Released: September 10th 2015
My Rating: 3.5 stars out of 5
Find it on Goodreads
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? (from Goodreads)
While I enjoyed The Secret Fire as a whole, and finished it pretty much in one sitting, I had a few problems with it. Some parts just seemed a bit underdeveloped, or lacking in research, to me - but all in all, it was a very readable and engrossing book.
It took me a while to warm up to Taylor. She was currently at school doing her A-levels, and was a perfect model student, and it was a little bit too much at times. She was sort of overbearing with her perfect student persona, to the point where the lengths she’d go to for a good grade were just unrealistic. It was also here that you could tell there was a lack of research. I won’t go into too much detail since this really is a minor problem, but basically, it was implied that extra-curricular activities such as the online tutoring Taylor had agreed to were something you could be graded on and something that would count towards your final A-level grade. This isn’t true, and no teacher would be able to dock marks just because Taylor didn’t fancy volunteering for something completely unrelated to her exams or coursework. I understand that the schooling system is more like this in the US and that participation in things counts for marks, but in England, nope. The only things (for A-levels) you are ever marked on are exams and coursework. Nothing else counts. Furthermore, Taylor was also writing essays for another student, which I found very unbelievable of someone as studious as Taylor, who valued her education so much. If those essays were actual graded essays (e.g. coursework essays), Taylor’s actions would be cheating, and it would be grounds for disqualification across all exam boards. I don’t think someone like Taylor would ever risk that, even for a really good friend.
Taylor did grow on me though. Once she and Sacha started talking and she realised something really strange was going on, I started to like her more. She began to understand that her life was in danger, and suddenly, stuff like getting into Oxford and achieving perfect grades didn’t seem to matter so much anymore. She wanted to help Sacha, and help herself, and was willing to break the rules (something she would never previously consider) to do so.
I mostly preferred Sacha’s chapters, though I wish we could have seen more of the French setting! I did really enjoy what was explored though. Sacha started off a bit rude towards Taylor, which didn’t endear him to me, but I guess I could understand, since he was going to drop dead in a few weeks and probably didn’t care much about manners. I did find it sort of funny that the only reason he even started to pay attention to Taylor was because of a message her friend sent him, pretending to be her, but I did enjoy seeing them get to know each other. I also enjoyed seeing the scams Sacha was pulling using his ability (of not being able to die) - it was risky business but I got what drove him to it. The romance was cutesy, but happened a bit too fast for my liking. I was already rolling my eyes at Taylor’s proclamation that Paris had “changed her” (in one day) and Sacha’s dedication to Taylor after knowing her a short while, but it could have been worse. There were no cheesy declarations of “I’d die for you, my love!”, which I greatly appreciated, so I was happy for the most part.
In terms of the more minor characters, I was very intrigued by Taylor’s grandfather and what he was up to. He knew a lot more than he was willing to share and I wondered what his true intentions were. We did find out a little in this book, but I have a feeling more will be explored later, which I’m looking forward to. I also really liked Louisa! She helped Taylor a little later on in the book with a certain problem of hers, and she was definitely one of my favourite characters. I would love to know more about her; she seemed to have an interesting backstory, so I really hope we get to see more of her in book two and delve into her past!
Plot-wise, it took a while for things to pick up, but I was engrossed for the most part. I predicted certain things (e.g. Taylor’s connection to Sacha) but I was very interested to see how it might be possible to keep Sacha alive past his eighteenth birthday. I do want to find out what happens next (I was really happy this book didn’t end in a cliffhanger, because waiting for sequels is always agony) and so I’ll probably pick up book two. The alchemy parts were really interesting and I also enjoyed the training scenes in this book, and hope to see some more of those in the sequel! As well as more of Paris, or any other parts of France.
Overall, I didn’t love The Secret Fire, but it was a decent start to a new series, and I think will appeal to a lot of younger teens, or to people who love the starcrossed lovers thing!