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Review & GIVEAWAY – The Book of Fires by Jane Borodale

Congratulations to commenter #6, Holly from 2 Kids and Tired Book Reviews for winning a copy of The Book of Fires!

The Book of Fires
by Jane Borodale
368 pages
Published January 21, 2010
Fiction, historical

The Book of Fires by Jane Borodale is a historical fiction novel about Agnes Trussel, a 17-year-old girl who lives in the country in England. Agnes flees her home because of an unwanted pregnancy, and goes to London to start a new, respectable life. In one of the carriers that Agnes rides to London, she meets Lettice Talbot, a beautiful girl not much older than Agnes. Lettice promises to help Agnes, giving Agnes hope for her new life.

London is bigger and more unfriendly than Agnes anticipated. She loses the slip of paper that has the address where she can find Lettice, and as evening is closing in, Agnes finds herself asking for the job of housekeeper that’s advertised on the door of Mr. Blacklock. Instead of taking her on as a housekeeper, Mr. Blacklock takes her on as his apprentice.

Agnes is only two months pregnant when she starts working with Mr. Blacklock, who is a pyrotechnic in the business of making fireworks. She shows an aptitude for making fireworks, so he keeps her on. One of the things Agnes worries about is what she’ll do when Mr. Blacklock finds out she’s pregnant, because she’ll probably find herself out of a job, no matter how hard she’s worked.

I had a hard time connecting with Agnes. I never really felt like I wanted to cheer for her. I liked her, but it was in a passing-interest kind of way, not in an invested-and-care-what-happens kind of way. I spent much of the story wondering why I wasn’t more interested in Agnes. I think part of it had to due with the fact that she WAS PREGNANT, yet for someone who would be completely shamed and could have her life ruined by this baby being born, she spent very little time thinking about how she got pregnant (rape), or what she was going to do when the baby was born.

One other thing about Agnes is that she’s ridiculously naive. She’s extremely intelligent, but has a naivity that can be extremely frustrating to watch. I often wondered if she could really be so dense.

I really liked the pyrotechnics portion of The Book of Fire. The technical parts didn’t bog down, and one of the interesting parts of this book was that at the time this book takes place, fireworks didn’t have color; they were only in white and silver. Agnes encourages Mr. Blacklock to find a way to make a colored firework, and her descriptions of the depth of color the fireworks should have is luscious.

I enjoy historical fiction but am no history buff. The language in The Book of Fire was reminiscent of an older time, but whether the verbiage is historically accurate is not something I can speak to. While clunky at times, I really enjoyed it and thought it gave the book just the atmosphere it needed.

All my criticisms aside, this is definitely an enjoyable novel that will get you caught up in another time.

Rating: 85 out of 100


Giveaway – I’ve got two copies of this book to give away! To enter, leave a comment telling me if you like fireworks. A silly question, I know, but feel free to describe your favorite fireworks. 🙂 The contest will be open until January 31, 2010 at 11:59pm PST. United States and Canadian addresses only, please. Since I forgot about the giveaway, anyone who commented on this post prior to January 25, 2010 at 8:00am PST is automatically entered to win. Sorry about that. Mah brain iz fried.


Book source: I received this book as a review copy from the publisher.

And one more thing? If you click on one of The Book of Fire links and buy something from Amazon, I’ll make a commission.

You can thank the FTC for this disclosure!

| Tags: , , 40 comments »

40 Responses to “Review & GIVEAWAY – The Book of Fires by Jane Borodale”

  1. Jeane

    That’s a unique piece of fiction- I don’t think I’ve ever read one about how fireworks are made. Didn’t they originate in China? I think having a character so disassociated from her trauma and impending motherhood (or simply not speaking of it) would make me feel unable to relate, too.

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  2. Kathy

    Sounds interesting. I never knew that fireworks were without color at one time.

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  3. diane

    Thanks for the thorough review Trish. I hope to get this one sometime….sounds different.

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  4. Jennifer @ Mrs. Q: Book Addict

    Sounds like a great read. I’m adding this to my TBR list.

