Fire (The Ninth Circle)

Fire - C. A. Harland

[I received a copy of this book through NetGalley.]

I had trouble at first to get into this book (I don’t know why, the first paragraphs felt strange?), however the feeling vanished after a while, once I got used to the narrative style.

The narrative is indeed somewhat specific, in that the chapters seem to me like they mirror episodes from a TV series, with the search for Hartley being the ‘season arc’, and the chapters often revolving around ‘side quests’. This turned out to be both interesting and a weakness. Interesting, because it’s a format I don’t see that often in books; a weakness, because it forced the chapters into a pattern that works on screen, but not so well on books (especially since here, most of the time it was about the sisters finding clues and rushing into a trap). So we had both an overabundance of side plots, but at the same time these plots were discarded after their ‘episode’, and in turn the main narrative was the only real one in the book.

Now, I kind of liked the world building in this story. It’s not the most original ever (there are demons and fae, and humans who train to fight and destroy them and have their own community… we’ve seen that in several series), but the way the nine ‘circles of Hell’ were also involved in the mundane world as nine circles of criminality (prostitution, gambling, money laundering, etc.), and let’s not forget Hell’s Archive and its government, was a good idea. This organisation, this world both parallel to and intertwined with the human world, organised in something understandable, lent more weight, too, to the argument the characters have at some point with the enemy, that is, ‘you kill us demons, but contrary to humans, -we- aren’t given free will, so who’s the most at fault here?’ (So yeah, demons kill and abduct humans and all that, and have to be stopped. Still, that guy had a point.)

I also enjoyed the relationship between the sisters. Tala first appeared as annoying, but redeems this aspect thanks to her strong loyalty to her family. Same with Aiva, who at first looked like she had taken the easy way out for no reason, but turned out to have one (or at least, a trauma explaining her decision), and then focused back on her family when it became really important.

Last but not least, while there were a couple of potential love interests throughout the book, the story remained focused on family relationships (including Owen), and I was glad it didn’t devolve into the typical ‘urban fantasy that is in fact an excuse for some shoddy paranormal romance’ (UF and PNR are two different genres for me, you can tell which one I favour…).

I do regret not seeing more about their relationship with Hartley. All we know about the younger sister is that she’s a paranormal investigator and has a gambling problem, but since she was never seen interacting with her sisters before she vanished, it was difficult for me to really care about her, about what motivated her search, and more importantly, to understand her decisions and her exact plan. It also raises the question of what exactly will happen after that: so there was that huge plan in motion for years, and… Now what? What will the sisters do with their inheritance after that?

Another problem were the action/fight scenes (and there were quite a few), which I found a little too ‘descriptive’, and as such didn’t have enough impact. I didn’t have trouble to imagine them, but I didn’t feel the tension, the adrenaline, so to speak. The writing in general was okay-ish, and didn’t thrill me.

Conclusion: 2.5 stars. It’s not the most original story or world ever, and the writing has just as many good as bad points. I may still be interested in checking out the next book, though, if only to see what the consequences to this series of events will be.