Love burns. Worlds collide. Magic reigns.
This world is trying to kill Lily Proctor. Her life-threatening allergies keep her from enjoying many of the experiences that other teenagers take for granted … which is why she is determined to enjoy her first (and perhaps only) high-school party. But Lily’s life never goes according to plan, and after a humiliating incident in front of half her graduating class Lily wishes she could just disappear.
Suddenly Lily is in a different Salem – one overrun with horrifying creatures and ruled by powerful women called Crucibles. Strongest and cruellest of all the Crucibles is Lillian … Lily’s identical other self in this alternate universe. This new version of her world is terrifyingly sensual, and Lily is soon overwhelmed by new experiences. Lily realizes that what makes her weak at home is exactly what makes her extraordinary in New Salem. It also puts her life in danger.
Thrown into a world she doesn’t understand, Lily is torn between responsibilities she can’t hope to shoulder alone, and a love she never expected. But how can Lily be the saviour of this world when she is literally her own worst enemy?
Thank you to Pan Macmillan Australia for providing a review copy of the book. All thoughts and opinions are my own.
Trial by Fire was an interesting read for me. I love books and stories about science and magic, whether it’s about an integration of them or the tension between the two camps, and that’s exactly what this book had. However, I didn’t really enjoy the reading experience and, while I think many fans of fantasy or paranormal books would like it a lot, Trial by Fire just wasn’t for me.
This novel is about Lily, a sickly girl from Salem, Massachusetts who suffers from lots of allergies and is prone to having seizures. Professionals have no idea what is wrong with her and her condition has just been something that Lily has had to deal with her whole life. Until she is transported to another Salem – a parallel universe – that is simultaneously medieval and advanced at the same time. This world has magic and witches and for the first time, Lily is able to understand why her body and health is the way it is. What she wasn’t prepared to find out was that this world’s version of Lily is the Lady of Salem and the most powerful witch in the world. And in this world, the Lady of Salem is responsible for the abolition of science and the murder and unjust treatment of many people.
I had a couple of issues with the plot of this book. I found it to be really draggy and dull. For most of the book, I didn’t have a clear idea of where the story was going and it also didn’t help that the chapters were really long and added to the feeling of sluggishness. I had a hard time understanding the logic of some of the things that were happening and was quite confused about a lot of the plot and why things were happening. There were some great plot points but I felt that the novel lacked a story arc or clear transitions, which made the reading experience a little bit unpleasant.
However, I did love the magic vs science aspect of the novel. I especially enjoyed that the magic system in the book had a scientific aspect to it, despite the witches and magic wielders insisting that it wasn’t really science. I thought the parallel worlds were interesting and I liked that the magical Salem had both a medieval and futuristic feel to it. Having said that, I didn’t really get a good sense of how the magic system worked. There weren’t clear rules set out and I found it to be really confusing to grasp. Lily was a little bit of a special snowflake and she seemed to be able to learn and perform new abilities almost instantaneously so there wasn’t a lot of time spent explaining how everything worked. I love when we get to learn about a world or a magic system as a naive character learns about it in the story, and this was lacking in Trial by Fire because Lily barely had to learn anything.
The characters in the novel were good but not exceptional or particularly interesting. I liked Lily as a main character but she did get on my nerves at times because of her stubbornness and her tendency to think that she knows best. She did grow on me slightly throughout the novel but I wouldn’t consider her to be one of my favourite fantasy heroines. I, however, really disliked her doppelganger, Lillian. She was villainous and did a lot of despicable things. But my biggest problem with her character was that I didn’t understand her motives. She was neither a complex character nor a simple villain who’s just evil. She just came across as extremely confusing. My favourite character in the novel was probably Rowan, the main love interest in the novel. There isn’t really any romance in the book but it’s definitely developing and I can see it becoming a more prominent theme in the rest of the trilogy. I liked Rowan because he was not only a noble and strong character, but he was also sensitive and caring. I liked him a lot in this book.
Overall, I wasn’t enamoured by Trial by Fire. I don’t think my kind of book and I just didn’t really enjoy reading it. It wasn’t a book that captivated me and made me want to continue the trilogy, but I can see lots of readers liking it a lot.