Two-time Newbery Honor Award-winning author Laurence Yep kicks off an action-packed new fantasy trilogy
Sure to appeal to fans of Rick Riordan and Eoin Colfer, this action-packed tale takes readers on an unforgettable journey through an alternate version of our world in 1941—a world filled with magical beings such as dragons in human form, tiny “lap griffins,” reincarnations of legendary Chinese warriors, Japanese folk creatures, and goddesses in disguise.
When her older sister dies trying to prevent the theft of one of her people’s great treasures, twelve-year-old Scirye sets out to avenge her and recover the precious item. Helping her are Bayang, a dragon disguised as a Pinkerton agent; Leech, a boy with powers he has not yet discovered; and Leech’s loyal companion Koko, who has a secret of his own. All have a grudge against the thieves who stole the treasure: the evil dragon Badik and the mysterious Mr. Roland.
Scirye and her companions pursue the thieves to Houlani, a new Hawaiian island being created by magic. There, they befriend Pele, the volatile and mercurial goddess of volcanoes. But even with Pele on their side, they may not be able to stop Mr. Roland from gaining what he seeks: the Five Lost Treasures of Emperor Yu. Together, the treasures will give him the power to alter the very fabric of the universe.
It has been a very long time since I’ve read a young adult novel with this breadth of creativity and world-building. CITY OF FIRE gathers an unlikely band of confederates together and sends them whizzing out into an incredibly imagined world of adventure and wonder. From the broad political landscape to the delightful little details about daily life, I was enchanted through it all.
Reading CITY OF FIRE reminded me of the all the discovery of reading the first Harry Potter combined with the written equivalent of DINOTOPIA’s intricacy and delight. Yep lays out a fascinating magical and political structure for his world, all the while sprinkling the story with visual tidbits like a six-foot tall lizard pushing a broom in the background. The plot swept forward with an amazing amount of information without ever bogging down, due in part to the way Yep balances the lush depth of his scenery with fast paced action and dialog. While CITY OF FIRE was a fantastic entry into this world, I wouldn’t recommend skipping straight to later books in the series, if only because you would miss the way each member of Scirye’s motley group changes and comes together over the course of book one.
The characters in CITY OF FIRE are around twelve-years-old and are definitely pre-pubescent. Given that CITY OF FIRE takes place in the span of a day, I would imagine that we’re not going to watch Scirye and Leech grow up in any physical sense over the course of the trilogy, despite the emotional maturity they gain. Packed with adventure, admirable character growth and an inventive world, CITY OF FIRE will be a hit for readers at any age looking for adventure and wonder, but not a hint of romance.