Title: Worldwalker Trilogy #1: Trial by Fire
Author: Josephine Angelini
No. of Pages: 384
Genre: Young Adult; Fantasy
Origins: Macmillan Children’s Publishing Group
Release Date: 2 September 2014
Bottom Line: This is a must-read for any YA/fantasy fans.
“This world is trying to kill Lily Proctor. Her life-threatening allergies keep her from enjoying experiences that others in her hometown of Salem take for granted, which is why she is determined to enjoy her first high school party with her best friend and longtime crush, Tristan. But after a humiliating incident in front of half her graduating class, Lily wishes she could just disappear. Suddenly, Lily is in a different Salem—one overrun with horrifying creatures and ruled by powerful women called Crucibles. Strongest and cruelest of them all is Lillian . . . Lily’s other self in this alternate universe.
In Josephine Angelini’s Trial by Fire, what makes Lily weak at home is what makes her extraordinary in New Salem. In this confusing world, Lily is torn between responsibilities she can’t hope to shoulder alone and a love she never expected.”
Thoughts: Watch out vampires/zombies/werewolves! Witches are back and ready to take their place in the spotlight. With Trial by Fire, that spotlight is well-deserved indeed. There is an imaginative and fascinatingly plausible use of science to explain alternative universes. Similarly, Lily’s grasp of science, specifically physics and natural laws, are quite impressive and advanced. In spite of her infirmities in her home universe, she is whip-smart, independent, and strong. The added benefit of magic in the alternate Salem makes her an incredible character – one who stands by her word, thinks through the consequences, and is not afraid of taking the hard road if it means living by her convictions.
What is particularly entertaining is Ms. Angelini’s use of Salem lore. There is an unsubtle nod to Arthur Miller’s The Crucible interspersed throughout the story, made more prominent for readers who have read or seen the play and remember key details. Ms. Angelini also draws on folk lore and the stories told in history classes about the Salem Witch Trials. It is a creative reimagining of history using science and the theory of alternate universes with a little added magical fantasy thrown in for good measure. The combination of fact and fiction, science and fantasy, and the well-known hysteria in Salem in the 17th Century create a remarkable story.
If a reader is going to start one new series this year, Trial by Fire and the Worldwalker Trilogy is the one to start. It has action, adventure, more than one kick-ass heroine, a little bit of romance, plenty of world-building, and so much more. It is a world in which women literally run everything of note; while there are issues with this fact, as with any power struggle, the idea is still an exciting one. Ms. Angelini does an excellent job balancing questions with answers so that readers feel satisfaction at what they learn and highly anticipate what is still to come. The ending is filled with potential without being too abrupt or open-ended. The entire story is creative, well-written, and highly entertaining.