Review: A Ransom of Flames from #SPFBO

A deadly blight. A crownless queen. A journey to the edge of the world.

ransomofflamesA mysterious blight devastates the world of Aeden. The Vehlek, dark, immortal guardians of Aeden, have used their power to combat it through a blood sacrifice, one given every season from each of the four peoples. For generations, this has diminished the Blight’s destructive force. But unbeknownst to any, their power wanes and the sickness worsens. Their scripture speaks of Providence, of mortals whose blood, combined with their power, can end it. But as yet, there has been no sign of them.

On the secluded islands of Malua, the Blight rots the land and destroys the harvests. The change of the tide marks the new season, and with it, the need for a blood sacrifice. For Maleia, daughter of a murdered king, wife to a usurper’s son, her hopes to reclaim her father’s throne are dashed when her child is stillborn. To her horror, the usurper king intends to use her daughter’s remains as the blood offering, perhaps condemning her small spirit to wander lost and alone. As the Vehlek emerge from their fiery underground caverns to claim the sacrifice, she commits a desperate act to take her daughter’s place, an act that unintentionally binds her to one of these strange, immortal men, and later reveals her to be an element to cure the Blight, as foretold by their scriptures.

As the Vehlek seek out the others like her, two remain to guide her as she journeys to the mainland, there to take part in the Council of Peoples and find a way to end the Blight. The quest will take her over valleys roamed by marauders, across a mountain kingdom, and through the vast prairies of the Plains People. The road is perilous, not least because her father’s murderer travels with her. The Blight haunts their steps at every turn. She witnesses it kill, as if possessing a malignant sentience all its own. Every day that passes it grows stronger, as does her strange connection to one of the Vehlek, a bond that is fast becoming something more than it should.

With the lives of all hanging in the balance, and time running out, Maleia and the others like her strive to end the Blight. Through blood and flame they will either cure their failing world, or see it fall to ruin.

Goodreads Link: A Ransom of Flames
Author: Anela Deen
Genre: Fantasy
Rating: 3/5 stars

Disclaimer: I’m highlighting books from SPFBO, but I’m not associated with any of the judges or other blogs who are running the competition. These reviews are just my opinion and don’t affect the outcome of the actual competition. I just saw a lot of great books that sparked my interest so I want to help boost their visibility.

This book starts off with a gut punch: the main character’s daughter dies the moment she’s born. Normally, as a reader, I would need some time to warm up and get to know a character before I could fully empathize with their troubles. But Maleia’s grief unfolds in such a detailed, deep way that I was right there with her from the start. It’s the moment that defines who she becomes and it thrusts her into a totally new life, so it actually works as the opening for this story.The world is also fully realized from the start, and it’s refreshingly different from

The world is also fully realized from the start, and it’s refreshingly different from typical fantasy that’s modeled on western European cultures. Maleia’s tropical island home has more in common with Hawaii and other Pacific cultures, but the culture unfolds in a clear way so I didn’t feel lost because of the unfamiliarity.

Unfortunately, the second half of the book is weaker, including the ending. I didn’t feel like there was enough time to introduce the other cultures or characters in between the many crises. The love triangle gets weird, for lack of a better way to explain it. Also, because Maleia is the only narrator, there’s weird parts where the characters split up, then try to explain what happened when they’re reunited, but it’s rushed and not done well.It felt like the first half of the book was setting up a narrowly focused journey, which was fine. The second half introduced sprawl that would have done better in a series of multiple books or at least more than one POV. It was disjointed and didn’t live up to its promise. I really liked this book in the beginning but I was disappointed as things went on. The

It felt like the first half of the book was setting up a narrowly focused journey, which was fine. The second half introduced sprawl that would have done better in a series of multiple books or at least more than one POV. It was disjointed and didn’t live up to its promise. I really liked this book in the beginning but I was disappointed as things went on. The ending in particular wasn’t satisfying.

It is a stand alone book, not part of an apparent series, but given the awkwardness I would be reluctant to try other books by the same author.
I’m not sure who I would recommend this book to. It’s unusual and goes in several different directions so it’s not easy for me to come up with any comparisons. Not enough romance for romance fans, not enough epic scale for epic fantasy fans, not enough introspection for fans of more philosophical fantasy. I think this might be a case of a book that tried to do too much or had a lack of focus to the narrative. It seemed like classic fantasy at first (the Chosen Ones of prophecy must unite to save the world) but it deviates from that type of story too much.


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Kristen

I'm an author, a blogger, and a nerd. I read and write fantasy.
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