Daughter of the Flames by Zoe Marriott
|Daughter of the Flames by Zoe Marriott|
|Reviewer: John Lloyd|
|Summary: A young girl grows up unaware of just how much her hidden royal heritage means in a fractured, occupied world. Her religious community must rally round her and change things, in a fantasy for teens that covers all bases quite well without sparkling anything outstanding in the reader.|
|Buy? Maybe||Borrow? Maybe|
|Pages: 268||Date: March 2008|
|Publisher: Walker Books Ltd|
In a fantasy realm, a religious sanctuary complex is being swamped by refugees, due to the country being overrun by the nasty people next kingdom over. One such new arrival, smuggled in under great secrecy, is an orphan, like so many, but unlike all the rest – for Zira is the sole remaining survivor of the royal family, rescued with a badly scarred face from a palace ablaze with treachery and death.
The religious leader takes the new girl on as her own daughter, and in the time it takes the occupiers to build fortresses for their lords to, well, lord it over all and sundry, the girl becomes a formidable fighter – the order is progressive enough to have men around to train soldiers for god. Zira, however, remains completely unaware of her past, and the future she might just be forced to live.
Cue one day, when fate – not too strong a word, her destiny has already been mentioned twice by this point – forces her to save the life of one of the occupying lords. This man, however is not the worst enemy to have, and when the worst of the worst does appear Zira’s lot clearly has an active and inventive drama to fulfil.
The religious side of things is a major factor in the book, with the world focussed on worship of a mother goddess, and the flames that embody her. One is reminded of Ursula K Le Guin perhaps and her more feminist fantasy worlds. Thankfully there is no element of this being ever a metaphor for things our world of the fictive divide, and any sense of being overwhelmed by too much terminology, status and other religious aspects only lasts a couple of page turns. From then on, anyway, the book remains an action adventure – one quite distinctively told in the first person for most of the time, and one quite gory for the under twelves – people get torched, stabbed, whacked and bashed, and faces full of concrete, quite regularly.
There is also space however for characterisation to come into the story – the gentle presence of Zira’s foster mother, and the other women, girls and men around her as she ages – she is almost sixteen when the crux events happen. Crucially the main character change, as Zira encounters her destiny full on, is done very well – possibly a little confusingly for the very young, but clearly entering self-debate and confusion as any character forced to grow up overnight as only happens in fiction should do.
The story contains some good adventure, then, and is well peopled by the lead characters (perhaps we should have had more, earlier, of the indoor gardener that is the evil king – perhaps not), and also disarms us at times with things happening before we might expect, or just never predict in a thousand years.
… And then it all drifts away for the second half. While the sparring that occasionally turned up had seemed a little bit on the dry side, a ceremony at the midpoint is too long, although it does successfully act as prologue to the surprise that follows. And this is the last surprise, unfortunately, as the last chunk resorts to a more political side of thing, with the heroine too handicapped to be able to do anything much that's proactive for the story.
With what seems a small flaw in the depiction of the inner sanctuary, contrasting with much more emotive elements, like a long march across country to a new temporary home that only add to the flavour of the fantasy world, the book is left in a limbo of three and a half Bookbag stars. The flaws are too all-encompassing to allow for any more, but the book never actually deserves to be called a failure, and should still be considered for anyone interested in teen fantasy. Despite the gender emphasis I cannot see a male reader getting less from it than his sister.
We would like to thank the publishers for sending a copy of this book to review.
If you're looking for similar books, the feel of Daughter of the Flames corresponded a little with my memories of Mark Robson's Imperial series, the reviews of which start here.
You can read more book reviews or buy Daughter of the Flames by Zoe Marriott at Amazon.co.uk.
You can read more book reviews or buy Daughter of the Flames by Zoe Marriott at Amazon.com.
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