This world is trying to kill Lily Proctor. Her life-threatening allergies keep her from enjoying experiences that others in her hometown of Salem take for granted, which is why she is determined to enjoy her first high school party with her best friend and longtime crush, Tristan. But after a humiliating incident in front of half her graduating class, Lily wishes she could just disappear.
Suddenly, Lily is in a different Salem—one overrun with horrifying creatures and ruled by powerful women called Crucibles. Strongest and cruelest of them all is Lillian . . . Lily’s other self in this alternate universe.
What makes Lily weak at home is what makes her extraordinary in New Salem. In this confusing world, Lily is torn between responsibilities she can’t hope to shoulder alone and a love she never expected.
If you read my reviews you know I’m not a huge fan of Josephine Angelini. Mainly because the Starcrossed trilogy was a God awful shitty series. However, the premises of Trial by Fire pulled me in enough where I had to read it-note, I had a bottle of wine nearby the entire time for sanity purposes.
The result: well, it’s like a better version of Starcrossed with some horrible moments and prose that on Angelini can grace us with.
Let me just warn you, if you want to read this book you might want to skip the first forty pages or so when Lily is in her own world because it will make you groan, roll your eyes, and wonder how the fuck Angelini got another publishing deal and with MacMillian to less.
It’s that bad.
However, things pick up once we do enter the AU.
I’ll say it, I actually found the alternate view of Salem intriguing, well, when the novel wasn’t trying to mimic Starcrossed which it often did. For the most part, the editing on this one was better. There were still some unnecessary paragraphs of-oh, come on. And Angelini had one very gross moment featuring hair dye and urine added to the book, but it was considerably calm to the unnecessary roadkill scene that we were blessed with in one of the Starcrossed books.
As you can see, I keep comparing this to the Starcrossed series a lot. And I think that both helps and hinders this review. While it helps me know Angelini’s writing better and identify her love for certain tropes, it also makes me more forgiving that she has improved. Even if those improvements aren’t really that big of improvements or that great of improvements.
Take the characters, for example. As annoyed as I got with Lily, she had nothing on Helen. Her Sueness borders on what a typical annoying YA heroines Sueness would be. I actually liked the fact she suffered from allergies, though Angelini took it took extremes.
A hundred and fifteen fever? You’d be dead.
Also, the Sioux weren’t located in Salem. A simple Wiki check would’ve fixed that mistake.
Yeah, little mistakes like that drove me crazy.
As for the love interest in the book, there are two. Well, sort of. I could see this developing into a love triangle maybe in the next book, but I really hope not. I actually liked Rowan quite a bit. He was a far improvement to Lucas (though he did have his foul moments). And I enjoyed his interactions with Lily till she suddenly realized he was hot and had a bad case of instant love.
Though to be fair, they interact a good fifty pages before that happens.
Bless, the book lords.
The characters that I did have problems with, were the villains. This is another thing that has always been an Achilles heal for Angelini. Creating a good villain really shows your character building skills, and unfortunately, Angelini sort of sucks at it. Gideon, is just a 1D ugly bad guy who’s motives are outright told. As for Lillian, I do have some hope, but she really didn’t have enough screen time for me to really get to know her.
So, that really makes her some big bad.
I think what Trial by Fire’s greatest strength is it’s potential. The book ends on quite the cliffhanger and I probably will pick up the sequel, despite it’s faults. I also have to give Angelini credit for the improvement, it’s not a lot(those first forty pages will get you raging), but it’s something.
I think the best comparison to this book is Ghost House–though to be fair to this book, Angelini is by far a superior to Adornetto (even though they both apparently know how sunshine tastes). There’s just enough improvement where you can at least say they tried, but it’s still identifiably the authors work (bad quirks included).
Do I recommend Trial by Fire? Yes and no. There are some parts that really worked and if you can look pass the annoying prose and horrible beginning, then yes give it a try. However, if you hated the Starcrossed series with unbridled passion then no, just no. Library it if you must, but know you won’t be mocking as much since a lot of the six hundred page lunacy has been cut out. Seriously, there were only a few moments that had me gawking (the pee hair dye, the erotic dream of being a guy, and the ridiculous fevers).
Overall Rating: C. It’s not so much an average rating, rather while the story is really great the supporting frame work sort of fails. Hey, but no pumpkin obsessions, Giggles, and sandwiches.