Genres: science fiction
Four girls with the power to control the elements and save the world from a terrible evil must come together in the first epic novel in a brand-new series.
When Phantoms—massive beasts made from nightmares and darkness—suddenly appeared and began terrorizing the world, four girls, the Effigies, each gained a unique power to control one of the classical elements: earth, air, fire, and water. Since then, four girls across the world have continually fought against the Phantoms, fulfilling their cosmic duty. And when one Effigy dies, another girl gains her power as a replacement.
But now, with technologies in place to protect the world’s major cities from Phantom attacks, the Effigies have stopped defending humanity and, instead, have become international celebrities, with their heroic feats ranked, televised, and talked about in online fandoms.
Until the day that New York City’s protection against the Phantoms fails, a man seems to be able to control them by sheer force of will, and Maia, a high school student, unexpectedly becomes the Fire Effigy.
Now Maia has been thrown into battle with three girls who want nothing to do with one another. But with the first human villain that the girls have ever faced, and an army of Phantoms preparing for attack, there isn’t much time for the Effigies to learn how to work together.
Can the girls take control of their destinies before the world is destroyed forever?
Fate of Flames is a kick-ass, girl powered, diverse superhero novel. I know, what on Earth is not there to like?! In a world almost identical to our own, incredible monsters known as phantoms stalk the Earth killing indiscriminately and causing mass chaos. They can take any form from small to large, serpent to wolf. But all are terrifying and all are capable of inflicting massive damage. The world has managed to develop anti-phantom technologies that can keep entire cities safe.
But there are also four Effigies, girls chosen by what force we do not know, and imbued with the power necessary to fight and destroy phantoms. There are only ever four Effigies at any time; when one dies, her replacement is called up. An Effigy could be any girl, and you’ll never know until it happens that you will become one.
Such is the case with our heroine Maia Finley. Previously a normal 16 year old, and actual devoted fan of the Effigies (they have a celebrity following). When the legendary Fire Effigy Natalya dies, Maia becomes her replacement. The novel begins with an unprecedented phantom attack on New York mere days after Maia has become the new Effigy, immediately plunging the both the reader and Maia into the heat of a battle for which she has no training.
I really enjoyed Fate of Flames, although I’m finding difficulty writing this review because I can’t quite pinpoint why. There were, I thought, some glaring flaws in this story, but perhaps there weren’t? Perhaps I was overthinking things. For instance, why are there only four girls in the entire world meant to guard against the phantoms? Then again, Buffy did only have one Slayer. Okay, yes, I’m probably overthinking things.
As noted previously, the book immediately brings us into the action, and there’s hardly a stop in it once started. This story takes place all over the world (NYC, London, Paris, Buenos Aires) as Maia is swept quickly from one mission to the next. One of the strengths (the non-stop pace) also seemed a bit like a weakness as it did not allow for any sort of pause or reflection period where the reader can become acquainted with the other characters on more than a surface level.
There is not much romance to speak of in this volume. Maia has a tiny bit of a crush on one character who is clearly meant to be the love interest from the moment we first see him. In fact, the obviousness of his being a love interest had me cringing a little bit. We don’t ever get to know him very well (to be fair, a fact that Maia is well aware of and points out herself). But he does become more interesting at the end of the book. I’ll leave you to find out why!
Where I really found enjoyment in this book, and truly the heart of the story, is Maia. She is so engagingly and endearingly written. I can imagine some (many?) will read this book and be endlessly frustrated by Maia’s naivety and bumbling inability to summon her powers or grasp the overwhelming situations she’s been thrust into. But it’s this very bumbling that makes her so real. Maia never expected she’d become an Effigy and she has no previous talent that would make her immediately useful in this realm. But she does the best she can and she is very strong, even if not in the traditional way in which strength is often equated to prowess in battle.
Another highlight is the relationship between Maia and the other Effigies. None of the girls are perfect, and their relationships with each other are complicated and imperfect. Again, a strength of this story is how the real it is because of the flaws in its characters. There is also a good bit of intrigue and mystery in the midst of all the action. The Effigies are governed by a shadowy organization known as The Sect. Famously shrouded in secrecy, their motives are never clear. Sure, ostensibly they’re there to make sure the Effigies do their jobs and to keep the world safe…but there is evidence to indicate not all is what it seems.
This is very much a “good” 3 star rating. I did not form as much of an emotional attachment as I’d hoped or expected. But the slam bang fight at the end did have my heart racing, and the twists genuinely surprised me. Sarah Raughley has such an engaging and fun writing style that kept me swiping the pages. There is much potential for this series now that the world building has been so thoroughly set up, and Maia has had her baptism by fire, there are endless and exciting paths for this story to travel. I am eager to see where it goes.
An advance copy was provided by the publisher for this review.