61 points, 3 ¼ stars.
Warning: depictions of self-harm, suicide attempts

Blurb:

To survive. To fight. To restore balance.

The Falkyn sisters bear a burden and a legacy. Their mother, the imperial magiel of the kingdom of Orumon, protects her people from the horrors of the afterlife by calling upon the Gods with a precious Prayer Stone. But war among the kingdoms has brought fire and destruction to their sheltered world. When a mad king’s desire to destroy the Prayer Stones shatters their family, the three girls are scattered to the wilderness, relying on their wits and powers they don’t yet master.

Assassin. Battle tactician. Magic wielder. Driven by different ambitions, Meg, Janat, and Rennika are destined to become all these and more. To reclaim their birth right, they must overcome doubtful loyalties within a rising rebellion; more, they must challenge a dogma-driven chancellor’s influence on the prince raised to inherit his father’s war: a prince struggling to unravel the mystery of his brother’s addiction to Heaven.

Available August 6th, 2019, from Amazon and other major outlets. Preorder now!

Quote:

“But a wealthy country put greed above worship. An educated country questioned the divine right to rule. A country where men changed their stations became unstable.”

Review: 

Bursts of Fire showed a lot of promise from a rather new author. I read the description for the book and it stayed with me for days before I finally gave in and requested the ARC. I’m glad I did, and I’m looking for more from the next book in this series. Susan Forest just has so much potential to become great. Potential because I can see what she is doing, but the execution is just very.. young. There are a lot of mistakes that I see new authors make, that get stamped out over time. I’m looking forward to a lot from Susan Forest, because these are correctable problems within a series that interests me so much. Some of my favourite series started out this exact same way.

What caught my attention for Bursts of Fire original was the entire concept of the book. The whole idea of Heaven being a place where the kings and their magiels (religious magicians) go to is completely fascinating. Especially because it is to give their citizens an afterlife. Then, one king goes insane and ends up murdering all the other kings, and taking over their kingdoms? Holy shit, right?

There is so much more to it than that. No one knows why the insane king is doing what he is doing. No one knows why he is doing worse things than taking them over. He wants to take away their access to an afterlife. He is destroying their religion! Some of this is answered in the book, but there are just so many questions left! I’m certain they’ll be answered in further books, and the sequels are that much more interesting to me because of it.

I also really like the problems all the kids have in the book. And there were a lot of kids, because this is primarily a young adult book. Which I did not get just from the description. Was a bit blindsided by this fact, even. I was expecting late teens/early twenties for the primary character, and a bit younger for the other two siblings. Even though they were teenagers instead, they acted so much younger, and with some reason. One minute, they were one step away from being princesses, the next they’re in the wilderness, hunted by an enemy army, and just trying to survive. I liked it, to a point.

Meg is the oldest sibling at 16, going on 12. She is the one responsible for the other siblings, trying to keep them together, but not very good at it. And she acts so much younger than she is. She is supposed to be the most responsible of them all, but she just has never had to be responsible before now. And I really didn’t care for her much. It isn’t her fault, really. I just didn’t care for her much.

Then there is her sister Janat who is 15 going on 8, who got slapped part-way through the book because of her dumbass actions, and thank everything. It made the book way more enjoyable because she stopped acting like a spoilt brat after it happened. Janat just wants to be treated like the near-princess she actually is, and she won’t let reality get in the way of this fact. I have to emphasise this slap, because it was probably my favourite part of the whole book. I also hated Janat’s “romance” with the 22 year old random man who acted 17 years old. Just… save me from teenage love, especially from teenagers who just want to be safe.

Lastly there is Rennika, who is 12 going on 5. She is the baby of the trio, always protected and coddled. She is also the most powerful of them all, and has to go through a lot of bullshit to convince her sisters of this fact. Rennika is also my favourite of them all. She goes through the most growth. She understands what their situation is the most. She is just the best of them.

These three siblings squabble and bicker constantly through the book. And it gets them into trouble more than once. Especially since one sibling will “get a good idea” and tell their siblings. They all disagree. The sibling that got the brilliant idea will go and do it anyway. Then, surprise! Not so brilliant!

We also get a few scenes from the enemy camp. With a boy who tries to kill himself. With his brother who just wants to please his father, the king who is taking over everyone else. From the enemy magiel who has some heinous plans. These were all much more interesting than the sisters, but also very disconnected from the rest of the story, especially in the beginning. It contributed to my flow problems with the entire book.

The biggest problem I had, though, was that the author forgot we didn’t live in her head, The part of this problem that caused the most trouble with me is that Forest rarely explained key parts of the story and the world adequately. Then, there were really random bits of things that made absolutely no sense whatsoever thrown in wherever the author wanted them to be, yet utterly not connected to anything in the long run. Also, there were interesting side bits that appeared connected to the main story that were just tossed away, even when they were still useful.

The only reason I understood parts of this entire story were because I could fill in the blanks through lots of past experiences with the genre. The book played around with time, and it did some wonky things. Time skipped this way and that (more on this later). The narration had the same problem, with multiple characters getting introduced for brief moments then switching to another person.

Another problem I had with Bursts of Fire is that the magic system is almost unforgivably ill-laid out. At first, I understood that it was because the author wanted the reader to warm up to what was going on with magic slowly. The young characters didn’t really understand what they were going through either, so why should the reader? But in the end, it goes back to what I have already said. The author just doesn’t give enough details about anything. Even when the young characters started to understand, they didn’t tell us readers. The magic system is a confusing array of the girls know enough to some things, but don’t know enough to do anything effective. Until they do know enough, which is never shown, only told. And then we just have to contend with them getting into more trouble because they know some things now, but not enough experience to keep them out of trouble.

Even worse is that the author deliberately set up the magic system so that whenever the girls use any magic, they are able to see into bits of the future or the past. Yet, this is never once used throughout Bursts of Fire. I’ll explain: the little girls saw bits and pieces, but nothing was ever learned or accomplished by them seeing these bits. Their mother was trying the whole book to get them to understand and do something, but it never worked. There was only one thing that they ever learned anything at all through it, the entire time, despite their mother actively trying to make them learn. And what they did learn never actually happened – at least at the time their mom said it would. This system is a nightmare, but it has a ton of potential. I just didn’t actually get to see any of it yet. Unfortunately.

I honestly believe that within a few books, the author will figure out how to do all the problems I have laid out, as she gets better at writing. This was a rough start to a series. I firmly believe that the book should have been twice the length it actually is, just to truly explain and lay out what is going on within the words already established. It just needed more detail!

I received this as an arc quite a few months before release. A lot of the problems may be because the arc was released before it was ready. In which case I would feel really bad. Yet, I don’t think that is the case, because the problems I had with the book would require massive rewrites. And, if it isn’t the case, then I hope that, as I said before, Susan Forest continues to grow as an author even as she has already done throughout the course of just this book alone. This is an interesting story, just young in execution.


I received a copy of this book from Edelweiss in exchange for an honest review. Thank you to Susan Forest, Laksa Media Groups Inc, and Edelweiss for providing the opportunity to review this copy!