.etsy.com/listing/938036492/pre-order-we-are-the-fire