5 / 5 stars
Read in January 2021
Book #1 in the Wickery series
This was such a great read to start off the year! The characters, the romance, the tropes, the twists and turns, the magic system… all of it was just so much fun!
Cast in Firelight is told in dual 1st-person POV between Adraa and Jatin, two royal heirs who have been engaged since their youth. However, they haven’t seen one another since they were children, so their impressions of each other haven’t changed since a certain unfortunate incident. They’ve developed a long-distance rivalry over the years, and therefore neither is looking forward to marrying. Unbeknownst to them, they’re brought together in a case of mistaken identities to investigate the criminal underbelly of the city. As they find themselves falling deeper in love, they become caught up in a dark plot that’s more complicated than they could have ever imagined. This external conflict meshes perfectly with the internal conflicts around Adraa’s and Jatin’s powers and duties, creating a compelling and high-stakes story. Their witty banter is endearing and funny without coming off as stilted, and the development of their romance is believable and so tension-filled that I couldn’t wait for them to finally be together!
While I can’t speak to the Indian/ South Asian inspiration fused into this book, I absolutely loved the complex, color-based magic system. It made the visuals for the world and even the battles extremely vivid and unique, while also adding an extra layer of awe to this already fantastical world. In addition, the usage of bright colors throughout the story made it feel more light-hearted than many YA fantasies of late. While the plot definitely had its dark moments, the romance combined with the rainbows of color throughout provided a much needed mood-boosting read during the difficult months of late.
Dana Swift packs a healthy number of plot elements into this book, and they are woven together so well that it was easy to keep them all in order. I found myself constantly wondering what would happen next! Not only did the rivals-to-lovers plus the arranged marriage plus the mistaken identities tropes make for a refreshing take, but this book also contained elements of vigilante/superhero justice, a complex system of gods and goddesses, family drama, underground cage fighting, a criminal drug ring, and a mystery factor surrounding the true villain. Lastly, this novel offers poignant commentary on equality and social justice, and it handles each of these aspects incredibly well.
With that said, I’m so excited for the second book! I hope it continues to play on the dynamic elements of book #1 while building on the well-established characters and world. Goodreads says this series will be a duology, but based on some of the comments it sounds like it might be a trilogy? Either way, I absolutely cannot wait!
Thank you to Random House Children’s/Delacorte Press and Dana Swift via Netgalley for providing me with an eARC in exchange for an honest review. All opinions expressed are my own.