Wildfire by Jo Clayton
My rating: 3 of 5 stars
This is the second episode of Faan's story, as she searches for her mother, control of her powers, and her own agency separate from the gods that toy with her. It suffers from a problem common to many a Book 2 of an old school fantasy trilogy: it's the middle, and nothing much gets resolved.
Indeed, as with the first book, Wildfire is a product of its time. The reader is plunged into the world with many unfamiliar words and customs and left to find her own way ... much as Faan herself is. There's much rich worldbuilding and some things that aren't quite explained well enough, but it feels like a very real, complex and lived-in place.
Faan has immense powers, but they are handled perfectly: she's a flawed adolescent struggling to make sense of it (without teen angst, mind), and it's as much a curse as a blessing. This is an example of book where being a Chosen One really works, and it feels vital and alive even to a modern reader.
The main problem with Wildfire is that much of the book is taken up with the city-wide conspiracy which tumbles Faan and her new fate-tangled acquaintances into trouble. This would be fine if they were involved in the continuance and untangling of the plot, but instead, the two storylines diverge. I never felt as if I was given any reason to care about the succession struggle going on in the city. I wasn't bored by it, but I wasn't invested in it, either.
That said, there are some great snapshot character portrayals, and the plot thread involving Navarre and his significant other, Kitya, has some really interesting elements. I'm curious to finish the series and see how it all ties up.
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