Title: Tell The Wind And Fire
Author: Sarah Rees Brennan
Publisher: Dreamscape Media, LLC
Narrator: Lisa Larsen
Running Time: 9 hours, 52 minutes
Source: Hoopla/Public Library
Goodreads Summary: In a city divided between opulent luxury in the Light and fierce privations in the Dark, a determined young woman survives by guarding her secrets.
Lucie Manette was born in the Dark half of the city, but careful manipulations won her a home in the Light, celebrity status, and a rich, loving boyfriend. Now she just wants to keep her head down, but her boyfriend has a dark secret of his own—one involving an apparent stranger who is destitute and despised.
Lucie alone knows of the deadly connection the young men share, and even as the knowledge leads her to make a grave mistake, she can trust no one with the truth.
Blood and secrets alike spill out when revolution erupts. With both halves of the city burning, and mercy nowhere to be found, can Lucie save either boy—or herself?
Celebrated author Sarah Rees Brennan tells a magical tale of romance and revolution, love and loss.
“Tell the wind and fire where to stop, but don’t tell me.”
So. I started out really enjoying this book for the first fourth of the story and I was like, “Why does everyone dislike this so much?” Then I got to the second fourth of the book and I was like, “Oh…I see…” While this book was fun, it was really, really poorly written. That’s not to say I didn’t like anything about it, but…Yeah… Let’s start out with the positive, though.
The story tells of a world divided between the Light (or “good”–or so they say) magicians and the Dark (“evil”) magicians. Our protagonist tells of Lucie, who grew up in the Dark side of New York City, but was taken into the Light by the Strikers, a famous Light family, and who now is known as “The Golden Thread in the Dark.”
As someone who grew up in poverty then made a huge change when I entered one of the best universities in the world, I understood Lucie’s story of growing up in the Dark part of the city and moving to the Light side on a deeply personal level. I understood her confusion, her resentment, her strength. It’s a unique story that not many can understand and Brennan writes it well.
Surprisingly, I liked Lucie. As I mentioned before, I could understand her struggle. She’s someone who wants to do something, but is constantly held in check by her survival instinct. I can understand that, but it also made Lucie seem more passive. I think she’s got a fiery streak though, and we get a hint of it every once in a while. If developed more, I think Lucie could become a really dynamic character.
I loved Carwyn, but then again he is very reminiscent of Damon Salvatore (at least, TV show Damon), who is one of my favorite bad boys. That being said, I can also see how in that way, Carwyn’s not very original. So it goes both ways: if you really like bad boys, you’ll like Carwyn, but if you really hate the bad boy trope, you’ll hate Carwyn. I’m ambivalent towards the bad boy trope, so I liked him.
Ethan was “meh.” We only really hear about him and never really see him in action, so I couldn’t form much of an opinion on him.
The world, though explained to readers in a two chapter info dump, is interesting. The world is a kind of paranormal, fantasy dystopia, complete with Light and Dark magicians, doppelgangers, and a segregated society.
So. All these lovely things being said, Tell The Wind And Fire had some major issues in its writing.
While I liked the flickers of personality Lucie occasionally showed, overall she was quite a Mary Sue and a helpless heroine. She the special snowflake incarnate–so, so very special, but for no apparent reason whatsoever. She’s “The Golden Thread in the Dark.” What does that even mean? Who knows! It’s anyone’s guess, really!
But perhaps worse than being a Mary Sue is the fact that Lucie doesn’t really do much of anything (hence why I call her a helpless heroine). She has emotions, but there’s no follow through actions. She spends a good three quarters of the book knowing that Ethan is in danger and worrying about him, but doing absolutely nothing about it. I know. Frustrating. This inaction causes the plot to go absolutely nowhere, making the whole novel suffer as a result.
As for the other characters, the two boys are the embodiment of the “bad boy” trope and the “golden boy” trope and that’s about the extent of their personalities. Which sucks because given what happened to them, if they’d been given proper motive and backstory, I think they would have been really interesting.
The world building was done terribly, in a two chapter info dump. A prime case of telling rather than showing. This causes the entire foundation of the world, including its black and white moral system and class system, to be incredibly wobbly. This acts in tandem with the fact that none of the characters are given motives to leave you wondering, “Why???? What reason do you have for doing that?????”
The two major twists happened close together and honestly felt a little sloppy, like Brennan was thinking, “Oh no! Readers are going to get bored! Let’s hit ’em with the good ol’ one, two punch!” but then didn’t actually think it through. She also threw in a third party villain at the end, which also just felt like sloppy writing. “Surprise! New villain who we’ve never seen in person before and only heard one or two small anecdotes about!” I was not amused.
Let’s talk about the romance. It’s a pre-established romance, but the problem is we barely see any of Lucie and Ethan interacting, so their feelings of True Love seem shallow. When we went through three quarters of the book with no love triangle, I thought I could breathe easy. But nooooo. Brennan throws in a half hearted love triangle right at the end, just for kicks it seems. The only thing good about thee love triangle is that it did lend a bit more motive to one of the characters, who was otherwise a cardboard cutout YA hero.
Then there was that gosh darn ending. Open ended. And yet there doesn’t seem to be plans for a sequel!
So now that you’ve made it all the way through my split review, you’re probably wondering what my final verdict is. Overall, I enjoyed Tell The Wind And Fire and thought it was fun, though derivative, but I think that enjoyment was more due to my mood than the book being really, really good. So unfortunately I don’t think I can give it more than a 2.5/5 stars because it just had so many writing issues. Was it fun? Yes. Was it a spectacular work of writing? Unfortunately not.
This is one of the rare cases where (from what I’ve gathered from reviewers reading the physical book) I think the material was actually more suited to audio than text. With voice, the long passages of world buiding seemed to move quicker and blend into the story easier. Lisa Larsen did a decent job with what she was given. Her pacing was very nice and brisk. She didn’t have too much of a range of voices for different characters, just a “male” voice (which was done well) and a “female” voice. She put a sliight amount of emotion into her reading, but not too much. So overall it was okay. Still, I would recommend the audiobook over the physical book.