(cover/synopsis from Goodreads.com)
By: Josephine Angelini
Publication: September 2nd, 2014
Genre(s): Young Adult, Fantasy, Paranormal
Synopsis: Love burns. Worlds collide. Magic reigns.
This world is trying to kill Lily Proctor. Her life-threatening allergies keep her from enjoying many of the experiences that other teenagers take for granted…which is why she is determined to enjoy her first (and perhaps only) high-school party. But Lily’s life never goes according to plan, and after a humiliating incident in front of half her graduating class Lily wishes she could just disappear.
Suddenly Lily is in a different Salem – one overrun with horrifying creatures and ruled by powerful women called Crucibles. Strongest and cruellest of all the Crucibles is Lillian . . . Lily’s identical other self in this alternate universe. This new version of her world is terrifyingly sensual, and Lily is soon overwhelmed by new experiences.
Lily realizes that what makes her weak at home is exactly what makes her extraordinary in New Salem. It also puts her life in danger. Thrown into a world she doesn’t understand, Lily is torn between responsibilities she can’t hope to shoulder alone, and a love she never expected.
But how can Lily be the saviour of this world when she is literally her own worst enemy?
Trial by Fire was a mixed bag for me. It’s the first galley (Advanced Reading Copy without a final cover) I’ve ever read/reviewed, and I was constantly wondering if certain things I read about would be changed later, if certain sentences and ideas would be clarified in the real, published book.
With that said, I still followed Lily Proctor and her story, even if, at some moments, I wanted to put it down.
I think Lily and her innocent, quirky, and sweet personality works well in the high school scenes we begin with during the first few chapters of the book, but not in the other Salem. Maybe that’s the author’s point, though. She could be trying to show us that Lily doesn’t belong in alternate world. Either way, Lily was always described as “funny and considerate” and she was, but she also sometimes came off as boring, weak, and needy in some moments throughout the book. Yes, this makes her more “human”, but I personally wished for her to be stronger, to find strength and power through her Witch powers, and to become more independent. At the end of the book, she was stronger, braver, and better in general. Even though Rowan (love interest) kept describing her as “stubborn and brave” during the novel, I was like, “Rowan, have you ever heard of Katniss Everdeen?”
Getting back to Lily, I wondered why she didn’t use some logic to convince everyone in this alternate Salem that no, she’s not Lillian, the evil witch. She’s Lily, the complete opposite of Lillian. Lily could have had Rowan quiz her about Lillian to prove that she’s not the same girl, or she could have told Rowan and Tristan (best friend/crush from real world, who’s in this alternate universe) about her world so to convince them that she’s not from theirs. Lily didn’t do any of these things, she just went with the flow. Even though she’s a super powerful Witch, she doesn’t act like one.
Let’s move onto world-building:
The alternate Salem was a complex and confusing world. Everything seemed a bit scattered to me. The author seemed desperate for her readers to understand the world, and the ARC I read was full of paragraphs explaining things out of nowhere. I felt like Angelini was including little essay paragraphs, telling, not showing, and not allowing the reader to discover certain things about the world by following the character. Things got over-explained, sometimes so over explained that the character isn’t mentioned until another paragraph, when we are done hearing about an aspect of the world that doesn’t really apply that much to Lily.
Some things from our world are incorporated into this alternate universe:
- Geometry (so there must be some kind of education system, right?)
- A concept of what science is
- health care
- housing market
- “Outlanders” who are described are like our Native Americans
- Cancer (it’s not named cancer in this “Salem”)
- College (Lillian created her own)
Unique things found in the alternate Salem:
- Witches (who rule over everything)
- Magic in general
- Wovens (science experiments gone wrong)
- Only have Thirteen Cities
- Will Stones
- A Shaman
- World walking
- Mechanics (not our kind)
As the list shows, the “other” Salem is a mix of our world with a few things like magic thrown in. Isn’t it supposed to be an alternate universe though? Doesn’t that mean it has completely different standards and laws? I expected Lily to be thrown into the past, into the historic Salem where “witches” were hunted. My expectations were completely wrong and certain things about the other “Salem” made me confused.
Questions I had throughout the novel:
- Why isn’t Rowan in Lily’s world?
- Why does Lillian hate science? (this is partially answered at the end of the novel, but we don’t have that good of an explanation)
- Is Lillian good or bad? She doesn’t exactly feel like a villain to me.
- If Tristan is in this alternate universe, are the rest of Lily’s classmates in this “other” Salem too? Is Lily’s dad there too?
Summing it Up:
Trial by Fire was better towards the ending. The cliffhanger is highly annoying, and I do want to read the rest of the trilogy to see what happens.
My rating: 3.5 stars