Book Review : A Promise of Fire

Book Review : A Promise of FireA Promise of Fire (Kingmaker Chronicles, #1) by Amanda Bouchet
Published by Sourcebooks Casablanca on August 2nd 2016
Genres: Fantasy & Magic, Love & Romance
Pages: 441
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Catalia "Cat" Fisa lives disguised as a soothsayer in a traveling circus. She is perfectly content avoiding the danger and destiny the Gods-and her homicidal mother-have saddled her with. That is, until Griffin, an ambitious warlord from the magic-deprived south, fixes her with his steely gaze and upsets her illusion of safety forever.
Griffin knows Cat is the Kingmaker, the woman who divines the truth through lies. He wants her as a powerful weapon for his newly conquered realm-until he realizes he wants her for much more than her magic. Cat fights him at every turn, but Griffin's fairness, loyalty, and smoldering advances make him increasingly hard to resist and leave her wondering if life really does have to be short, and lived alone.

I was pleasantly surprised by A Promise of Fire. There’s a lot to like in this romance fantasy novel–a strong heroine named Cat with powerful and unique magical abilities, Greek Gods, interesting world-building, and a mostly likable romance. I found A Promise of Fire to be one of the best fantasy romance novels I have read yet, despite its somewhat lacking character development and unbelievable magic at times and predictability at others, and even purchased the rest of the trilogy because of how fun of a read it was. Frankly, A Promise of Fire is a great quarantine escapist read.


What I really like most about A Promise of Fire is its unique setting. It takes place in a fantasy world called Thalyria, but it’s home to familiar gods–the Greek pantheon. This is the first time I have ever read a novel that combined fantasy with recognizable religion and I think the author does a good job of pulling this interesting amalgamation off. Although I am fairly rusty on my Greek mythology so I can’t speak to how accurate it really is. But I certainly enjoyed details like the travelling characters having to maneuver around cracks in the land caused by Zeus’s lightning bolts. I also thought it was great that the author balanced the Greek Gods with her own almost god-like original characters who ruled the land with their own terrifying powers. 


“The mark of Zeus stretches as far as the eye can see in both directions, a charred scar cutting across dust, stones, and yellowed grass, proof that the Gods are never far from Thalyria.”

Main character Cat has perhaps the most interesting mixture of powers I have ever read about in a book. Not only can she turn invisible, but she can tell when someone is lying (think Safi in Susan Dennard’s Truthwitch), something that gives her the designation of Kingmaker,  and she can also steal and absorb the magic of others. I felt like this combination of powers was kind of weird, unbelievable, and over the top, with one of these powers alone being more than enough. It requires a certain suspension of disbelief that Cat’s absorption of magic makes her able to take a dragon’s power and breathe fire, but I guess in a world of Greek Gods, anything is possible when a character has the favor of these gods and their oracles.  And let’s be honest, we don’t always read these types of books for believability, we read them for the fantasy and the fun. I think I’m just so used to reading the works of Brandon Sanderson, who masterfully explains all of his magical systems and powers in such great detail that I feel his worlds and magic systems are completely realistic and plausible, that it gives me pause when other authors don’t do this. 


“The woman who divines the truth through falsehood? The most coveted diplomatic weapon in the realms? The Kingmaker?”


But it wasn’t Cat’s strange and completely overpowered mixture of  powers that I liked the most about her–it was her sassiness and stubbornness. Though kidnapped for her powers by the male lead, Griffin, she gives him and his companions hell every step of the way. I like that she isn’t helpless without her magical powers either, she’s an expert knife-thrower, and is intelligent and resourceful. She also puts her friends’ safety first no matter what. I did find it somewhat hard to believe that someone as strong-willed as Cat fell for her kidnapper, but no one is perfect.


And her love interest, Griffin, as well as their developing romance, is anything but perfect. The novel does not do an amazing job at the kidnapper turned true love trope, with it mainly being insta-lust, but it takes long enough for anything serious to happen that it’s still enjoyable. I still think Cat has been through too much trauma to ever fall in love with anyone so quickly, let alone her kidnapper, who literally bound her to him with a magic rope–but that’s basically the point of a romance novel–falling in love–so I feel that I can’t fault A Promise of Fire too much for serving its purpose. Though I did honestly wish the novel had taken more time developing the characters outside of their romantic relationship and focusing more on the interesting world-building, which is probably a sign that the romance is not the strongest or the best part of the novel, a bad thing in a book focused on it.


“‘I’m not your enemy, Cat.’ I scramble back as far as the rope will let me. 

‘Everyone is my enemy.’”


What made it lacking for me the most, other than the whole lifelong trauma angle for Cat, was that Griffin does not have much development as a character standing on his own two feet and what he does is fairly predictable. He does not really exist outside of Cat, except as the perfect brother, son, and warlord-who-is-not-like-other-warlords and has noble ambitions to change the world for the better–something with which Cat can just so happen to help him. Despite being boringly perfect, he’s attractive, the right amount of possessive of Cat, and fits the romance mold, so I can forgive him for being so bland. His family, on the other hand, is too perfect for my liking. They all welcome Cat with open arms, and are everything she never grew up with. They’re basically The Brady Brunch of rulers and Cat puts aside all of her trust issues to settle into her new home with far too little issues for my liking. Griffin’s family is also extremely dismissive of the problematic nature of Cat’s arrival into their home:


“‘He abducted me. He threatened my friends. He kept me tied to him with a magic rope. I couldn’t even pee by myself. He’s awful.’

‘You’ll get over it….See you at dinner.’’’


But the biggest issue for me by far in A Promise of Fire was that in Cat’s new home, she finds a very contrived new enemy in Griffin’s wildly jealous ex-lover, Daphne. Daphne is not only extremely petty but murderous and the pun intended, cat-fights that ensue felt so silly, pointless, and incongruous to all the Greek God, fire-breathing, Kingmaking stuff. I really don’t feel that two women, one of which seems to have no redeeming qualities, fighting over a man in such a shallow, middle-school-esque way is something that fits in any fantasy novel, let alone this one. I really wondered at the fact that the author could not come up with a better conflict in a world so filled with Gods and magic.


Despite the novelty of Greek gods in a fantasy world, parts of the novel are extremely predictable. These include book are not limited to the hints to Cat’s true identity [spoilers] she’s obviously the lost princess of Fisa[/spoiler], and the often seen trope of blood burning, and the kidnappers to lovers trope, None of these tropes are very subtle at all and I can’t imagine a single reader not figuring out who Cat really is. Sometimes this predictability is part of the fun of novels, and I think that is the case in A Promise of Fire. However, it does kind of ruin the impact of the reveal and I wonder how epic it would have been if the author had laid her bread-crumbs a little more sparsely.


Even though A Promise of Fire is not perfect, with its predictability and sometimes weak character development, I really enjoyed reading it. It’s a great escapist novel, with a female character who is not afraid to speak her mind, and Greek Gods meddling in the affairs of humans. I would recommend this to anyone looking for a light, fun read with romance and fantasy mixed in.

Book Review ; A Promise of Fire - Blogging with Dragons

Posted May 1, 2020 in Book Reviews, Fantasy, Romance

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