Book Review: The Book of Fires + Giveaway

The Book of Fires

Jane Borodale

Pamela Dorman Books (Viking)

356 pages

I used to be a big historical fiction fan.  I gobbled it up.  But then it got so repetative.  I began feeling as if every historical fiction novel was the same. So recently I had only been reading historical fiction with a twist.  It had to have a little something different about it in order for me to even give it a chance.  Which is why I selected The Book of Fires in the first place.

The Book of Fires is the story of Agnes, a teenage girl who is raped during the mid eighteenth century in a small, provincial town in England.  As the result of Agnes’ rape, she becomes pregnant.  Lost as to what to do, she decides to flee the family home in order to save her family from the shame that would come along with having a child out of wedlock.  The plan doesn’t come to full fruition until Agnes discovers her neighbor dead–and a jar of coins suddenly left with no owner.  The stolen coins allow Agnes to make a new life for herself in England, although the guilt of the stolen coins, coupled with that of the pregnancy, cause Agnes to wallow in self doubt.

Once she has arrived in England, Agnes finds work with Mr John Blacklock, who makes pyrotechnics for a living.  Agnes becomes his apprentice and begins learning how to build fireworks.  Whereby, she is also is waiting for her pregnancy to be discovered, at which point she is convinced she will be out in the street.

I found portions of this book to be extremely predictable.  Agnes had an alarming naivety which was apparent in a lot of situations.  For instance, on the ride to London she meets a woman named Lettice who offers to help her out once they reach their destination.  Lettice is very obviously a prostitute–that fact is apparent within paragraphs of her introduction.  Agnes though does not realize this fact until the end of the book.  Likewise, I found Agnes’ little escapade with Cornelius Soul to be a little too transparent too.  It got to the point where I wanted to shake her until she was made aware of her errors.  I had to keep reminding myself that Agnes was only a teenager, and in an extremely difficult position at that.  Just the same, it got old after awhile.

The portions regarding the construction of fireworks and Agnes’ work in the lab with John Blacklock were intriguing.  It was the type of thing I look for in fiction–a detail or an angle that isn’t commonly explored in popular fiction.  Although chemistry is not a subject I would generally be interested in, Borodale made it interesting and readable.  It was just the change of scenery I need to make The Book of Fires different from any other historical fiction book out there.

If you’re looking for something a little different, The Book of Fires is a great choice.  And lucky for you guys, I have two copies to give away.  Rules for entering are simple–the competition is open to mailing addresses in the US and Canada only and all you have to do is comment on this post.  Contest is open until this Sunday, January 31 at 9am EST!  Winners will be announced in my Sunday Salon this Sunday.

Other Reviews:

Hey Lady! Watcha Readin’?

Tanzanite’s Shelf and Stuff

I received this book from the publisher for review.

10 Responses

  1. Historical fiction with some science thrown in for good measure? Sounds right up my alley – count me in! Thanks for the giveaway!

  2. I have to admit I’m not a historical fiction fan at all…

  3. I have seen a few of these reviews around and they seem to be mostly good. I would love to check it out at some point.

  4. I love historical fiction. Please enter me.
    amandarwest at gmaildotcom

  5. I’m on a big historical fiction kick, so I’d love to win!

  6. This sounds good – please enter me.

  7. I don’t read much historical fiction but I thought this book sounded interesting. I enjoyed your review, too.

    Thank you for offering this book in a giveaway.

    Aimala127 AT gmail DOT com

  8. I’d read somewhere else that Agnes naivety was a bit of a drawback; but it does sound like the fireworks part makes this worth reading. Sounds very interesting.


  9. […] 8. The Book of Fires, Jane Borodale […]

  10. […] – The Book of Fires by Jane Borodale (Stephanie’s fault) […]

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