This debut is eerie and intense, steamy and mysterious. From page one, Wildefire flies into action, sucking readers up in a vortex of legend and imagination. Karsten Knight draws together strands from a smorgasbord of different mythologies, spicing things up with a few invented creatures of his own. These are not run-of-the-mill supernaturals, and their variety and scale give the novel an epic feel. The forces at play are as deadly as they are majestic -- shown in stark detail through flashbacks and visions. This tale is dark and dangerous, in a delicious, edge-of-your-seat kind of way. From the first explosive page to the final astonishing revelation, just when readers think they know where this story is taking them, Wildefire yanks them away in another startling direction.
The high-octane energy is due in large part to Ash. Ashline Wilde is hardcore and sarcastic -- and maybe more than a little angry. Her larger-than-life personality and razor sharp repartee jump off the page and grab readers by the throat. Though she's got the typical teen drama -- cheating boyfriends and ill-timed detentions -- her family dysfunction really steals the show. When her motorcycle-riding, hell-raising, runaway sister blows through town, she stirs up more than just trouble. Ash and Eve take sibling rivalry to a whole new level, and their struggle fuels the emotional core of the novel. Though it's easy to villainize Eve, Knight takes care to show the ties that bind the two sisters -- making their choices less black and white, and Ashline's struggle more wrenching.
Unlike so many heroines, Ashline has more than a studly boyfriend on her side (though she has one of those too). The group of friends she gathers at Blackwood is diverse and dynamic -- from aloof but alluring Raja, spooky and ethereal Serena, roguish but romantic Rolfe, to nerdy but loyal Jackie. Though they may initially seem like stereotypes, the ragtag gang will steadily grow on readers as they face their demons (both real and psychological). The characters feel so alive, like real teens -- even though they're so much more.
Knight's style is effortless and unobtrusive, painting vivid scenes without getting in the way of his story. The novel's irreverent wit and brisk pace never give readers a moment's boredom, carrying them along on the smooth surface of its prose -- which stands in sharp contrast to the cosmic consequences hanging in the balance. Wildefire will draw readers in with its otherworldly opening, pull them along through midnight monsters and would-be mercenaries, straight into surreal psychics and smoldering romance -- and leave them begging for more.
Disclosure: I received an advance galley of this novel from the publisher for an honest review.
This novel hit shelves Tuesday! Click here to purchase Wildefire by Karsten Knight.
Part of the 2011 Debut Author Challenge.