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  5. Teddy

    I’m still waiting for my copy of this one. It does sound good. Great review!

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  6. Holly

    This one sounds terrific. It’s completely new to me. I’m definitely adding it to my list!

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  7. Lisa

    Love the new layout!

    This one sounds like it could have been much better but still worth reading and I think I’ll have to check it out at some point.

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  8. Beth F

    I’ll have to come back to read your review. I read this one yesterday and enjoyed it.

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  9. Kari

    What’s the time period of this?

    Also, I lurve fireworks.

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  10. Meg

    Sounds like something I would enjoy, though hopefully Agnes would grow on me! 🙂 And I do love fireworks… though I’m skittish, and sometimes the noise scares me. We set some off on New Year’s Eve and I was howling with the best of ’em, haha. I’d love to read this one! 🙂

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  11. The Kool-Aid Mom

    I keep drooling over this book in Shelf-Awareness. It looks like such a good book.

    The best fireworks show I’ve ever seen is the one they do (or did last time I was there) in St. Louis for the V.P. Fair (4th of July party at the foot of the arch, talk about FUN!). They set it to music and it was well orchestrated. One year, we had 3D glasses to watch them with, which made them look like a kaleidoscope of explosions and colors. I heard they spent millions of dollars each year on that five or so minute display. It’s the fireworks that I judge all others by, and makes everything I’ve seen since look like a cheap amateur show. As for doing them myself, I don’t like it. I’m nervous about fire and fireworks, and worry about the kids getting hurt, as well as myself. That’s why we always go to the city’s display, instead, and the kids run over to the neighbors to do them, as well.

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  12. Carina

    I love fireworks! Especially the ones that go all the way up into the air before exploding and making those really musical sounds as they spread out and brighten up the whole sky.

    I also really like reading about how sexual issues (teen pregnancy, homosexuality, etc.) were dealt with in other times or places, even when it’s historical fiction. So I think this book sounds really awesome!

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  13. AnnFes

    I like fireworks as long as they’re majestic!

    I don’t like M-80, I think they’re called, where you light the fuse and run like hell and end up with a small crater on your lawn (popular with 12 year old boys and immature men).

    I recall a Fourth of July in Lititz PA. The sky was lit up so bright with the most extravagantly beautiful colors that I swear you could read a book by them!

    That’s the kind of fireworks I will always remember and love.

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  14. Stephanie

    I liked this book a lot–just finished it yesterday. I loved that it was historical fiction with a twist.

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  15. Jen - Devourer of Books

    What’s with all the great giveaways all of the sudden? You’re like giveaway central since you got your new design!

    I do like fireworks, although most of the time I don’t really love them. What I *do* love is watching them with my sister, because we ‘ooh’ and ‘aaah’ in unison like big dorks. Lots of fun.

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  16. Alicia

    I HATE fireworks! I know I’m in the minority here, but ever since I was little I convinced myself that they would fall on me and burn me. This fear has stuck with me!

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  17. Anita Yancey

    I love fireworks, especially the light and colors. But I’m not to big on the noise. I’d love to read this book.

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  18. zibilee

    Sorry to hear that the protagonist was so hard to connect with for you. I do think I would enjoy the book though, so please enter me in your giveaway please! And yes, I do like fireworks. The best fireworks I ever saw were the displays that Universal Studios put on a few years ago on New Years. My Dog, on the other hand, does not like them, and hides in the bathroom whenever he hears them!

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  19. Virginia C

    Hello! I like fireworks when they are displayed in a big open field where the sound is diminished. I do not like them when my extremely close neighbors shoot them off hour after hour, sometimes for days! This is very frightening to my cats, and I’m sure that some children are also frightened as well.

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  20. Susan F.

    I already had this title on my “want to read” list. I’d love to win a copy. Every February our local ski slope has an evening which they call Fire on the Mountain. The instructors perform a torchlight parade down the mountain followed by a fantastic fireworks display. It definitely warms up a winter night!

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  21. Debbie Rodgers

    Who couldn’t love fireworks? What a great concept for a novel – I’d love to win this! Thanks for the chance.

