Fire City by Bali Rai
Review by Jasper de Joode
Twenty-five years ago the world changed forever. A great war, which had raged for three years ended, and the reign of the Demons began… Within the crumbling walls of Fire City, fifteen-year-old Martha is a member of the resistance, a small band of humans fighting for freedom in a lawless and horrifying new world. Amidst the chaos of battle arrives Jonah, a handsome stranger with a thirst for revenge and a power to destroy the Demon rulers. As Martha and Jonah’s lives collide, the future of the resistance is altered forever. The battle for humankind will now begin. An epic story of catastrophe, survival and the power of humanity.
I got curious to Fire City by the short but interesting blurb. Dystopian themes are more and more used by authors and while some reads have proven to be interesting I recently picked up some books in which this theme was implemented but failed to deliver. I hoped that Fire City would turn the tide. And it did. Fire City is a good concept combining a well plotted world with great characters and even a deeper plot line that I thought was possible!
An aspect which I have seen coming back lately in dystopian themed books is using a first person narration with the main protagonist. I think this is a great way of portraying the story/idea of the book. Because this gives more feeling with the whole storyline and the characters. Bali Rai used this way to introduce Martha, the main protagonist of Fire City. With a short passage from her journal. There were already many pictures flying through my head on how I thought Fire City would look like. This feeling only got bolstered as I got more into Fire City.
The short history of Fire City is: After a great war initiated by the wealthy because the earthly supplied were running low they tried to suppress the poor, in this attempt demons were summoned. How exactly remains unanswered. After the demons were summoned all of humankind fought against the demons but after a while the wealthy humans started collaborating with the demons and constructed new government and assigned new rulers to cities, the demons are now the current rulers. The division in Fire City is as follows: there are two groups present in Fire City, “the wanted” also known as the collaborators support the demons and work for them. The other group are the “unwanted”, the unwanted are seen as cattle by the demons and are used during the “Hunt”, the unwanted are also there to do the dirty jobs for the wanted. Martha and her friends of the resistance are part of the unwanted and fight heavily against the oppression of the wanted and their demonic allies. As Martha and her allies are busy during a Hunt, Jonah appears out of the blue and this is where the story takes off… for better and for far worse…
One great aspect about Fire CIty is how everything fitted together. From each characters intentions, background and personality to the unexpected plot line. I mentioned that telling the story through Martha’s eyes created quite the scene for me. There is another excellent part about Fire City. Namely the demon-kin and their collaborators. The ruler of Fire City is Valefor, an important and powerful demon, but he uses the Mayor as his spokesperson and in turn the Mayor has his own people, Stone amongst others, to do some of the dirty work for him. I thought this would be it Valefor -> The Mayor -> Stone. But was I wrong. There is an introduction of another party somewhere along these three players. This introduction really pulled me into the story and made it much more interesting than that it already previously was. Even as the story progresses and you get to know both the prime evil present in Fire City and the “stranger”, it is still hard to put concrete thoughts on the real persuasion and motivation of the “stranger” into the plot line. I still do not know whether to trust him or that the “stranger” will betray them within a single hardbeat.
In the Resistance party, both Martha and Jonah made up large part of the storytelling. Martha is a great main protaganist, she is portrayed as a great female heroine, strong, determined and caring. Her past becomes clear as the story progresses but in the ending everything really falls into place. And with this I actually felt more for Martha then before, being betrayed and lied to. The other character one that had real fire was Jonah. From the first to the last introduction you get to know him as a bittered young man with a past and more important, a score, which he is determined to settle. I got the feeling that there was more to Jonah than which simply met the eye, a certain special feeling. But what Bali Rai has in mind was not something that I would have expected, a nice twist indeed. Although both Martha and Jonah made up an important part of the storyline there were other characters from the resistance that added in dialogue and through actions much to the liveliness of Fire City. All the characters carried a certain history with them, although not that deep, it was exactly enough.
One part of Fire City that I would have like to see explored more was the battle of Jonah vs. Valefor. I felt this part just a bit too short, since there was a large emphasis to building up to this final confrontation. There was a very nice and unique ending to this battle so I cannot complain too much. But a battle scene showing off both human and demonic fighting; claws, guns, teeth, swords and the occasional demonic power together with ending how it did would have done it for me. .
I found the ending just as strong as the beginning. Where Martha introduces Fire City, Jonah closes it with a personal monologue leaving me an aching feeling for more. I enjoyed every part of Fire City, the storytelling is strong, engaging and dark and gritty at some points. The part where Jonah, Mace and Tyrell went into the cellar in a town nearby Fire City just gave me the creeps. Fire City is how I like my teen/YA fantasy. It is just great stuff. I hope to see more of Bali Rai’s work in the future and with the alluring ending I do sincerely hope he is going for a sequel.
What did you think about Fire City?
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