Sunday, February 14, 2021

Fire Within by Morten W Simonsen

Fire Within by Morten W Simonsen is a fantasy novel that at the start, I felt, had a lot going for it. We kick off with a prison break then immerses readers in a world on the brink of war with a non-human race. The story centres around two brothers who, through circumstances, are placed at odds with each other by a father who requires nothing but exact compliance – and it's brother Ivan who's drawn the shortest straw, cast out of his family, outlawed and reviled, who now seeks to tear it all down from the bottom up with his outlaw gang. We have Thedric, who lives in the shadows of his elder brothers, who feels he can never quite measure up, to the detriment of his own selfhood as he tries and fails to impress his father, the Lord Styles.

Then we also have Ani, who is in possession of the kind of secret that will see her a valuable pawn in the hands of men who desire power. Out of all the characters, I feel she was the most poorly developed – either the author purposefully drew her out to be hopelessly na├»ve on purpose, or he doesn't know the first thing about writing a female character in the first place. I know I'm coming out a bit harsh here, but honestly, as a woman who's an avid fantasy reader, this has got to be one of the most frustratingly annoying characters I've encountered in years. Either way, she was the one reason why I wanted to hurl my iPhone across the room out of sheer annoyance. Then, the Thing (I think you can figure out what I mean without me saying it) that happens to her near the end was, in my opinion, so hopelessly unnecessary and as a plot device felt wedged in and something along the lines of 'let's do a terrible thing to a woman for the sake of being grim.' I get that her character is 'special' but the way she is developed as a character in this first book is the reason why I'm downgrading the review to three stars and will in all likelihood not bother reading the rest of the books. 

This is clearly the first book of a series, and as such there's a lot of set-up with a bunch of threads left up in the air at its close. Simonsen's writing is adequate, but I do feel this work could have used a bit of spit and polish not only from structural edits, but a bit more of a thorough copy edit overall. I saw quirks that only a copy editor would notice, which jerked me out of the reading (and I do try to separate my reader brain from my editor brain, but in this case I was not as successful, evidently). If you're looking for action-packed, grimdark, then this story will most likely hit the right buttons, but its execution was in my not-so-humble opinion a bit rough around the edges and in need of deeper development.

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