    Debbie
    tatamagouche AT netbundle DOT ca

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  22. A Bookshelf Monstrosity

    Yes, I do enjoy fireworks! I have to say, though, that my all-time favorites are the sparklers you hold in your hand and make designs in the air with at night 🙂
    Thanks for the giveaway.

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  23. Beth

    I love fireworks! They’re so fun! To watch, not to set off, of course.

    BethsBookReviewBlog AT gmail DOT com

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  24. jennygirl

    No need to enter me in the contest.

    Great review! I’ve been blowing by this book because of the title, but it sounds like a great story. Very interesting. I love it when books put you in another time and place.

    P.S.
    I’ve been reading you through my reader, and just popped on to comment today. LOVE the new look. I love those pics of pin-up girls. Great worl Trish 🙂

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  25. Jules

    I’ve read quite a few reviews on this book, and have added it to my TBR list. It sounds like an interesting book. I like fire works, I live right behind a school so I get to watch them for free every Canada Day. Sadly I miss them, as Im usually comforting my poor dog, who is terrified of them. (He’s a 100 pound Lab/Sheppard Cross, but is scared of fire works, go figure).

    Enter me in 🙂 bookwormjules[at]gmail[dot]com

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  26. Katy @ A Few More Pages

    I love fireworks. My birthday is July 3, so fireworks celebrations always felt like a part of my birthday when I was growing up.

    I much prefer to watch a professional show and am not a huge fan of drunk people shooting them off in the neighborhood on the 4th every year. LOL

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  27. Alyce

    I love fireworks! The small town I live in is named Independence, so Independence day is the biggest celebration of the year. People come from all over the state to see our fireworks display, so the city also puts on a second display just for the residents that is not advertised. We usually go to the smaller city display and sit on the riverbank right under the fireworks and eat huge cinnamon elephant ears and drink strawberry lemonade. Afterward almost everyone walks home, and I love it that the streets are filled with people that late at night.

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  28. Lee

    I like your new look, and of course I like fireworks; sure could do without the noise though.

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  29. Book Review: The Book of Fires + Giveaway « ReviewsbyLola's Blog

    […] Hey Lady! Watcha Readin’? […]

  30. Beth F

    Okay, I’m back! I liked this one better than you did. I liked Agnes and found her to be naive but also a scared teen who thinks dreaming and fantasizing solutions will work. The scenes in Blacklock’s shop were amazing.

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  31. Serena (Savvy Verse & Wit)

    Not sure if this is a book for me or not. But thanks for the honest review. no need to enter me.

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  32. Kristen

    This one intrigues me quite a bit. As to whether I like firworks or not, I do. I don’t love the really loud bangers (neither does the Daisy-dog) but I love the ones that shimmer and twinkle on their way down.

    whitreidsmama at yahoo dot net

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  33. Sue

    I love fireworks. We go to a small Colorado town every year for the Fourth of July and they fill the whole sky between the mountains, and the echoes just reverberate! Love it.

    Thanks for the giveaway.

    s.mickelson at gmail dot com

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  34. Tracie Yule

    My favorite fireworks are in our small town of Belle Plaine, MN. Every year the town has fireworks that display to music and its a wonderful family event.

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  35. Kathy

    I really love being able to watch the fireworks in our neighborhood. The dads combine all their loot and then shoot it off together in the culdesac. It’s great. Thanks for the giveaway.

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  36. Carol

    Everything I’ve heard about this one sounds like I’d enjoy it. Yes, I like fireworks especially the gold sparkly ones that just seem to hang in the sky.

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  37. Rachel W.

    I love fireworks!

    Thanks for the giveaway!

    Rachelhwallen@gmail.com

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  38. anne

    I like fireworks handled safely and on holidays. This book sounds unique and special. thanks for this giveaway.

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  39. karen k

    i love fireworks…especially the colourful gigantic ones 🙂

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  40. kathy

    While I love all the colors and sparkles of all fireworks , my favorite fireworks I saw on the lake beachfront at Lake Lure, NC during a very special 4th of July celebration.

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