April 17th - 19th I will be at the Salt Lake City Comic-Con sharing a table with the Author of this book. I figured I better know the other novel in which I'm sharing my booth. So I got it on kindle, and jumped right into it. Here are my thoughts: J. Abram Barneck's "Fire Light" is a unique YA Urban Fantasy set in the Great Salt Lake Valley. The protagonist, Jacob Stevens, is a seventeen-year-old geek turned jock who will do anything to seem normal, although he's anything but. Then one day he meets Charles O'Brien, an FBI agent who brings with him an ancient magical textbook and some bad news for Jake: someone is trying to kill him.Why? Because it turns out Jake is a Druid. Some mysterious organization has been hunting down all the Druids, even the potential ones, like Jake, with the intent to exterminate the ancient society. Running for his life, Jake is torn away from his family and the life he took for granted. Helping O'Brien uncover the identity of the ones responsible for this genocide, Jake is thrust into a dangerous world filled with magic, Nightwalkers, and even a Vampire King! Sounds exciting right? Well, it is and it isn't. Although the writing was excellent throughout the book, and the plot was very well thought out, for me "Fire Light" had a few weaknesses.
1) The inciting incident doesn't happen until chapter twelve. For those of you who don't know what an inciting incident is here's the definition. When an event happens to the protagonist forcing their lives to change from the norm to adapt to the story's plot. Pretty much it's the part that kicks the story off and gets the ball rolling. Most writing gurus and creative writing courses teach that an inciting incident should happen in the first act, within the first few chapters in a novel or the first ten pages in a screenplay. If this was a typical epic Fantasy novel like Robert Jordan's "The Eye of the World" the reader would expect this kind of build up because the writer is introducing them to a whole new world. However, the author of "Fire Light" spends the first twelve chapters of the book just getting us acquainted with Jake. We learn about his parentage, his sister, his geek lifestyle and we meet his friends and other supporting characters. All good things to learn as this helps to establish Jake's character, but it drags on a bit. Had I been a beta reader for this book I would've suggested condensing this whole segment to help the story move along more quickly.
2) Just before the story finally picks up, the author forces a love connection between Jake and his sister's best friend Kendra. At this point it was the last thing I wanted to read, I just wanted the fantasy element to happen already. Also, I found Kendra's character weak and inconsistent. She's described as confident but then goes on to do things that make her seem insecure, childish, and desperate. I found it hard to care about her and was relieved when the inciting incident finally arrived and Jake was taken away into another world. I found myself hoping we'd never see Kendra again.
However, once the story took off, it kept on going! The pacing from chapter twelve on was fantastic, keeping you interested and wanting more. Later, another female character was introduced, Alexis, who didn't annoy me and I found I suddenly needed to finish the book more because of her than anything else. The author managed to surprise me in some places and that's not easily done. The author didn't shy away from darker subjects yet kept things somewhat PG-13 with which I was impressed. He kept the dark fantasy world realistic without getting too morbid for young adult readers to enjoy. The ending was action packed and exciting without being too over-the-top or unbelievable. The big climax did not disappoint as many YA books do, and kept me on the edge of my seat to the very end. When it was all said and done I found myself eager to read the next book! Which unfortunately does not yet have a release date set.
Is "Fire Light" a worth while read? Yes. Will I be reading the next book in the series? You betcha! Does it take a while to get going? Sure, but the pay off makes it's well worth the wait. So, overall I'd give "Fire Light" four and a half stars!
Now go forth and pick up "Fire Light" by J. Abram Barneck, (at the following links) and find out for yourself what "Fire Light" is all about. Till next time.