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Before She Ignites by Jodi Meadows

BOTTOM LINE: Different and fun. Plus DRAGONS!


Genre: Young Adult; Fantasy
Publication Date: 12 September 2017
Source: Publisher via Edelweiss

Synopsis from the Publisher:

“Mira has always been a symbol of hope for the Fallen Isles, perfect and beautiful—or at least that’s how she’s forced to appear. But when she uncovers a dangerous secret, Mira is betrayed by those closest to her and sentenced to the deadliest prison in the Fallen Isles.

Except Mira is over being a pawn. Fighting to survive against outer threats and inner demons of mental illness, Mira must find her inner fire and the scorching truth about her own endangered magic—before her very world collapses.

And that’s all before she ignites.”

My Thoughts: Sometimes, the synopses publishers put out there for books crack me up. That last line for Before She Ignites has me inwardly going “dun dun DUN!” especially because I know when she ignites and that the story is much better when you don’t know it is coming.

All joking aside, Before She Ignites is quite fun. There are dragons (yay!) and heroines with serious anxiety issues, scenes of torture, and scenes of heroism. There are politics at play (isn’t there always?) and the idea of resisting the powers that be when you believe they are wrong. It is about finding your inner strength and using it to determine your actions.

Mira is not your ordinary heroine. Sure, she is unspeakably beautiful, the ideal for the entirety of the Fallen Isles. Yes, she lives a life of privilege, surrounded by luxury and unimaginable wealth, and afforded recreational activities the lesser people of her world will never be able to experience. For all of those regular trappings though, she remains different in one aspect – she suffers from crippling anxiety. It is so bad she regularly faints because of hyperventilating during an attack, and those attacks are almost once a day.

This irregularity in character traits for our heroine saves her from being just another privileged princess for whom the world is handed to her on a platter. It humbles her in a way that makes her more tolerable and lessens the impact of her vanity. After all, she may be the most beautiful person in the world but being unable to make a decision with hyperventilating does not seem worth the price of that beauty. She is a weak heroine, but best of all is that she knows she is weak. There are no delusions of grandeur or professions of bravery. She knows she will succumb to the mildest verbal taunts and does so, no matter how much self-disgust her behavior rouses.

A fair warning – Before She Ignites is dark. A good portion of the story occurs in the dungeon, where torture, starvation, and vicious deprivations are the norm. Ms. Meadows does not shy away from showing any of it and subjects her characters to scenarios that may make some readers uncomfortable. To me, these scenes serve several purposes. One is to show the impetus for Mira’s transformation. The other is to show the lengths people will go to maintain the power structure and their own financial and political gains. By openly describing the brutality Mira and her fellow prisoners face, Ms. Meadows does more to build the world of the Fallen Isles than any other descriptive passages she could have added.

Before She Ignites is against a lot of competition this fall among YA new releases. Thankfully, it holds its own with its unusual version of a heroine and the darkness of the story. The dragons are just a welcome added bonus.

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