Paradise Red (Perfect Fire Trilogy) by K M Grant

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Paradise Red (Perfect Fire Trilogy) by K M Grant

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Category: Teens
Rating: 5/5
Reviewer: John Lloyd
Reviewed by John Lloyd
Summary: A superb close to the thrilling historical saga with slight fantasy tinges, that gets us so close to some very mature characters for a teen read, but never fails to entertain with drama.
Buy? Yes Borrow? Yes
Pages: 272 Date: October 2009
Publisher: Quercus Publishing plc
ISBN: 978-1847247070

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We are back in the south of France for the third and final time. In one corner, the 'French', with King Louis and his henchmen rampaging through, warring in the name of peace. In another corner, the local people, struggling in the harsh environment and none too pleased to see their corner of the world the location for religious wars, with the Cathar heretics also present. The lines are drawn, in a realistically convoluted way, and this book will see one of our heroes cross one such line, just as other people make their own momentous decisions. It will take all the narrative skills of the land itself to get the story across to us.

Yes, that's right. Once again the spirit of the country is talking to us of the people crossing her land, burning her trees in their struggle through her winters, and more. It's a lovely style, and you have to look hard to see she's telling us the plot in the present tense. I fell under the spell of her voice immediately.

But I don't want to give the wrong impression, for this book is not a game of chess between warring sides, religious factions and the status quo. It is definitely geared towards the few characters we are reintroduced to at the start. If anything the book might be called too soapy as it concerns the changing, fractious relationships between them all. The cover blurb of my edition concentrated on Yolanda, but I feel the prime character is Raimon. The book certainly didn't read to me to have any female bias, in style, content or audience, and everybody of any gender will find it hard not to sympathise very strongly with the course of Yolanda's journey through these pages.

This is again a book that succeeds on many levels. The slightly spiritual side, of the religion of the Cathars, the land itself, and the Blue Flame so many people are concerned with capturing or keeping, gives the fantasy tinge. The historical fiction comes across powerfully too, as once again Ms Grant captures her place and time with superlative skill. But most evident is the nature of the people we're concerned with. The locale, the wars and the hardships both the countryside and they themselves cause each other, have turned the teenage people we met at the beginning of the cycle into very strong characters, with fiery emotions, and a great depth.

If there was one final word for me to use in describing the book, it would be wise. This comes from the ageless voice telling us these events, and the sagacity of the people - the grittiness of the story is finely judged for a young teen audience, and there's a maturity across the board here with the players, the way they think and react, and dare to do what they feel forced to. Ultimately, I think our author is the wisest one here, as I can't see her putting a fault wrong.

That's not to say the entire trilogy has been flawless. To recap, I read them all - if I didn't review them all. The first was a little slow to build, and the middle volume, while an improvement, not quite there. But I don't think it's just familiarity and the sense of imminent closure we get here that make me rate this volume so highly. I'm not saying this deserves five stars to all - if you're coming here fresh take at least a mark off.

But if you've met these characters before, this volume contains an awful lot of action, reaction and interaction. It's one of the best character-led, dramatically charged historical teen fictions I know of. However great the sense of earlier volumes finding their feet awkwardly, this makes the entire trilogy worth reading, and as a whole I have to recommend all three books.

We are, also, in Kate Mosse country, of course, and I would suggest this for adults waiting for her next adventure.

I must thank the kind Quercus people for my review copy.

A further story of similar times is The Youngest Templar: Trail of Fate by Michael P Spradlin.

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