We Are the Fire

Swoon Reads/Feiwel & Friends/. Feb. 2021. 416p. Tr $18.99. ISBN 9781250241429.
Gr 9 Up–Like the other recruits at the fort, brown-skinned Pran and white-skinned Oksana were stolen from their families as children and trained as soldiers to protect the Vesimaan Empire. All the recruits are given a serum that gives them the power of fire as part of their military training. This serum has caused Pran much physical pain. During his seven years at the fort, he has been aided by Oksana, and the two have fallen in love. Pran plans a rebellion to defeat the Commanders as he wants to help the recruits escape the cruelty forced upon them. Oksana wants the freedom to return home, but finds herself at the mercy of Rootare, the imperial alchemist whose serums give him immense power. This fantasy world is so gritty and dark that for much of the story, there is little hope of a better life for the young trainees. The violence may be disturbing to some readers, and the unremarkable writing and weak characterization do little to make up for the darkness. It is difficult to empathize with Pran when he finds himself with the disquieting choice of killing a traitor to his cause or letting the youngster be tortured at the hands of a Commander.
VERDICT Pass on this for more appealing books in this genre like Sabaa Tahir’s “An Ember in the Ashes” series.

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