Author: Sarah Raughley
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Publisher: Simon and Schuster
Publication date: November 22nd 2016
Source: Simon & Schuster Canada (thank you!)
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?
Review: Fate of Flames by Sarah Raughley
Is Fate of Flames is sci-fi or fantasy? I’m not sure it matters. The book has elements from both genres, with a lot about celebrity, teamwork, and memory thrown in.
In the near future, the world has been overrun by phantoms, shadowy beasts who wreak havoc wherever they go. Most major cities on Earth have anti-shadow technology that keeps the phantoms outside of the atmosphere. Sometimes, though, they break through, and that’s where the Effigies – four girl superheroes who can each control an element – come in. The Effigies are able to battle the phantoms, and as such, they are each huge celebrities.
Maia Finley, a New York high school student, just became the new Fire Effigy. She’s an Effigy fangirl, but as she quickly realizes, being an Effigy is different from liking them. In short, she’s terrified, she doesn’t seem to have any powers, and on top of all that, there’s a mysterious new guy with a bad agenda who seems to be able to make the phantoms do his bidding.
To fight off the phantoms and this new guy, the Effigies need to work together with the Sect, the governing body who enforces them. And to do that, they need to dig deep into the realms of memory, history and psyche to figure out how to beat this new menace.
So there are things I really loved about Fate of Flames and things that made me go “enh?”.
On the love side, I adored the mythology of the Effigies. The tagline billed this as Sailor Moon meets Avengers and Pacific Rim. I don’t know much about the latter, but I LOVE Sailor Moon and Avengers, and I think that Raughley got the girl superhero elements so right. This is a cast of girls that you get simultaneously frustrated with and kind of also love.
What unites these characters, is, sadly, the trauma and frustration they experience. Every time they have to fight, they put themselves at risk, and hundreds of others. Watching people die all around you, and knowing that you have the ability to save them, but maybe things just didn’t go your way that day? That’s rough. And you can see the toll that takes on each of them.
On the “enh” side, I found Maia’s voice to be really hard to get into for the first part of the book. There is definitely a giant element of fangirl, and occasionally, that just made her feel too immature for my liking.
At the same time, I recognize that that was kind of what the author was going for, especially since Sailor Moon is one of the comparisons. In a lot of ways, Maia is the weakest, but sometimes the most important link in the Effigy clan, and that really feels like Usagi/Serena from the Sailor Moon series. She’s not a crybaby, but she is the youngest Effigy, and the one who seems to care the most about the people around her.
The other enh for me was how strange it was that Maia was never tagged as being Jamaican until about two-thirds of the way through the book. Even though this is definitely a diverse book, with characters of all ethnicities popping up, I didn’t know that Maia was black for such a long time, and I wonder if that was deliberate or not.
Overall, what I loved most about Fate of Flames was how well the reluctant teamwork storylines played out. This is a realistic alliance, one with a lot of bumps even though everyone has the same goal. Girl power is there, but girls teaming up? That’s hard, and it’s something that the author and characters really fight for and earn.
Fame and Media: I really appreciated how Raughley went into the celebrity element of being an Effigy, and how much of a responsibility, a liability, and an asset the media can be. Media scrutiny plays a huge part in the opinions of the characters with one another, and I think it was used extremely well here.
Memory and Dreams: I don’t want to spoil too much more, but I do want to say that one of the coolest parts of the book is how dreams and memory are built into the narrative. it’s very Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix. Effigies are chosen by fate, and each one carries a piece of the memory of all of the previous Effigies of that element. And it can get crowded in there.
Book Theme Song:
I apologize in advance for getting this in your head. The lyrics don’t quite match up, but honestly, I can’t think of this book without thinking of this song!
Fighting evil by moonlight
Winning love by daylight
Never running from a real fight
She is the one named Sailor Moon
She will…never turn her back on a friend
She is… always there to defend
She is…the one on whom we can depend
She is the one named Sailor
With secret powers
All so new to her
She is the one named Sailor Moon
The Final Word:
Fate of Flames is a girl Avengers story, with a few elements of Harry Potter thrown in. I really, really liked it. And that’s saying a lot for a girl like me who usually doesn’t like fantasy. If you’re looking for a kick-arse girl power book with realistic alliances, a fascinating mythology, and feels-y characters that are forced to take on impossible situations, this is your book. I’ll definitely be picking up book 2.
FATE OF FLAMES is out in bookstores now. Will you be reading it? Are you into the Avengers or other superhero stories? What about Sailor Moon? If you know of other YA super hero girl stories, let me know – I so want to read them!