*Note* This was supposed to be a blog post that accompanied a video review. Due to a series of very unfortunate events, I cannot post the video at this time. However, unlike the incident with Raven Thrall, I have not lost the footage. I just need a different computer set-up to redo the hours of editing I lost. However, I don’t think it’s fair to make the people waiting on this wait any longer. So, without further ado, here is my written review of The Fires of Treason (which is still written like it accompanies the video, because eventually, it will).
Today we are going to be talking about The Fires of Treason which is the first in a new series by Michele Quirke. I became aware of this book through Twitter. Michele is extremely active and engaging on that platform, and I ended up buying the eBook due to effective Twitter marketing (and to be a supportive member of the #WritingCommunity). Originally, I didn’t have any plans of doing a formal blog review, but it just sort of fell into place. I purchased both the eBook and the paperback with my own money, and I am in no way being compensated for this review. As always, my opinions are my own.
About the Author
Michele is an up and coming historical fiction author. She currently lives near Seattle, WA with her husband, son and their cat, Link. (This is all straight from the back of the book.)
She is also a very active personality on Twitter. She’s just great to interact with. I would highly suggest following her there. @MicheleQuirke
About the Book
The Fires of Treason is currently available for Kindle and Paperback through Amazon. It is written in English. I am not aware of any plans for translation. Audio is not forthcoming at this time.
Amazon lists the length at 332 pages. That’s probably accurate from the front matter to the end of the story, but looking at the paperback it’s actually a bit longer with the back matter.
A Note on Genre
I really don’t know what genre to label this book. I spoke with Michele about this a little on Twitter. There was some debate in the lead up to publishing The Fires of Treason as to whether it should be considered “Historical Fiction”. In the end, she listed it as “Historical Fantasy” on Amazon due to the fictional nature of the kingdom of Caracalla.
Although Caracalla itself is fictional, it is placed in the real world during a very real-time period. More on that in the world-building section of this review. As an avid Fantasy reader, The Fires of Treason does not provide what I personally would be looking for in something labeled “Historical Fantasy.” There’s no real fantastical element to the characters, plot, or world-building.
When you strip away “Historical” from “Historical Fantasy” or “Historical Romance” you generally still have clear hallmarks of the other genres. In fact, you would usually say that those books are fantasy or romance and that historical is itself the sub-genre. Looking at The Fires of Treason, to me, it doesn’t have clear hallmarks of a particular fiction genre except for Historical.
Why am I getting bogged down in this? Because genre is a way through which readers find books they want to read. My concern with just leaving it at the listed genre is that by labeling this “historical fantasy” I will potentially be pushing the wrong readers to Michele’s book. I don’t want to do that. I want readers who will love her story to find it and leave her glowing reviews. I want readers who love fantasy to find books that will suit their tastes and leave those authors glowing reviews.
Sometimes bad reviews are just because the reader’s expectations weren’t met, not because the book is not good or having merit in its own right.
Having said that, I have it on good authority (aka following Michele’s tweets) that there may be some more “fantastical” elements in the sequel, so do with that information what you will.
Let’s just get the most negative part of this review is over with right off the bat. My first impression of the cover was sort of ambivalent. After reading the book, I dislike it. I think it does Elizabeth’s personality a great injustice and makes her look old.
From a readability standpoint, I find the white font on the light gray backing makes the blurb difficult to read on the paperback.
My total rating for exterior design is Two Teaspoons.
The interior design is great. Nice scene delineation. Good, consistent formatting. And. The. MAP. I looooove me a good map. Did this book need a map? Ehhhhhh…. No, not really. But I am here for it nonetheless.
Interior design surpasses expectations (the map alone puts it over the top), Four Teaspoons.
This brings the average for Design to Three Teaspoons.
In the video I would read the blurb at this point. You can read it here.
I have no real strong feelings about the premise. I didn’t buy the book because of the cover or the blurb or really anything to do with the book itself at all. I got sucked in by very effective Twitter marketing.
So I’m just going to give this section Three Teaspoons and move on.
This is an area where the book really starts to shine. I have never read a book with so many annoying characters that pulled it off. And what do I mean by that? Let me explain.
At the center of this drama/journey is a pair of royal siblings, Elizabeth (Bess) and Gregory (Greg). Their relationship is a key focus throughout.
To start with, Greg is just straight-up insufferable at times (in a good way). He’s a well-meaning much older — not too much older, just enough — brother who is struggle to see his baby sister for the more mature young woman she is becoming. Michele writes this really well.
And then there’s Elizabeth. She’s, well… a typical, kind of bratty princess at the beginning. Of the two, I think Bess actually had the better character arc. By the end of the book, Bess has attained a level of maturity that she clearly did not possess in the beginning.
The great thing about these characters is how much room they had to grow as the story progressed. The banter between the siblings is excellent. The relationship is well written and believable.
And then there’s Clara. Of all the characters in the book, Clara is the one who feels the least necessary to me (watch, now that I said that she’ll have some big important role in the future). She was grating at best.
The rest of the cast makes up for her though.
All in all, I give the book Four Teaspoons for characters. Clara keeps it from being a solid five for me.
This is another section where I think the author did really well. She clearly did her research. The story feels grounded in a time and place. Even though Caracalla itself is fictional, it still feels like real-world Europe. There’s no details that jar me out of the time and place, which can be a problem in historical fiction, especially if you read a lot of historical fiction set in roughly the same time period like I do.
I don’t really have a lot to say about the plot. To me this book wasn’t really heavily plot driven. It was much more about the characters and how they relate to each other and the world around them. It’s a pretty typical journey type plot.
However. There is an excellent twist at the end. And I’m not going to tell you what it is, because I don’t want to ruin the surprise. But that twist is just, mmm. Chef’s kiss.
I give the plot Three Teaspoons. Almost a four. It’s a 3.5 because that twist is just so good.
This was another stand out category for me. I really enjoyed Michele’s writing. I find her style and vocabulary to be engaging. She’s an eloquent storyteller.
My average rating for The Fires of Treason comes out to Four Teaspoons. It was a thoroughly enjoyable book with an excellent twist and excellent characters. I’m looking forward to seeing what comes next for Greg and Bess as they continue their journey.