Richly imagined with meticulously developed theories of magic, history, myth, geography, politics and more, D.W. Hawkins’ The Sentient Fire is the first in a series of epic fantasy novels. But it stands alone as a well-drawn, well-finished novel in its own right. The level of detail can be overwhelming at times, but well-plotted history and geography are nicely fed into discussions between strangers (fast becoming friends) on a long and dangerous journey. The scenery switches between frozen waste, oceans, farms, small towns and citadel. Social structures are discussed and explained by politics, history and myth. Meanwhile magic remains a powerful constant, beautifully drawn, with the reader quickly pulled into the experience of using and being used by powers beyond our own. The social commentary is intriguingly real with all its attendant assumptions and follies. The language is a nice mix of careful description and dialog and displays a pleasing humor, especially when little Bethany repeats the rather course songs of her, as yet unexplained, youth. The characters form a truly intriguing ensemble, with different skills and aims all gathered together in what eventually becomes a single cause. But the plot’s the primary reason for the tale, satisfying, fascinating and pleasingly unpredictable, sufficiently so to keep the reader turning pages even when long explanations seem to have veered into what might seem irrelevant. I enjoyed the novel and couldn’t put it down, even though I found myself skipping some bits of the world-building. If I only had more time to read I’d be desperately waiting for book 2. If epic fantasy is your genre, and if complex world-building grabs your attention, this series will quickly hook and you and definitely offer something new and satisfying.
Disclosure: I won a free ecopy of this novel during a blog tour.
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