Book Review: A Promise of Fire by Amanda Bouchet

Contains spoilers for the novel. 

I have to admit that I had some high hopes for this book and while I was somewhat satisfied, I was also let down. Greek mythology, a main character who can make empires fall, a dark past and a future in the balance – I was holding out for something that would exciting and adventurous. I had actually neglected to realise that this was a romance, and primarily a romance. 

I had a few gripes with this novel, mostly because I felt like this could have steered away from the romance and focus more on the actual world-building, the politics of the different tribes, and the potential of having a Kingmaker on your side.

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Synopsis

Catalia “Cat” Fisa is a powerful clairvoyant known as the Kingmaker. This smart-mouthed soothsayer has no interest in her powers and would much rather fly under the radar, far from the clutches of her homicidal mother. But when an ambitious warlord captures her, she may not have a choice…

Griffin is intent on bringing peace to his newly conquered realm in the magic-deprived south. When he discovers Cat is the Kingmaker, he abducts her. But Cat will do everything in her power to avoid her dangerous destiny and battle her captor at every turn. Although up for the battle, Griffin would prefer for Cat to help his people willingly, and he’s ready to do whatever it takes to coax her…even if that means falling in love with her.

{Goodreads; Book Depository}

Review

So first up, I need to address the romance in this novel. The initial stages of the ‘romance’ felt like a case of Stockholm Syndrome, not to mention the fact that Griffin threatens her circus family and ties her up with a ‘magical rope’ to keep her from leaving. It was uncomfortable to read. I also disliked how Cat immediately sees Griffin and fawns over his physique on the first page of the book, and constantly reminds of us of his form despite the fact she’s tied up, has to bathe with him only four feet from her (being invisible isn’t that much of a difference) and isn’t given much choice in matters. This possessiveness over Cat is carried throughout the novel, justified as he believes she is ‘made for him’. I mean, look at this line:

His voice is fierce in my ear. “You’re mine now, Cat. Don’t you dare die on me.”

I would have found this to be sooooo attractive if it hadn’t been for the fact that Cat had been manhandled, forced into their party and suddenly felt a loyalty towards this man that had captured and stolen her from a place she considered home.

I did eventually warm up to them being together because Cat was given a choice, something she hadn’t felt like she had. Despite this choice, I was rather wary with Griffin considering his alpha-male personality took up most of Cat’s thoughts.

I also found Cat to be really frustrating, constantly going back and forth between aching for Griffin and then going ‘No I can’t do this’. As a protagonist she wasn’t as sassy as she could have been. If anything, she was rather childish and grumpy at times, resorting to punching people to communicate her feelings. A lot of her dialogue fell flat on me, and this could be because I started to see her as rather young. So while she may have spit fire from her eyes and mouth, her character wasn’t as fiery as I wanted her to be.

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Griffin on the other hand is a smart and capable warrior, but his alpha-male possessiveness was disorientating and frankly, a little worrisome for me. I did like the Beta Team straight away because they treated Cat in a way like older brothers would with banter and jokes, which was rather cute (even if they didn’t argue with Griffin to, you know, let her go?).

The other issue I need to address is the lack of explanation in regards to the fantasy elements in the novel. Cat’s abilities and nature are only somewhat explored as they are compensated for sexual tension with Griffin. Aspects are left unsaid or unexplained, like Cat’s communication with the gods and the way she manipulates fire. It just sort of happens. I did like her Kingmaker ability, which is to be able to tell a lie from the truth. It was pretty cool, even if it was somewhat reduced to a mechanism on finding out whether Griffin was true to her or not.

I enjoyed the incorporation of Greek mythology into the culture of her world, creating her own niche territory by including tribes, divided kingdoms and traditions. And the food! It was refreshing to read something different!

“Now that that’s settled, you’re coming with me.”
“Never in a billion suns. Not even if Zeus showed up as a swan and tried to peck me in your direction. I wouldn’t go with you even if my other option was Hades dragging me to the Underworld for an eternal threesome with Persephone.”

Overall, this would have been a great fantasy debut but like I said, the romance is on centre stage and that was all this book had going for it. More on the mythology of King Makers or the world itself would have been great, but this book has a lot of potential to grow.

Rating

🌟🌟.5

Has anyone else read this? What did you think of it?

 

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