Christie Golden – "On Fire’s Wings"

17 Nov

GENRE: Fantasy
PUBLISHED: Luna Books, 2006

The back blurb:
“She was born without caste of position in Arukan, a country that prized both. Then a chance encounter led her to a better life. But it also brought her to danger and destiny. Because Kevla Bai-sha’s fevered dreams – looming threats to their land and visions of dragons that had once watched over her people – held the promise of truth.
Now Arukan – shadowed by mountains and myths – might be overcome by eternal darkness. Kevla, together with Jashemi-kha-Tahmu, rebel prince of the ruling household, would defy all law, all tradition, to embark on a daring quest for the half-forgotten elementals that will save the world. And so Kevla must sacrifice everything … only to be reborn in dragon’s flames …”

On Fire’s Wings is Christie Golden’s first novel in the Final Dance series. As such, some (or maybe even a lot) exposition it to be expected. Nevertheless, I thought the beginning really slow. It read a bit juvenile: cutesy names for all and everything (there is a 3 page glossary at the end of the novel) and even more than that, it introduces a main character, Kevla, who seems to come out of classical Mary Sue territory. Kevla is lower than the lowest, has a hard life, but her father, naturally unknown to her, is an important figure in her land. She’s talented, nice, everybody likes her, and those who don’t just don’t know (her) better and/or are mean, she has a somewhat unusual hair colour and she’s beautiful. Of course, she is also destined to save the world (also that she learns only much later in the novel).

That’s nearly all there is for the first part (titled: “In the House of Four Waters”): a description of Kevla’s (hard) life as a servant in the House of Four Waters. There are some things of interest – Golden paints a rather vivid picture of the rigid life and religion (or maybe superstition) in Arukan, and the developing relationship of Kevla with her half-brother Jashemi is touching – but I found that not enough for so many pages (232). It’s on page 83 that the reader gets the first that something not normal is going on: a low-caste man recognizes Kevla for what she is. Then the reader has to read over 80 pages to get to the next one: Kevla’s first dream of dragons. At least, after the dragon dream, the pace picks up considerably. I no longer read just because I wondered when the dragon would show up, I read because I wanted to know what would happen next. And at the end of the first part everything is in place so that Kevla can discover her true identity.

After that, I finished the novel the same day. And I’m happy to say that the Mary-Sueish overall focus of “oh, poor Kevla” of the story shifts to a “oh, poor me!” perspective by Kevla herself until she accepts her destiny. A stagnant pity description of Kevla’s life turns into the coming-to-terms-with-her-life by Kevla. That’s better, isn’t it?

Overall, I like Golden’s set up of elementals and their dancers, of guardians and lorekeepers, and of worlds coming and going. I think there is potential and I’m really interested to read more about this world* despite my impression that Golden’s execution was sometimes choppy and disjointed.

Would I recommend this novel? Yes, with some words about my “problems.”

Would I read this novel again? Probably not.

Grade: 3 / 5

* I went and had a look at amazon. The second novel was published over a year ago (trade paperback). It’s called In Stone’s Clasp. I wonder if there will be a mass paperback printing.


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