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!