“Fates Aflame” by P. Anastasia. P. Anastasia (Self-Published). 430 pages. $16.95.
“In a society secretly fueled by unbridled magic, an ever-changing landscape of politics and formalities tugged the threads of my fate in all directions, shrouding the future in uncertainty. Earth granted her the ability to conjure fire at will, but the birth of her powers awakens a curse and a perilous trial unfolds, putting the lives of those she loves in jeopardy. When extinct beasts brought forth by ancient magic threaten her life, she has no choice but to take a stand…”
Valhara Hawksford is a young (18 years old) lieutenant who lives on a base in space – the Celestial Galaxy Academy. Because of a mission to bring the two academies together, Valhara is being transferred to the Silver Diamond Academy, which is back on Earth, a place she does not want to go back to since a tragic accident. We learn more about the two different academies, as well as the world itself and all the changes, as the story progresses, and I must say that Anastasia did a wonderful job of creating and building a world that is slightly familiar but overall very different.
I did become slightly restless with the first part of the book because I wanted to find out where the flames and magic pieces of the story came into play, but then a nice little romance starts to bud, and that helps carry you through. To answer the question, it takes quite a bit of the book to get to the magical pieces of the story, and I do wish that that had occurred sooner. If you read the synopsis, you do continually ask when that is going to come into play, and I wanted to see more of it in the book then just the last third (roundabouts). Also, in the description it says that the society is fueled by unbridled magic, but there is no hint about any of that for a very long time.
However, the overall plot is done well, and generally the pacing works because the story itself does build the entire time. Anastasia creates a world in which we can see the characters growing, and we come to learn more about them so that we can understand the choices they are making. There is a nice sense of history to everything, with even a detailed back story on one the character’s father’s and how he fought in an important war. There is a library (yay for print books still existing), and old tomes of great information that I really enjoyed. The world and character building is what truly makes this book, and I think if the pace had picked up to get us to magic a bit quicker, it would that much better for it.
One thing I did particularly like about the world is that it is an interesting futuristic blend of science fiction, with advanced technology, military, and academies, as well as magic, and the legends that surround it. There was quite an added twist with the King Author legend, and while I might not like how he was portrayed, I did very much like how it added to the story, and the fact that it was different from everything we normally read. I also very much liked the idea that the magic is reawakening and things are starting to shift and change as they had not for centuries, and things that were thought extinct are resurfacing. Never doubt the world you live on!
The romance within the novel is well done. It is not a swooping “I fell in love at first sight” type of deal. They truly get to know one another, first as friends, and then maybe as more. Now, I will say that the whole “her never having been kissed before” thing was slightly irritating, but I suppose there are 18 year old girls who have never kissed someone before… it’s just unlikely. Or seems that way. Her love interest is very likeable however, and I was always afraid that for some reason it was going to turn him into the bad guy… I’ll leave you hanging on that thought.
This would be a fantastic story for teenage girls and young adults. Or you know, those of us who are not young adults but still mostly read that type of fiction… If you like fantasy, this is a nice combination of that world with a little bit of sci-fi thrown in. I did love that there was a strong female lead, and it was never a question of if she could be promoted or not. There were other female characters in leadership positions as well, though one country did have only a king, and both commanders of the academies were men as well (come on, let’s change that in our writing!). I’m not one to usually harp on gender stereotypes, but it was something I noticed. I think it would have been interesting if she could have had a female mentor within the book, who was her commander, or higher up in the hierarchy. I also thought it was interesting because Valhara herself says that she does not want to be caught up in romance or anything else because she is so focused on her career – and how many times have we felt that, if you are a woman? It can be very hard to balance it all, and also we often hear how you cannot do both, but must choose one or the other. I liked that dynamic within the novel quite a bit.
I am hoping that we find out more about Valhara’s past, seeing as how she has this ancient mythical sword, and while we do mostly find out that story, I wanted to know more about it, and what she had done to get where she was. This book did have young adults seemingly doing jobs fit for older people, but then again her role was to be a student at the academy, so it made sense.
This can be a standalone novel, though it does set it up nicely for the second book. Anastasia was at our SOKY Bookfest this past April, and has written several books including “Dark Diary.” She believes in writing the truth, and telling your character’s story, whatever that may mean. I look forward to the next Fates Aflame book, and the rest of her work!