by Michelle Ristuccia
Wilde’s Fire by Krystal Wade is the first in a YA fantasy romance series with horror elements. In Wilde’s Fire, the gods have decided that it is time to bring Katriona back home to save her people from an invasive army of twisted creatures whose mysterious leader is known only as Darkness. Luckily, Katriona is not expected to save the world on her own. In Encardia she has magic, and she has Arland, who is sworn to protect her, and with Arland comes the rag tag army that he leads. The first book focuses on Katriona’s moral dilemma with her best friend, Brad, who has recently confessed his love for her, but who is abnormally possessive. Next to Arland, the young rebel leader that has graced Katriona’s dreams for years and who is tied to her by powerful magic, Brad doesn’t stand a chance. Now if only Katriona can find a way to tell Brad without breaking his heart and giving Darkness another soldier for his army.
When it comes to the relationships set before us at the beginning of the book, some of the narrative felt a bit obvious, and the love interests a tad perfect. Kate seems a little too turned-a-blind-eye when it comes to Brad’s desire for her, considering that she’s been having detailed sexual dreams of Arland for years. Not to mention that she has had people telling her outright that her poor best friend has feelings for her. Ah, well. Denial can be more than just a river in Egypt. These initial impressions are soon whittled away as the relationships are challenged and Katriona shows complex emotions and inner dialogue.
I found the setting intriguing and unique. In most of the fantasy I’ve read, it’s the other world that is more beautiful, or has more going for it in some other fashion. In Wilde’s Fire, our world is the one that is beautiful, abundant, and safe, and it is the other world that is dark and dying and full of nightmares. Sure, the potential for the standard wonderful-other is there, but what we see when Kate gets there is an overwhelming list of reasons for her to turn back. For instance, there are poisons but no scientifically derived antidote. Everyone is tired and all of the plants are dying. For heaven’s sake, there aren’t even talking animals. I found that the horror aspects of the book make it a delightfully atypical romance.
The premise of the book had me wavering at a few key reveals. The idea that love powers magic is a hard sell for me, especially when that love is between two people who are fated to be together. My main problem with this premise was that, for a moment there, it looked like saving the world was going to be too easy. Everyone loves something and Kate has no problem loving the boy she’s dreamed about all her life. Luckily, by that point in the book, I was already devouring chapters like candy. Soon after the reveal, we find out that things are a little more complicated than they appear, from magic to seemingly supportive best friends.
By the end of the book, my biggest criticism remaining is of Kate’s mom. She does not win mother of the year from me. She lets her teenage daughter sleep with a boy she knows her daughter doesn’t love and never will, and then she leaves Kate to her new boyfriend without even a word of advice. Good luck on not having babies, Kate, because if there’s a magic birth control pill, your mom didn’t bother to tell you about it.
All in all, Wilde’s Fire elicited strong reactions, mostly good. Despite the fact that the story has horror aspects, I would call Wilde’s Fire a romantic fantasy because of the overt sexual tension that dominates the plot. The story boils down to a teenager who is fated to attempt to save the world with the love of her life by her side. It is a quick read that is hard to put down — a spicy potato chip of the fantasy genre.
Not only can you find out more about Wilde’s Fire at Krystal Wade’s website, but you can find out more by way of a cool book trailer that sets the tone of the novel perfectly (here). There is also a wonderful description of the upcoming sequel, Wilde’s Army, which will have you gnashing your teeth in anticipation after you’ve finished Wilde’s Fire. After all, you can never stop at just one potato chip.
Michelle Ristuccia writes short fiction of all speculative fiction genres in between chasing her toddler from tree to tree. The shorter the work, the better, because 200 words looks very long on her cellphone and that keypad is very, very small. You can find out more about her rabid love of Star Trek, podcasting, and raising future geeklings at her blog, wakingdreamsblog.blogspot.com