Book Reviews

Review: “Trial by Fire,” Josephine Angelini

December 30, 2015
Review: “Trial by Fire,” Josephine AngeliniTrial by Fireby Josephine Angelini
Series: The Worldwalker Trilogy #1
Published by Pan Macmillan on September, 2014
Genres: Fantasy, Witches
Pages: 373
Book Depository | Bookworld | Booktopia

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.

I wanted to enjoy this one by Josephine Angelini, as she’s one of those authors I have a few books by but have never read. The synopsis seemed to promise something uniquely ‘witchy’ (and I’m ready to eat up anything that references the Salem witches!) but instead I was faced with a book that I struggled to get through at all. The only thing fuelling my reading was the fact that I could then write a review about the things I disliked.

“A crucible’s craving is her mechanic’s mandate.”
– Rowan

First of all, let’s talk about our ‘heroine’, Lily Procter.

I thought that I was now beyond picking books that had a ‘Mary Sue’ character at the head, but apparantly I’m still vulnerable to surprise attacks. Lily is a sickly, allergy-ridden girl who has absolutely no friends apart from her best friend, Tristan. Tristan is a douchebag, pretty much. He plays girls (including Lily) and gets away with it for the most part. Lily lets him treat her like crap, unwilling to see the ‘real him’ through the fog of her crush. She also believes that if they ever get together, things will be different for her. Ugh, please, spare me! It was my first indication that Lily was going to be a pretty stupid and gullible lead character.

Not only does Lily have other traits that make her a ‘Mary Sue’ (absent parents, she’s beautiful but somehow unpopular… etc) she then waltzes into the new world of other-dimension Salem as an all-powerful Witch.

Despite being from a world where magic doesn’t exist, Lily is able to get a handle on things way too easily. Her other self (evil Lillian) spent her whole life getting to her current level, but our Lily simply gets her ‘man-harem’ to coach her and is up to speed almost instantly. She pretty much wings the whole thing. It’s as infuriating as it sounds! And the icing on the Mary Sue cake? Lily gets three willstones when the average person only ever gets one.

I was grating my teeth throughout the entirety of Trial by Fire. And it wasn’t just Lily I didn’t like. I found myself not caring an ounce about any of the other cast of characters.

Rowan was the typical ‘moody’ guy, falling in love with Lily despite being scorned after his love affair with evil Lillian. There was also another version of Tristan, who was pretty much his other self but a tad nicer. Then there was Caleb, who I couldn’t remember enough about, and a handful of others.

“They’d shared more than memories the night before. What they’d experienced was a communion.”

Lily constantly found herself in perilous situations and was constantly being saved by her man-harem.

I call them her ‘man-harem’ (Rowan, Tristan, Caleb, etc.) because in pretty much every scene they train in, they strip down and rub each other with oils or partake in some other sensual magic ritual (but it’s okay, IT’S FOR THE CHILDREN!’) Lily also claims them by touching their oh-so-sensitive willstones (necklackes that harness their magic) and it’s pretty much a sexual experience. Despite all this, Lily is still a blushing virgin and refuses to undress in front of the boys.

She’s also pretty dumb despite being all-powerful and doesn’t have a way with words… for example, she says to Rowan: “So cool. I knew you weren’t exactly white, but I didn’t think you were part Native American.”

Okay, so none of the characters or their predictable relationships were to my tastes… but what about the world-building, you ask? Granted, this seems like a pretty awesome story.

What I found bothered me the most about the alternate-dimension Salem was that it was ALL OVER THE PLACE. One minute, Lily and Rowan are in the woods making dye out of pee and pigment and sleeping in hide tents… then they’re chilling in Rowan’s ultra-modern apartment and out on his patio, eating a fancy-pants dinner. Huh?

Josephine Angelini tried to merge the medieval and modern world here – and for me it just didn’t work. Not only was the story telling not on par with something of this grand a scale… it was just flat out confusing.

“Worldfoam. I like that. It sounds fluffy.”
– Lily

Things that should have been explained earlier in the book were left until the end, and I felt that some of the information regarding the willstones, the Coven and the Council were simply tacked on instead of being part of a broader plan. Instead of telling the reader the function of certain things, they were only answered after I’d been puzzling my brain for a good chapter or two. I mean, what was the point? If it was to confuse me further, it certainly worked.

It is with deep disappointment that I reflect upon Trial by Fire, and the fact that I have the second book, Firewalker, lined up to read next. If I hadn’t of purchased them, I don’t think I would continue with the series at all… I really wanted to be mildly entertained at least by my first Josephine Angelini book, but I find myself hesitant to continue with any of her other books. I don’t have high hopes for Firewalker, but things can only improve, I suppose!

About Josephine Angelini

Josephine Angelini is a Massachusetts native and the youngest of eight siblings. She graduated from New York University's Tisch School of the Arts in theater, with a focus on the classics. She now lives in Los Angeles with her husband.

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