I just reached the halfway point in Amber Lough’s The Fire Wish (and, yes, things did get much worse). I’ve got an image in my mind. On one side of a desk is a stack of notebooks, filled with lists and tables and scattered notes. Pages and pages and pages on top of each other, the pile so high that it looks precarious, as if it may topple at any moment. On the other side of the desk is a clean piece of paper. Blank. Waiting. And as we watch, the author’s hand comes into view, holding the finest of paintbrush. She dips the tip of the paint brush into the stack of notes, lightly, barely touching. She moves the paintbrush to the blank page and, with a feathered touch, writes the first words of the story, transformed from the mounds of thoughts into a delicate line of ink that evokes just what the reader needs.
This is how good the worldbuilding is in The Fire Wish. This is how good the best of all worldbuilding is, right? I know we all build worlds. I know all genres require some of this skill. But in fantasy…oh, when it’s done right in fantasy! It’s just (excuse the pun) epic. And the reading experience is one of joy because that delicate line carries all the knowledge and understanding, detailed and layered, of the author’s time with the notebooks.
Or maybe Lough is just so good, she skipped the notebooks and the words flowed perfectly onto the page by themselves. But I’m guessing not.
There’s more to the book than the worldbuilding. It’s a great premise, with two young women–one human and one jinn–having to swap places on and inside the earth. And it’s a great premise, even further, because each of these young women holds responsibility for the actions that caused the swap, and they both have to step up, take responsibility, and figure out a way to correct their situation. Lough does a beautiful job of switching between points of view, and while the young women look pretty much identical, they have distinct differences in their personalities and experiences, so we have no problem following who’s talking when. Plus, they each have strong tensions pulling them in two directions. The humans and jinns have been at war for a while–if either young woman is discovered, she will be imprisoned, possibly killed. Plus Narwa, the jinni, has information her people need to defend themselves in the war, while Zayele, the human, wants to get home to protect her younger brother, who has been recently blinded. And then…each of them kinda sorta wants to stay where they are, because, well…romance. Okay, yes, some extra freedom, but also…romance.
Like I said, I haven’t finished this book, so I can’t really judge whether the ending will be fitting, tight. But I’m also not caring, right now, which–along with that worldbuilding–is another sign of how excellent The Fire Wish is. The pacing is just right, the balance of liking the two main characters and recognizing the flaws that got them to this place–also just right. And did I mention the secretive government departments, the harem dynamics, and the suspicion I have that somebody has been telling lies about why this war is “necessary?”
All around excellence. And now if you’ll excuse me, I have to get back to the second half of the book.