Monday, 22 December 2014

CFB Review: The Fire Wish by Amber Lough

   I haven't read any high fantasy novels recently, so it was such a pleasure to dive back into that genre with The Fire Wish. Lately I've been trying to pick up more Eastern-inspired fantasy novels, and this was a perfect fit. The fact that Tamora Pierce gave it an amazing blurb was the cherry on top of the sundae (of course, TP's blurbs are usually hit or miss, but that story is for another time).

  I started The Fire Wish while I was shooting on location. Before film school, I never believed people who said that shooting films were 99% waiting, but now, with firsthand experience, I can say that there is a buttload of waiting happening on film sets. Anyway, I was waiting for them to shoot my scene, and I had already finished a book, so I decided to head back to my car and grab The Fire Wish (I keep it in my car as a backup, in case I finish a book away from home). And that was how I got to know Najwa & Zayele: filming in a warehouse whilst covered in fake blood (I died in the film, heehee).

   The Fire Wish delves into jinni (more commonly known to us as "genie") mythology. In Amber Lough's ancient Baghdad, jinnis live underground in a Cavern, and rarely get opportunities to see the human world. Jinnis are also entrenched in a war with the humans, which does not bode well for our two protagonists. Najwa, a young jinni, is in love with all things human. Zayele, is a human who is being shipped off to the nation's capital for an arranged marriage. Their paths cross when Zayele captures Najwa and makes a wish. The wish goes awry and instead of sending Zayele home, they end up switching lives. Chaos ensues.

   Because I hate ending on a bad note, let's start with the cons and work our way up, shall we?

   The only thing that really bothered me about the plot was that everything seemed too convenient. Of course the two girls who wanted out of their lives could pass as each other. Of course they didn't love their future husbands. Of course once they switched, they immediately fell in love with the other person's love interest. I would have liked it if the author gave it a little twist, like what if when they switched, each girl loathed the supposed love interest even more, to the point of them being archenemies? I'd read that book. Speaking of the book's cons, the whole revelation towards the end of the book of why Zayele & Najwa could pass as each other came completely out of left field. While it did answer most of our questions, it was, again, such a convenient answer.

   The history of the characters and the society they lived in wasn't explained that much, either. We never knew the concrete reason for the Jinni War until the very end of the novel. And we didn't really get to see much of a war, did we? Aside from "the warriors are returning!" trope, it was more of a passive-aggressive war: "Jinnis suck. Humans are power-hungry monster. Totes."

   Same with the rules of jinnis. At the beginning, I found myself stumbling a little as they introduced all these characters who apparently belong to subcategories of jinnis. Wait, so this one can make a wish, but that one can't? But she just made a wish--nope, so which one...well, what's the science behind jinni wishes anyway? Don't they usually have those three things you can't wish for? Oh, that's only on Disney. I feel like the author just assumed that everyone reading had watched Aladdin and had a rudimentary understanding on what jinnis were and skipped the whole intro-to-mythos bit.

   And now let's fangirl. I don't like doing the cons anymore than the author would like reading them, but I once heard that being nice during criticism hour does not do anyone good. But since we got that out of the way, it's time to be wonderfully nice and bring out all the pros.

   I love how The Fire Wish echoes both The Prince & the Pauper and The Little Mermaid. Najwa has spent her whole life in the jinnis' cavern, and once she gets a chance to visit the human world, she falls in love with it. She loves seeing the sky, the stars, the vibrancy of the colors. Even at the end of the book, she says she *SPOILER ALERT* couldn't leave the human world, not just because of Kamal but because of the world's wonders. It's that one bit that people always misunderstand about Ariel. They think, "Oh, she's a stupid little mermaid because she gave up everything for a man." NO. She loved the human world and everything in it. She loved being human. Prince Eric was just the gorgeous cherry on top of the sundae. Same with Najwa. Kamal is a nerdy, music-loving prince with a heart of gold, but even without him, Najwa wouldn't give up our world for anything.

   One of the scenes in the book that I absolutely loved was the conversation between Kamal & Najwa about the stars and stories. Both of them were had completely different passions, but somehow, in the course of their conversation, they discovered that they both had the same reason for loving what they did. I'm not usually a lovey-dovey kind of girl, but that scene gave me le feels.

    Amber Lough's descriptions of ancient Baghdad are as vivid as a painting. Whenever she takes the time to describes the palace halls or the jinnis' cavern, I drink in every word as opposed to skimming past them. I totally wish I had one iota of talent in painting so I could portray her world.

   The two protagonists, Najwa & Zayele are just adorable. I don't like one more than the other, and more importantly, I don't hate either one of them. In a world that is slowly filling up with annoying YA heroines, these two chicks are as refreshing as a desert oasis. Heh. (Forgive me, I just had to make that pun). At the end of the book, Zayele fully takes the blame for everything that happened and actually DOES SOMETHING ABOUT IT. Another YA trope I hate is when the protagonist curls up into a ball and wails, "This is all my fault. This never would've happened if I didn't yadda yadda yadda.." Not Zayele. No way. She realized that it was all her fault, and dang it if she didn't take the bull right by its horns and make up for her mistakes.

   I thoroughly enjoyed reading The Fire Wish. It's a perfect book to read if you love Eastern fantasy novels, or like me, trying to get into it. I would recommend it for fans of Shannon Hale, especially her Book of a Thousand Days.

My rating: 8.5/10 for an amazing world and wonderful characters who deserved a better plot.

That's all for this review! Thanks for reading, and for bearing with the amount of times I typed "human world". :) I'll be posting my 10 Favorite Books of 2014 soon, so watch out for that!


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