Young-adult fantasy novels are a difficult market to enter. It’s an area inundated with thousands of news books published each year. Despite this, American author Candace Knoebel’s final instalment in her Born in Flames trilogy was one book high up on my 2014 wishlist. I couldn’t wait to see where the author’s creative imagination would take us as she leads her army into the battle foretold in her debut.
If you are new to Candace Knoebel’s world, then you won’t have read about Aurora’s struggles as she comes to terms of her origins and her ordeal at being deemed ‘The Progeny’. Aurora held within her a secret dragon form, capable of mastering the fire element to conquer the evil hoards of Zordon, a man she was bound to since birth. Zordon has worked his way up the ranks and hellbent on ruling both the magical realm and the human realm; introducing a newly formed world of hell under his control. Thankfully, we have followed Aurora and her gang of followers already in two books, watched her grow stronger and mature into the warrior she was born to become. From the Embers brings to a close the battle of all battles. Will Aurora become triumphant and free herself of Zordon’s tainted darkness, or will the realms crumble under the evil he controls?
What strikes you most I’ve found is how grown-up Aurora has become. She is eager to become her own woman and make her own way in this looming war. She desperately wants to make her own decisions, not succumb to her elders’ opinions. Of course, Aurora has no choice but to do what her gut tells her – not in a teenage rebellious streak, but truly for what she knows to be right. Aurora is no longer the naive and whiny young adult from Born in Flames, oh no. Aurora is a fighter, a strong spirit who is ready to fulfill her destiny and usher in an era of peace for the ones she loves.
One of the highlights for me in the second instalment, Embracing the Flames, was Knoebel’s transformation from urban fantasy to epic fantasy. She used a lot of mythical lore to create her own fantastical world, and successfully too. From the Embers follows that tradition superbly and brings to life Cyclopes’, Nymphs, Sirens and Necromancers. This is especially exhilarating in her battle sequences, where magic and spells and brute force clash in a deliciously satisfying explosion. All of these ancient and otherworldly beings help bring to life this magnificent outing, which really cements Candace Knoebel’s name in the fantasy hall of fame. She really knows her stuff and what works extremely well. When combined with healing priests and flame-throwing dragons, what is not to love? This is a fantasy lover’s bible.
Pace is a tricky thing to judge, especially in a final novel, where the author needs to wrap every loose end up, as well as put to rest any questions left unanswered. I mean, even from the early pages in Born in Flames, we knew an intense and final battle was on the cards, and drumming up the tension until its very occurrence can be difficult. From the Embers is Aurora’s final journey in rounding up any support she can to take into battle with her. And to be fair, the book does seem slow at times, especially in the beginning. You’re not quite sure where it is going to go. It is heavy on the dialogue in the first chapters, and the action doesn’t pick up until the final third. This doesn’t ruin the novel, certainly, and this is because we’ve already become accustomed to Knoebel’s storytelling in the first two novels.
It is through her superb understanding of characterisation that helps the novel move forward. There are a wide range of characters that can grab your attention. I have my favourites! I love the cold Lexi – her sarcastic responses are timeless and makes the scenes come alive. Everything isn’t as rosy as Aurora wants it to be.
I think it has to be said that Candace Knoebel understands her audience completely. It can appeal to both sexes, but undeniably its romantic ambiance and loved-up dialogue especially is there to hook its female readership. The love triangle between Aurora, Fenn and Zane comes to head here and it’s dramatic and addictive. Everyone’s mind should be on the demise of their world, but as we all know, love is never far away in people’s minds. Aurora really has a lot on her plate. Themes of honesty, truth and lust are just some that are pulled and exposed to their very limits.
It has been such an exhausting ride following Aurora on her hardships, but one that has been such a delight. Life is actually not fluffy and easy, yet despite the struggles, despite the death and pain, Aurora manages to capture your heart. From the Embers is a modern fairytale that has you smiling and gasping and shrieking with its many shocks and surprises. Once upon a time has never been so magical. As a fantasy writer myself, I can’t recommend this juicy series as a whole enough to get your teeth into. It may have captured your attention in Born in Flames, gave you goosebumps in the even better Embracing the Flames, but believe me, From the Embers comes to an end by knocking you off your feet.
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