CAST IN FIRELIGHT
By: Dana Swift
Published By: Delacorte Press
Release Date: January 19, 2021
Series: Wickery #1
Reading Level: Young Adult
Source: Publisher via Netgalley
Buy the Book: Macmillan
Goodreads Summary: Adraa is the royal heir of Belwar, a talented witch on the cusp of taking her royal ceremony test, and a girl who just wants to prove her worth to her people.
Jatin is the royal heir to Naupure, a competitive wizard who's mastered all nine colors of magic, and a boy anxious to return home for the first time since he was a child.
Together, their arranged marriage will unite two of Wickery's most powerful kingdoms. But after years of rivalry from afar, Adraa and Jatin only agree on one thing: their reunion will be anything but sweet.
Only, destiny has other plans and with the criminal underbelly of Belwar suddenly making a move for control, their paths cross...and neither realizes who the other is, adopting separate secret identities instead.
Between dodging deathly spells and keeping their true selves hidden, the pair must learn to put their trust in the other if either is to uncover the real threat. Now Wickery's fate is in the hands of rivals..? Fiancées..? Partners..? Whatever they are, it's complicated and bound for greatness or destruction.
The first book in an epic, heart-pounding fantasy duology about two royal heirs betrothed to be married, but whose loyalties are torn, and a ruthless enemy who threatens their world, perfect for fans of Sabaa Tahir, Hafsah Faizal, and Renée Ahdieh.
First Thought After Finishing: Excuse me while I scream and wait very impatiently for the next installment!
I cannot resist a fantasy novel boasting a unique magic system and an arranged marriage, so I knew that Cast in Firelight had to be on my TBR. This was my second book of 2021, and my first fantasy book after a major fantasy hangover, and yet I was quickly drawn into the story and enjoyed the adventure.
Adraa has always known her future—train in magic, marry Jatin, and unite the lands of Belwar and Naupure. Only Adraa is not looking forward to her future. She and Jatin are rivals, not lovers, and she dreads her royal ceremony test where she must prove her skill with magic in front of her kingdom. Adraa wants to be the best maharani she can for Belwar, but no country is perfect, and she soon discovers that criminal activity is rampant. When her path crosses Jatin’s, with both under assumed identities, she finds an unlikely ally and partner. But the truth will always come out, and Adraa must decide which she wants to save—her country or her heart.
If you love strong, princess-saves-herself type heroines, then you will want Cast in Firelight to be on your TBR. Adraa is fierce, independent, and passionate, though not without her insecurities. Although she does not necessarily want to accept her arranged marriage, she uses her frustration and dislike of Jatin to push herself to be a better witch. I would have liked to see more of their rivalry instead or (or in addition to) the budding romance under the false identities, if only because there was a hint of sizzle in their dislike.
The world and its magic system was highly inventive, with nine gods and goddesses each represented by a different color. Witches and wizards had a forte in one of the nine colors, supposedly as a blessing from that god, so any spoken spells showed the color of their forte. The world itself drew from Indian influences, which the author explained was done for her children, and it added another depth to the fantasy setting. I hope we are able to learn more about the gods and their interactions in the world in the sequel.
Intrigue and suspense are definitely woven throughout the plot, which kept me turning pages so that I could learn who was truly trustworthy. Although readers can guess at some of the story aspects, there are a few surprises along the way. However, there were a few scenes that surprised me in a different way—these seemed to come out of nowhere and not quite fit the arc of the story. I found myself rereading a few pages to see if I had missed a lead-in, but to no avail. Even though I was momentarily pulled out of the flow of the story, once those scenes had passed, it was easy to be swept up in the world again.
Overall, Cast in Firelight is a strong debut, and if you like secret identities in a fantasy world, you should definitely add this to your TBR! The ending definitely left me wanting the sequel, so I will be looking forward to its release next year!
Most Memorable Aspect: The color-coded magic system based on the nine gods and goddesses.
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