Of all of Sarah Rees Brennan’s books, I had only read The Demon’s Lexicon before I read this one. I liked it, but because I read it when it first came out, by the time the next two books in the trilogy came out I’d already forgotten what happened in the first book. Which is how I never got around to finishing that trilogy. While I liked her writing, I was still wary of her novels in the same way I’m wary of all Young Adult novels, so they remain on my ever-growing To Read list. Still, Tell the Wind and Fire appeared on NetGalley and enticed me with it’s dual magical system of Light and Dark, and so here we are.
In a city divided between opulent luxury in the Light and fierce privations in the Dark, a determined young woman survives by guarding her secrets.
Lucie Manette was born in the Dark half of the city, but careful manipulations won her a home in the Light, celebrity status, and a rich, loving boyfriend. Now she just wants to keep her head down, but her boyfriend has a dark secret of his own—one involving an apparent stranger who is destitute and despised.
Lucie alone knows of the deadly connection the young men share, and even as the knowledge leads her to make a grave mistake, she can trust no one with the truth.
Blood and secrets alike spill out when revolution erupts. With both halves of the city burning, and mercy nowhere to be found, can Lucie save either boy—or herself?
This book is apparently a retelling of A Tale of Two Cities. I say “apparently” because I didn’t know this until I went onto Goodreads to update my progress through the book and happened to see something about it in another review. I haven’t actually read A Tale of Two Cities, haven’t seen whatever movie or TV adaptations might have been made of it, or even really learned what the general plot of the novel might be through osmosis. I… gather there are two cities? Still, knowing that this book was supposed to be a retelling of another wouldn’t have told me what to expect. Honestly, from early on in the book I might have guessed this had shades of The Prince and the Pauper, but it didn’t go there in the end.
While I don’t think you need to read A Tale of Two Cities to understand and enjoy this book, I can’t help but wonder how my reading experience might have been different if I had been familiar with the source material. As it was, I enjoyed the book’s concept—and specifically it’s magic system—even if I was somewhat less interested in the welfare of its main characters. In any James Bond movie I’m never actually concerned that 007 will die. He can’t. He’s the main character. Similarly, with this particular story, I never really worried about Lucie or Ethan—although there were plenty of opportunities to worry about Ethan. But, possibly because of it’s genre and all the things authors can and cannot do in that genre, it always felt like whatever danger they were in was always temporary, would be overcome, and safety would be found.
That being said, one of the things that I though this book handled really well was its love story. I don’t usually read Young Adult books—even Young Adult Fantasy books—because the immaturity of the love stories is something I’m easily bored with. The “will he notice/kiss/proclaim his love for me?” angst of teenagers isn’t something I care to relive and the general age range—both of the characters and the readers—prevents much more from happening. But this book sidesteps all of that really neatly: from the very beginning, the main character is already in a relationship. It is that relationship, that love, that drives the plot forward. Even better, there’s not really time during the book for the characters to really think about sex. Taking it a step further, the book doesn’t specify one way or the other where Lucie and Ethan are in their relationship, and it seemed entirely possible to me that they might have consummated their relationship just previous to the book’s opening. I liked the ambiguity in this, since it dispensed with one of the things that I usually dislike in books in this genre.
I really wish I liked this book better because it’s clear that Sarah Rees Brennan is a very capable storyteller. But I think my general apathy towards this particular genre meant that I didn’t let myself really get emotionally invested in either the characters or the story. I sort of feel like I’ve failed in some way. But at the same time, I know a lot of people are going to really like this book. Which, even though I didn’t, is just as it deserves.
Tell the Wind and Fire is written by Sarah Rees Brennan and was published on April 5, 2016 by Clarion Books.