Lesser known gods set Wildefire ablaze

Wildefire by Karsten Knight; published by Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers, New York, 2011; 400 pages.

NOTE: This review is based on an ARC (advance reading copy) provided for free by the publisher.  The publication information is subject to change.  The book was published in July, 2011.

Ashline Wilde, and her sister Eve, are Polynesian sisters who were adopted by a Jewish couple.  As if that combination weren’t enough to attract all the taunts and bullies of high school, Eve has run away.  Her return ends in the cruel death of Ash’s rival; a death not only cruel but suspicious.  It seems that Eve can control the weather and sent a lightning bolt to fry the poor girl.  Fast-forward a few months, and Ash has transferred to a remote school on the California coast, across the country from her New York home and family.  If Eve’s abilities were strange, things are about to rocket off the strange-o-meter for Ash.  Apparently, a girl with an oracle’s gift has called disparate teens from all over the world to the school to fulfill a quest given her by the mysterious Jack.  Worlds, gods and teens collide and it’s not going to end well.

I adore that the characters represent gods of different cultures.  Obviously, children and teens are interested in the Greek gods (hello, Percy Jackson, and thank you for coming to the party).  But there is a rich mythical history around the world that we are not often introduced to.  Knight introduces us to Polynesian, Norse and Haitian myths, just to name a few.  Teens who are familiar with the Trickster stories from picture books of their childhood will understand that Ash’s quest is going to be interesting, to say the least.

Aside from the mythology, the sibling rivalry and typical teen struggles add interesting subplots.  However, I had a hard time overlooking an issue with the dialog.  The female characters, particularly Ash and Jackie, don’t ring true to me.  I felt like I was listening to guys trying to win a bet by talking the way they think tough girls talk.  Once I got drawn into the story, I could overlook it.  And, oh, the heart palpitations start midway through the book without many chances to catch a breath as identities, abilities and conflicts start piling up without letting up.  Just when I thought I could relax, the shock of the end caught me completely off-guard.  Now I await the sequel, impatiently!

By the way, the book is divided into sections that reflect the timeline of the story, which is also reflected in the chapter titles.  I think this was a great way to help readers keep the passage of time straight as even flashbacks are noted as such.  Thanks for helping the story progress without being distracting! 🙂

4P     3Q     Grade Level: 8-12

Cover Art: The significance of the smoking calla lily is revealed in the book.  Without knowing the story, the black cover, the glowing flower with tendrils of smoke curling skyward, all appeal to fans of genre fiction.  The play on Ash’s name and ability are aptly referenced in the title and the font seems to reflect the genre as well.

From the Reading List: The Way It Could Be (Science Fiction or Fantasy)

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