Trial by Fire
Release Date: September 2, 2014
Publisher: Feiwel & Friends
Synopsis on Goodreads:
The exhilaratingly seductive new series from the author of the bestselling Starcrossed series
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?
Trial by Fire incorporates Salem witches, spirit walking, and alternate universes. Alternate universes are my absolute favourite and Angelini doesn’t disappoint – it’s creative and well-done. Lily lives in our world but is brought to an alternate Salem through her other self, Lillian. What’s worse, Lily learns magic and witches reign supreme and Lillian is the ruler and villain of this new world. Angelini gives us an incredible world that I loved reading about!
The book starts off in our world, introducing Lily, her family, and best friend Tristan. Lily is frequently sick and diagnosed with more allergies than she can count, so her social life consists mainly of Tristan. Lily’s had a long-time crush on Tristan, which I found a bit cheesy especially when the reader learns Tristan is the school’s most popular boy. The author doesn’t have enough room to make this popular trope unique so in my personal opinion it should have been avoided. Before the start, the two had a steamy kiss, but they hadn’t discussed where their relationship lies so when Lily see’s Tristan making out with his ex at a party, she runs off with a broken heart. This creates the perfect opportunity for Lillian to bring Lily to her world – Lily has to willingly agree to leave and of course, she’d like to be anywhere but here.
The world-building is phenomenal and my favourite aspect of the book. I was actually expecting a pre-1800’s Salem, but I think it’s set in or around present day because technology exists, although influenced by magic. You have things like bioluminescent trees and giant walled cities – the cities are reminiscent of the Thirteen colonies. When it comes to science and magic there’s a really interesting dynamic. The growth of science is controlled by the ruling coven so that it can’t become bigger or independent of magic. If a citizen needs clean water or medicine, they have to hire a witch because using science for something like that is illegal. Ironically magic is more expensive than science, so this further divides the witches and non-magic people.
I loved Angelini’s version of witches and magic. Everyone has a Willstone, which is a small rock usually worn as a necklace and acts as an extra limb. A Willstone also allows a witch to bond with other people and share their magic. It’s very sensitive so if destroyed or in the wrong hands can be very painful for the witch. There’s also people called Mechanics, someone a witch is expected to bond with and is supposed to make sure the witch’s body and soul is in good condition. In exchange, they get a lot of magic to use at their own disposal. Outlanders like Rowan, people born outside the city walls and therefore not a citizen, fear bonding with a witch because there’s a chance the witch will control their thoughts and use them like a puppet.
When it comes to the Outlanders, there wasn’t the same sort of creative development like with witches and magic. It borders really close to “Native Americans are savages and the Europeans civilized” and other racist, misperceptions. It makes the author look like A: did not do a lot of research on Native American history and/or doesn’t feel like they need to because it’s an alternate universe largely focused on Salem witches and B: a product of the American education system that isn’t overly focused on teaching accurate Native American history.
I loved Rowan and the romance between Lily and him. Some characters like Juliet (Lily’s sister) and Tristan exist in both worlds, but there’s no Rowan in Lily’s world so both the reader and Lily get to learn about this person at the same time. We find out Rowan and Lillian used to have some sort of romantic relationship so I’m not 100% sure how I feel about that when it comes to the romance between him and Lily, BUT I still ship the latter.
I expected to see a lot more of Lillian and as this great villain she’s been advertised. I like reading about the villain and seeing their POV because things aren’t just black and white. She’s presented as a person who’s resorted to the no-other-option to save her world and I just wish we’d seen her more as the villain and interacting with Lily. The reader learns about her dark acts from other characters so I hope we get to see more of her in the sequel.
Something that wasn’t made clear is whether Mechanics are only males and if females can become Mechanics, but it’s just rare. There are male witches, but not many and most probably don’t know they’re witches. I was also disappointed with the lack of female characters. Lily didn’t interact with any on a regular basis, other than maybe her sister, Juliet and doppelgänger Lillian. Even in her own world she didn’t seem to have any female friends. It’s really important to me that a heroine of a book have at least one good female friend.
Overall I loved this book and will be reading the sequel (already bought it). Cheesy parts aside, the world-building is incredibly strong and Angelini’s world stands out so much to me. If you’re looking for a new original take on Salem witches and magic, this book is for you. There’s so much about the world that I loved and it’s impossible to write about it all in a review, so read the book!