FIRE KISSED (Shadow #4) by Erin Kellison
Mass Market Paperback, 352 pages
Published July 3rd 2012 by Zebra
Genre: urban fantasy
Rating: 5 stars
Angels (otherworldly beings placed on Earth by The Order to guard and preserve the humankind) and Mages (soulless creatures endowed with magical powers) are arch enemies. The Angels began hunting down the Mages when they realized that some of the Mage Houses were feeding on angels to enhance their powers and were planning to take over the world with the aid of soul-eater monsters called Wraiths. The Brands and the Greys are mage families . The arranged marriage between the fifteen years old Kaye Brand and the much older Ferro Grey will seal the alliance between these two families during a time of internal struggles between Houses. When Kaye finds out that an angel, tortured and held captive in the cellar of her house, is being offered by her father to her soon-to-be husband as a wedding gift , she braves up and refuses to marry Ferro. Infuriated by her rejection, the Greys unleash a wraith against her: Kaye will defend herself from the vicious attack using her Fire Shadow , the ability to create and manipulate fire. With the aid of the Angels she will also manage to survive the fire that, fatefully caused by her pyrokinetic power, destroys her family and her home.
Ten years later, Kaye is an independent beautiful woman with few scars left on her face as a reminder of that horrible night. She sustains herself selling her ability to call fire and see the future in the flames. Alarmed by the escalating wraith attacks against humans, the same angel who rescued her (Jack Bastian) contacts her with a proposal: counting on her desire of revenge and mercenary spirit, the Order would infiltrate Kaye among her kind in order to expose the Mages’s schemes and put an end to their ambitions.
Fire Kissed, installment #4 in the Shadow series, is a compelling, tightly-plotted urban fantasy with significant references to the folkloristic mythology. With its intensity and rich content, it completely engaged me, from the prologue through each and every breath-taking, action packed chapter. But it also left me initially overwhelmed and blindsided because of my limited knowledge of Mages Council vs. Angels Order, Shadow magic/Twilight set up and world building. Fire Kissed can be enjoyed as a stand-alone, but I would highly recommend to do some introductory reading: Erin Kellison’s previous books in the Shadow series will certainly help you understand the highly imaginative storyline and some of the secondary characters’s backstories.
I found Kaye’s character particularly likable despite the apparent ruthlessness and gritty personality. I am normally not a huge fan of over-confident, spunky heroines with a snappy tongue and a know-it-all attitude, but her traumatic past and her background of loss and grief made her more vulnerable than she would ever admit to herself and for this reason more endearing and interesting. Left alone to fend for herself since she was a teen, she is a resourceful survivor, constantly on her guard, but her independent lifestyle comes with a price. She’s emotionally drained and physically exhausted: she desperately needs to lean on a strong and protective shoulder, she needs a guardian angel, and love. I admire this complex heroine, the way she faces dangers and personal demons head-on, taking huge risks despite the fear that shakes her physically and emotionally. Her methods and the compromises she is willing to make may be questionable, but her motivations are absolutely honorable. Jack Bastian believes her to be simply a spoiled, unreliable woman, mercenary enough to betray her own kind for the right sum of money. Like Jack, some readers may find it difficult to like this character right away and won’t initially understand how lonely, vulnerable, generous and protective she really is underneath her reckless appearance. Her behavior poses a challenge even to a romantic involvement with Jack. Neither it seems to me that the author wants to use their love story as main focus of the narration, like it would happen in a conventional paranormal romance novel. In the first half of the book, the chemistry between Kaye and Jack is barely discernible, but I don’t see that as a flaw in the narration, despite my personal taste for a heavier dose of romance. The author focuses instead on providing a solid ground for the escalation of events that will lead the readers through unpredictable twist-and-turns and amazing revelations.
Halfway into the book I finally began to feel absolutely comfortable with the storyline and the world structure: the main characters are fully nuanced, the dynamics between them are more clear and my interest grows when the romantic interest and emotional connection between Jack and Kaye (lacking in the first part of the novel) grows too, initially as a protective instinct, regret for involving her in a dangerous mission, finally as mutual attraction and palpable sexual tension. When Jack and Kaye finally let their guards down, I felt like the author was suddenly shifting gear and increasing speed from zero to one hundred miles per hour without wasting ink on building romantic tension: no matter how abruptly the emotional pace changes, it is quite gratifying all the same. This is also the point in the narration where the charming and ambiguous character of Ferro Grey steps up to the plate, shaking things up (literally and figuratively) with his evil ambitions and love interest for Kaye.
I found this novel riveting, full of content, highly imaginative, well-plotted, with a good characterization, and a wealth of interesting secondary cast. I really appreciate Erin Kellison’s ability to make Kaye shine through her flaws as a unique, trustworthy, selfless heroine, just like the fire element that she controls, beautiful and dangerous at the same time. Hard to put down , Fire Kissed kept me on the edge of my seat till the last page. Because of the heroine's spunky personality and visual impact of the narration, it would work beautifully as an illustrated graphic novel.