by C.J. Daugherty, Carina Rozenfeld
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French teen Sacha Winters can't die. He can throw himself off a roof, be stabbed, even shot, and he will always survive. Until the day when history and ancient enmities dictate that he must die. Worse still, his death will trigger something awful. Something deadly. And that day is closing in.
Taylor Montclair is a normal English girl, hanging out with her friends and studying for exams, until she starts shorting out the lights with her brain. She’s also the only person on earth who can save Sacha.
There’s only one problem: the two of them have never met. They live hundreds of miles apart and powerful forces will stop at nothing to keep them apart.
They have eight weeks to find each other.
Will they survive long enough to save the world?
➱ Would I have enjoyed The Secret Fire more if I hadn’t read plenty of paranormal young adult books before? Definitely. Sadly, as much as I would want to, I can’t unread all these books and that’s why I can’t ignore all the annoying tropes that spoiled my read.
PART ONE : DO NOT LIKE
Indeed Taylor, the MC, is so perfect and annoying I want to puke. Like, really. Let me draw a little list, okay?
✅ She’s a straight-As student and only think about studying, because of course, that’s how the majority of teenagers are.
✅ She’s top-volunteer of the year (really, she won an award or something) but you know what? She didn’t show me an ounce of her so-called kindness when it comes to the way she handles her relationship with her best friend. No. She’s condescending towards everyone, and she wants us to think that she’s a paragon of virtue and made me roll my eyes almost as often as Snowhite in Once Upon a Time (aka. every time she opens her mouth).
✅ She thinks she’s not attractive (SPOILER ALERT : She is). She complains about her hair which is curly blond and here’s her explanation :
“Blonde hair should be straight and silky.”
Are you for real?
✅ She dates some perfect golden boy and she has no idea why he’s interested in her.
✅ She blushes all the freaking time. Of course she does. Sigh.
Frankly, I hated her chapters and I don’t know if the author’s writing is to blame but I didn’t like at all the way the characterization was handled : too many useless details about Taylor (like, the countless tea descriptions : I DON’T CARE), and not a drop of interest toward the other characters (mostly Tom, the one-dimensional boyfriend, and Georgie, the hot best friend, who isn’t slut-shamed but who is still mostly defined by her looks and her lack of interest in studying).
“He looked dangerous. And that danger had a magnetic force.”
Oh, please. Not that again.
Give me a wounded boy, okay. But please don’t think I’m stupid enough to find normal that the female lead realizes things about him in 2 seconds when SHE OBVIOUSLY CAN’T. I’m sorry, that’s not how relationships work. Anyway, I did enjoy his chapters more than Taylor’s ones. Indeed 1)the storyline is way more interesting there (it includes gun shots, gambling, and general deception) and 2)he’s completely fucked-up. Of course I ship that, duh.
However as much as I liked his character at first, from the moment that he *really* met Taylor his behavior screamed FRAUD to me : I mean, come on.
First Taylor decides to go to Paris (aka in a foreign country) for 2 days a)after talking with him online only TWICE, b)without telling anyone where she is. Does it not break some elementary safety rules to you? Because to me that’s beyond stupid and dangerous. I don’t care if your teacher asked you to tutor him. He could be a psychopath for all you know.
Their attraction is cliché, unconvincing and sometimes beyond ridiculous : we’re offered a lot of blushing, staring, OMG what it is happening to me!! kind of stuff, and frankly, I was laughing and screaming HORMONES! Sigh. Does nobody talk about hormones to teenagers these days? I’m starting to wonder.
Frankly, I kept rolling my eyes every time they talk to each other/think about each other. Everything sounds so CLICHÉ. Really, we are spared none of it.
✅ The descriptions they make of each other are roll-eyed worthy. For real, I was choking on the cheese.
Taylor about Sasha : “He had the longest lashes she could ever remember seeing. Like black feathers against his cheeks.” Of course he does. Because he’s a cat or something.
Sasha about Taylor : “She had even, white teeth and full pink lips, and when she smiled she lit up as if illuminated by some inner light. She was one of those people.” I’m not even gonna comment on that.
✅ She blushes for no reason every time he looks at her/talks to her/whatever. No reason I said.
✅ “She liked the way her name sounded when he said it.” Enough said.
✅ Their interactions are silly, juvenile, and again, cliché. Example?
“He chuckled. “And you’re just some English girl with a leaf in your hair.”
“There’s a leaf in my hair?” Reaching up, she felt for objects.
“Here, let me.” Leaning towards her, Sacha pulled the leaf from a curl carefully. Her hair felt incredibly soft beneath his fingertips.” Nah, I didn’t see that move coming. *roll-eyes*
Oh! And she smells like sunlight! What is it, I don’t know, but apparently, it’s a great smell.
“How do you spend one day with someone and decide they belong in your life?”
I don’t know, you DON’T?
I mean, why fucking bother? We have :
✅ The best friend who is only here to show how much fucking better Taylor is supposed to be. As I already said, I didn’t like at all the patronizing way Georgie is treated by Taylor, and for me her role is strictly restricted as how her actions can manipulate the reader into thinking that Taylor is worth it. It didn’t work on me.
✅ The boyfriend who turns into a jerk the minute she meets Sacha. *rise eyebrow* How convenient.
✅ The teachers whose behavior screams trouble from the start.
In my opinion the whole premise is wobbly : the whole “I want you to interact” plot stank of put-up job from the start. Just sayin’.
✅ The families who make a special appearance sometimes but just disappear when – well again, when it’s convenient.
The premise sounded really interesting to me, especially on Sacha’s side : a boy who can’t die whatever happens because his death is planned for his eighteen’s birthday? Paris and London settings? Count me in. Unfortunately it lacked some depth to really enthrall me and I found myself reading their story only as a distant witness : I didn’t care about their fate that much, especially in Taylor’s case (goddammit, this girl made my head ache)
PART TWO : NOT BAD
I thought that the paranormal aspects were pretty good and original, and therefore were by far the better part of the book. Indeed the only moments I felt invested in the story where when Sacha tried to deal with the frightening creatures and the impact of his family’s curse on his life. Taylor’s intake would have probably been captivating too – too bad the girl made my head bleed. I really liked how it was linked to medieval witches hunt and frankly, I can see how this book could please a lot of readers if you manage to get over the overused tropes submentioned and the cliché phrasing, that is.
Indeed the action in the last 30% kept me on the edge of my seat :
– Sacha’s struggles and discoveries captivated me and made me want to learn more and more about the creatures he faces and the characteristics of his curse.
– The events started to be less predictable and their shocked factor increased.
– Even Taylor’s chapters improved grandly : indeed her Mary Sue status is FINALLY put aside and she starts to become a heroine I can like, making me hope for her role in the sequel. From her relationships with other characters (most of all Louisa, who I enjoyed a lot) to her inner thoughts and decisions, I can’t deny that she grew on me a little bit.
✘ I still have a problem though : If I always liked Sasha and if Taylor’s behavior improved in the end, I still hate them together. I’m sorry, but I can’t help, they make me gag and they feel fake to me when they’re together.
Finally, I’m not sure that I will give the sequel a try, but if I do I hope that it will be more free of these annoying tropes that spoiled most of my read. Look, I know that tropes are useful, but really, the Mary Sue one? The insta-something one? They don’t add anything to a story in my opinion, and even worst, they waste it.
*arc kindly provided by Bookouture through Netgalley in exchange for an honest review*