Zara Dane has been chosen as Prince Sebastian’s new bride, and taken against her will into the luxury of the Camelot-style castle in this history-emulating dystopian. Zara plans her escape, but she’s swept into the arms of Devlan, the first knight, and part of the rebellion to topple King Hart’s rule. Can Zara convince Sebastian to rule Karm differently before the rebels attack? And what is the secret of Outside?
I finished Fireblood several days ago and now that I’ve sat down to review it I had to think for a minute what the main character’s name was. Unfortunately Zara was incredibly bland, two-dimensional, and utterly unmemorable. Also unfortunately I just read another book with basically the exact same premise (Captivate by Vanessa Garden), except the girl chooses the other love interest, and that book was much more memorable.
The problem with Fireblood is that Zara has zero personality, Sebastian is utterly off-putting because he sexually assaults her early on and never redeems himself, and Devlan is your typical angry silent brooding type who likes to beat on Zara to make her stronger. The problem is not that we’ve seen all this before in a hundred other YA dystopian stories, but that the characters are all two-dimensional (as in they remain the same at the beginning as at the end, with no character progression or growth), but they are bland, the conversations are difficult to follow because they are not logical, and I after a strong beginning I was in the end bored and slightly confused and often found the characters’ actions illogical. However, the biggest thing I liked in terms of characters was how easily jealous Sebastian became and his actions towards the end. After all, he didn’t really know Zara, so why should he trust her? Pretty words won’t replace a lifetime of propaganda.
The plot didn’t kick in until about 40% through, which I personally found very annoying. I really liked the opening as it helped define the confusing setting and introduced several plot elements such as the Virus and the televised executions, and I liked Zara. But after spending nearly half the novel avoiding Sebastian’s lechery and spending time with Devlan, I was beyond ready for the rebels to burst onto the page. I didn’t find the romance with Devlan interesting either, because rather than making eyes at each other or even showing reactions to each other such as fluttering hearts or sweating or anything like that, we the audience were simply reading what was happening, as in the physical actions and reactions with nothing deeper than that, absolutely zero emotion, no progression to like or crush or admiring. It was as if we spent the novel watching through Zara’s eyes as she noticed how he walked or an emotionless report of their actions together, but never why it made her feel towards him, so when she did finally fall in love it seemed out of the blue and even forced. I therefore found the romance with Devlan unconvincing.
There were two issues I had with the plot: the first was that Prince Sebastian seemed to have picked Zara off the streets to marry because he wanted to get into her pants, which seemed strange to me as surely he could do that to anyone? He was allowed to choose whomever he wanted but he didn’t think about making a strong partnership, choosing a wife who would support him or even have common interests as he didn’t even get to know Zara before she was officially engaged. Sometimes it seemed like a ploy simply to elevate Zara from commoner to princess. Even when Zara asked “Why me?” he simply answered with, “I saw you on the monitors.” Not “I saw you on the monitors and you’re hot,” or even, ?I saw how caring you were” or any other quality. Sebastian’s ‘reason’ for choosing Zara is as emotionless, illogical, and careless as Zara’s ‘relationship’ with Devlan.
The other thing that bothered me was the plot for the rebels to overthrow King Hart. King Hart released a Virus that took people at random and forced them into a zombie-like state to work outside the force field, and occasionally sacrifice one to the cannibals Outside, and in return the force field protected the people inside Karm and they were happy and peaceful and well-fed and the weather was controlled so there were no disasters or anything. It seemed like a really good deal to me, and I couldn’t figure out why anyone would want to bring down the force field and leave these happy, peaceful people vulnerable to cannibals and monsters and all the horrors of Outside.
However I would like to praise the setting. Karm was a Camelot-inspired world protected by a force field from Outside in the future of Earth, and the populace was forced to recreate Camelot-type lifestyles. So although I assumed this book was a fantasy because of the mention of royalty in the blurb, it’s actually a dystopian with a pseudo-historical setting set in the future after a nasty Virus has devastated the population. I really liked this idea and thought it quite original – rather than just your usual futuristic dystopian-in-a-bubble, they had knights and tournaments with jousting and royalty and I just liked it.
Unfortunately for me the original setting was about the only redeeming thing about the book.
Thanks to Spencer Hill Press and Netgaley for providing this advanced reader copy for an honest review.