Genre: Fantasy Age Range: YA Star Rating: 5 stars Series: yes - first of duology
Ash is descended from a long line of gladiators, and she knows the brutal nature of war firsthand. But after her mother dies in an arena, she vows to avenge her by overthrowing her fire god, whose temper has stripped her country of its resources.
Madoc grew up fighting on the streets to pay his family’s taxes. But he hides a dangerous secret: he doesn’t have the earth god’s powers like his opponents. His elemental gift is something else—something that hasn’t been seen in centuries.
When an attempted revenge plot goes dangerously wrong, Ash inadvertently throws the fire and earth gods into a conflict that can only be settled by deadly, lavish gladiator games. The fights put Madoc in Ash’s path, and she realizes that his powers are the weapon her rebellion needs—but Madoc won’t jeopardize his family, regardless of how intrigued he is by the beautiful warrior.
But when the gods force Madoc’s hand, he and Ash uncover an ancient war that will threaten more than one immortal—it will unravel the world.
Synopsis taken from Goodreads. Add to your shelves here.
If you’ve been following my blog for any amount of time, you’ll know that I absolutely adore Sara Raasch’s books (yes, yes, yes, I still need to get around to a re-read and review of the SNOW LIKE ASHES trilogy). So when her next project was announced as a co-written book about elemental gladiators, it immediately landed on my “have to read now” list.
SET FIRE TO THE GODS delivers on that premise in every way. Earth and Fire magic in an arena as gladiators battle it out for their gods, who are capricious, greedy, and very good at keeping secrets, set against a Greco-Roman world.
Let’s start with the magic. The book focuses on fire and earth, as that’s where the book is set. From shaking earthquakes and falling rocks to blazing infernos, it’s clear just how much fun the authors had when they designed the magic system. I’m really excited to see more of the other magic types, as they are only talked about in this book. Bring on the water magic!
The battles are very cinematic, and I was soooo pleased that they don’t go the “punch-them-to-the-death” way. Instead, the battles are won or lost in a variety of other ways (Madoc’s fight with Jann is so unsettling as you start to realise exactly what he can do). The finale blows all the fights out the water, and the costs in that fight set up a very alarming premise for the second book.
Then there are the gods, and how despicable they both are, for very different reasons. I loved watching the characters’ perceptions shift as they discovered more about their gods. In fact, there is a really satisfying mystery at the heart of this book, that starts with Ash trying to discover how to take down the fire god, and gets more intricate as she realises there might be a bigger conspiracy at hand. There are so many twists, and you can just hear the characters gulping as they learn more about what’s really happening.
Writing wise, the book alternates between Madoc and Ash, the two authors each writing a different character (Simmons Madoc, Raasch Ash), and it helps give the chapters a slightly different feel. It’s such a good use of two different authors to give the characters distinct voices.
Naturally, a male and female lead means some romance, but it was such a small part compared to the characters’ love for their families and how that drives their motivations. Ash loses her mother, which spurs her into rebellion, while Madoc is fighting to keep his found-family safe from the power, greedy crime boss in his area. This means that the thing that kick starts the final act is brilliantly awful. Thanks Sara and Kristen for that heartbreak!
I’ve never read any of Kristen Simmons’ other works, but I might track down some (hers are much harder to find in the UK) to fill the time until the second book in this duology.
Read my reviews of other books by Sara Raasch and Kristen Simmons:
Set Fire (this series):
By Sara Raasch: