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The hunted and the exiled
An entertaining, amusing read with good characters and a propelling story
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This is a book I picked up from Amazon after reading a review here, and another book that I picked up for holiday reading (yes, it's been a long time in reviewing...!). And to be fair, another book that I would not have usually picked up had I firstly not read a very positive review, and secondly not been going on holiday. As I said in previous reviews, I am much more likely to strike outside of my usual reading scope when I'm going on holiday than any other time of the year...this means that I find some absolute gems but also some absolute trash. I had only just finished reading Jar City and I was still in a fairly bad mood having concluded that it was in the latter category of holiday books. So I was desperately hoping that this would exceed expectations. However, considering that it is a 'young adults' book my expectations were not actually all that high, particularly in terms of a stimulating or intellectual read. However, I thoroughly enjoyed this, almost despite myself!
The draki are the descendants of dragons, and as with all forms of life they have evolved and changed to fit in with the world around them. But instead of becoming a stronger form to survive, evolution has instead gifted them with the the ability to shift into human form for camouflage allowing them to stay hidden from those who would like to see them eradicated from the face of the earth. The only issue here is that it is impossible for them to keep human form when they scared or endangered, angry or upset. Both the camouflage and the inability to keep it in fraught moments are defence mechanisms because they are hunted, and they have been hunted for a long, long time. Without these mechanisms they would not have survived for so long. They are safe if they look like regular human beings because those who hunt them do not know that they have the power enabling them to shape shift. But if they are in danger then in draki form they are stronger, faster and harder to injure meaning that they are far safer. But this is by no means the end of their problems as with each generation that goes by less draki are being born. So for the first time in generations a large amount of 'pure' humans are being born; pitiful creatures who never manifest at puberty and are doomed to spend their entire lives outcast in their own clan but unable to leave because this is all they know.Because
of the hard times in which they live Jacinda is even more special than she would have been. Not only is she a draki who has manifested from a fairly high up and well established family, she also has the rare ability to breathe fire which was believed to be completely extinct. This makes her perfect breeding stock, as she is likely to give birth to a strong, draki child even potentially a fire breather. But Jacinda doesn't want to be bound by her clans rules, or for that matter her clans plans for her, but needless to say at sixteen she doesn't necessarily have the best way of expressing her feelings. This is a very human and very teenage aspect of her characterisation which whilst understandable it is very early on in the book that her streak of rebelliousness causes her family to flee to the human world.
But why has her mother brought them to a forsaken desert when she knows that this will surely cause Jacinda's draki to wither and die? Her mother knows that the draki needs the correct environment to survive and the desert will kill her draki. So how can Jacinda keep her draki alive? Who is this mysterious Will and why does he seem so different to the rest of his family who hunt her kind? Why can't she seem to resist getting close to him even when she knows the dangers? But potentially most importantly, who is more of a danger to her; her own family or those who have hunted her kind for centuries?
Sophie Jordan has done wonderfully with the characters she has moulded here. As young adults fiction there is a more simplistic portrayal of the characters and their actions than I would tend to pick up but to be fair I cannot fault her in this book. Sophie Jordan has created an emotional link to Jacinda that you can relate to, and although on some occasions she does act like a regular and rather irritating teenager, this is by far overshadowed because you can really feel her pain and her betrayal. If the book wasn't more simplistic than some adult pieces of fiction then I would be rather perturbed considering that this was not actually intended to be a book read by someone out of that age bracket. However, it is the mark of a very good writer when it is possible to read the book as an adult and still find it enjoyable whilst empathising with the characters. It's just an unfortunate fact of life that teenagers are always going to be irritating to anyone who is not a teenager; it is part of their genetic make up.. This needs to be taken into account when reading the book.In a way Sophie Jordan has created a fairly typical family relationship. You have the over-achieving sister whilst the other feels side-lined and jealous knowing full well that she will always walk in her sister's shadow whist in her families clan. In their new home she is the normal one who finds it easy to fit in for the first time in her life, but as always it appears that her sister will ruin everything for her yet again. Into this mix you can add in the additional issue of an overbearing mother who is doing everything within her power to keep both of her daughters safe, but doing in such a way that she is actually frustrating her own aims. Even now I could feel my blood boiling at some of her actions even if I could understand her motives, but I know that I wouldn't be able to control my temper were I in Jacinda's shoes. This means you have a fairly realistic mixture that cannot do anything but explode.
But you can actually empathise with all of the main characters. You can understand them and even if you don't necessarily agree with them you can see why they are behaving in the way they do. Sophie Jordan hasn't fallen into the typical young adult fiction trap of making all the good characters completely perfect (a Mary Sue) and all the bad characters completely evil for simplicities sake; she has managed to capture all the truly varied shades of grey. There is a sense of ambivalence and this particularly shows in Will’s character because his background is that of a hunter and there is an uncertainty about him. To be fair some of the backdrop characters like Will's cousins are written as completely evil with very little depth or substance but as they are minor role characters that is not all that irritating
I am impressed. I was rather nervous at the fact that this is a young adult novel as I usually do my utmost best to avoid them like the plague – I didn’t read them as a teenager and see little point in starting as an adult! But Sophie Jordan hasn't fallen into the usual pitfalls of this genre. What she has written is an engrossing, interesting and engaging novel which had me gripped from very early on and ensured that I continued thinking about the characters long after I’d turned the last page. It’s not that long and
Pictures of Firelight - Sophie Jordan
I have to admit that I ended up staying awake much longer than I ought to have considering that we had an early morning start because I really wanted to finish it.If you are interested in a think intellectual novel then this isn't a novel I would recommend for you. But if you're looking for an entertaining novel that won't take a great deal of intellectual power to read but is enjoyable and interesting then this is something that is seriously worth considering Sophie Jordan doesn’t allow the book to become to bogged down with teenage hormones and school boredoms, but instead kept the story running at a nice pace whilst slowing down where necessary. Too many adolescent books revolve around the whines and dramas of the teenage mind, which is all well and good if you're still going through that phase of life but makes it unreadable for anyone who grew out of that a while back. However, Sophie Jordan knows how much information to give out at any given point and still leaves you desperate to find out more.
This is a book that works well for the older reader. But it's also a book which I imagine would fire the imagination of any younger reader and occupy a teenager nicely. There’s nothing in it that would frighten a child and it is easy to read whilst being a fantastic story. The characters are engaging and I don’t doubt that children or teenagers would become attached to them in the same way I did. The language use is not patronising, and is instead set at exactly the right level so that it can be read easily by both teenagers and adults although younger children may need it to be read aloud to them. It's rare that you'll find an author who can manage that with such ease. The age gap between adult and teenager is surprisingly large and straddling it isn’t always easy but Sophie Jordan has made this work.
Title: Firelight Author: Sophie Jordan Publisher: OUP Oxford (March 2011) ISBN: 978-0192756503 Pages: 288 (paperback) Price: From £1.34 plus postage on Amazon at time of writing
I still need to remember to buy the second in the series and considering that I was ever the sceptic when I started reading this is quite a turn up for the books. It’s not heavy reading, but it is entertaining and more than worth looking out for. . “When you have tasted flight, you will forever walk the earth with your eyes turned skyward, for there you have been, and there you will always long to return.” Leonaldo da Vinci . This review is a modified version of my previously published review found at http://bookstove.com/book-talk/firelight-sophie-jordan-review/