Review: Strange Fires by Tommy Wallach

Strange Fire is OUT NOW!

This past week has been a whirlwind of reading for me! I think I’ve finished two books in one week, which is the first time that that has happened in a while! And it was all thanks to Strange Fire by Tommy Wallach. Man oh man, I really had no problem getting into this story. Believe me when I say that the only slow part of this book was maybe the first chapter or so. After that the pace was exceedingly fast, and that made it so hard to put the book down. I had to finish giant sections of the book just to focus on anything else.

They said that the first generation of man was brought low by its appetites: for knowledge, for wealth, for power. They said mankind’s voracity was so great, the Lord sent his own Daughter to bring fire and devastation to the world.

  • Tommy Wallach, Strange Fire

So, while Strange Fire doesn’t immediately seem like a post-apocalyptic novel, that’s exactly what it is. It’s just further ahead than most stories are set. After the first generation of man has been wiped away, the second forms the Descendancy, which is a religious organization. The Honours of the Church can be traveling preachers, which is where we first meet our protags. Clive – the older brother, seemingly perfect and bound to be an Honour himself. Clover – the younger brother, sometimes jealous of Clive (those occasions seems to be becoming more frequent), a student and part of the Library. And Gemma – bound to be married to Clive, a part of the traveling ministry, and a great fiddler. Everything’s going fine until the arrive in Amestown, and they stumble upon something they shouldn’t have.

Overall, I think that this book was really really excellent. I was trying to think of a downside to this book, but I found it really hard to think of one. At first I thought about how I could say that some of the characters weren’t as well developed as others. But I realized that that wasn’t at all true. Gemma, although she does start off as a flat character, really grows into herself, mainly with the help of Irene. She shows incredible compassion, and is also proven time and time again to be an incredibly hard worker. I think perhaps the best tool that Wallach used to build these characters was the Interludes (arguably some of my favourite parts of the book). The first and second ones were so incredible, and I think they really shed some light on lesser known characters.

“Roots could drill through solid granite. Sap fliwer oceanic behind the bark. Vines spun blind, inexorable cirles in search of prey, which was then wrapped boa-constrictor tight. Plants were like a brilliant mind, in a way: calm on the surface, tempestuous underneath”

  • Strange Fire, Tommy Wallach

A character that surprised me a lot was Clive – I honestly didn’t think I would like him so much. While at times he really was annoying, there were small parts of the book that made me love him. Like when he and Clover were back in their house and he made bread to help make it feel more home-y. I don’t want to get too spoiler-y but he also got a lot smarter – learning to spot deceit and also to be a bigger man. He grows up a lot in the book, which isn’t really something we see with Clover, and I hope that the next book shows us that!

I think that a couple things were inaccurate though. For example, the ending of part one has everyone seeming to be very stable emotionally, which (given the circumstances) I think is way off base. I know that their journey to Anchor took months, but still, those things, feelings, and trauma would definitely still be with you, and I think they could’ve been showcased a little more. And the scene with the library and the blackberries was just kind of weird – who would do that and why wouldn’t they just trim the hedges??? (That’s really the question I have – who is the Library’s gardener?!). I do think that the book handled the religion vs. facts/science discussion very well. As someone who was raised Catholic and is also studying science it’s kind of a weird thing to reconcile. Clover, who mainly deals with this issue, presents a fascinating case for what I suppose most people do – compartmentalize. It’s easier to not think about it than to try to reconcile your life-long faith with what seems to be facts. It’ll be interesting (again) to see how Clover’s relationship with faith and religiousness evolves in the next book, because I feel like a lot of his ideals are going to be challenged. 

The plot was really fast moving, but still showed us little pictures of the character’s lives. And while at first I was a little taken aback by how religious it was, it makes so much sense if you just keep reading. It was also really cool to have what seems to be a religion based off of Christianity on one side, and then a religion based almost off of Greek mythology (if names are anything to go by). Athene and the Wesah were probably some of the best parts of the book, and I hope that those characters get expanded on in the next novel!

“It only takes a spark”

Once again I’m so so thankful to Simon & Schuster Canada for the ARC of this book – it really means the world to me! I look forward to reviewing more of your books in the future and if you or anyone you know wants me to review their book please send them my way!

Thats all for now friends! I’m going to be swallowed by midterms soon but hopefully I can stockpile some posts for then. But for now, I hope you have a lovely week!

  • Mon

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