Four girls with the power to control the elements and save the world from a terrible evil must come together in the first epic novel in a brand-new series.When Phantoms—massive beasts made from nightmares and darkness—suddenly appeared and began terrorizing the world, four girls, the Effigies, each gained a unique power to control one of the classical elements: earth, air, fire, and water. Since then, four girls across the world have continually fought against the Phantoms, fulfilling their cosmic duty. And when one Effigy dies, another girl gains her power as a replacement.But now, with technologies in place to protect the world’s major cities from Phantom attacks, the Effigies have stopped defending humanity and, instead, have become international celebrities, with their heroic feats ranked, televised, and talked about in online fandoms.
Until the day that New York City’s protection against the Phantoms fails, a man seems to be able to control them by sheer force of will, and Maia, a high school student, unexpectedly becomes the Fire Effigy.
Now Maia has been thrown into battle with three girls who want nothing to do with one another. But with the first human villain that the girls have ever faced, and an army of Phantoms preparing for attack, there isn’t much time for the Effigies to learn how to work together.
Can the girls take control of their destinies before the world is destroyed forever?
Imagine an ordinary girl, placed in an extraordinary situation…
Sounds like the perfect event for character growth, new revelations, and exploration of friendships, right? Not so true with this book.
In Fate of Flames, I felt like the author tried to make this book too “cool.” We have a pretty rad premise of girls with elemental powers called Effigies going around saving the world from evil entities called Phantoms. I’ve heard many things referenced to this book, including Sailor Moon. Sailor Moon these girls were not. The combination of a whiny and complacent character who felt like cardboard, a cliche and boring plot, and a lack of world-building made this an extremely frustrating read for me. By page 200, I was pretty much rage-reading the book.
First of all, let me talk to you about the main character Maia. Maia has always wanted to be a hero. Maia used to have a twin sister named June who was supposedly more courageous than her. Maia always thinks about June in her first person narrative in this book but only to downgrade herself. Maia has an uncle who readers meet once throughout the whole book and then he is forgotten except for a few times of “I can’t contact my uncle!” from Maia. Maia likes to cry, from the very first chapter to the last. Maia is physically weak and throughout the entirety of the book does not undergo sufficient training to defend herself. Maia is constantly needing to be saved. Maia was an utter disappointment.
“Then again… technically, this was what I’d always wanted, in a way. This was what I’d always dreamed of, ever since I was a kid playing in the backyard with June, the two of us acting out our dumb hero fantasies with bathroom towels for capes and stuffed animals to valiantly pummel to death.
To fight like one of them. To save lives like one of them.
And now I saw one of them.
Imagine all these unlikable traits, and having to read from a first person POV. I couldn’t connect to Maia’s character at all. The idea of her sounded pretty great: quiet girl without a family who discovers potential elemental powers of fire! (Really puts a whole new spin on burning effigies, huh?) Instead of taking command of her life, she decides to be reactive, cry a lot, and fall into attraction with the first hipster-looking boy agent of the Sect, an organization that trains Effigies to save humankind. That is fine with me. Well, it would have been if somewhere along in the book she actually did take control of her life. I adore character development, which is why the beginning of the book didn’t turn me off. But once I got deeper into it and no development or progression was being made – mentally or physically – my rating kept going lower and lower.
Basics of the Effigy system: there are only four girls in the world who can control each of the elements to exist. They have enhanced strength and healing that allow them – ALL FOUR – to be able to kill all the Phantoms of the world. They’re regulated by the Sect. Once one dies, another in the world takes their place and retains the memory of all who came before her. They’re only girls. That is, until a mysterious male named Saul comes into the story, getting the Effigies all confused as they track down his relation with the previous fire Effigy whose memories are in Maia’s mind.
Throughout the book, Maia is constantly downgrading herself, crying, whining, screaming, and demonstrating traits that I can’t stand in a character. It was okay for the first 100 pages. At page 200, however, I had had enough. There is a sloppily written attempt at a training session where Maia tries to learn her powers but she fails. It’s absolutely frustrating for a reader to see a character have such a huge power but does nothing to try to develop it. The irony is that Maia has always wanted this kind of power, being an Effigy fangirl. Once she has it? She does pretty much nothing. Except complain, that is. I guess that’s something going for her.
The other Effigies are embroiled in so many stereotypes I’m not even in the mood to talk to them. Sure, they’re full of flaws and have weaknesses. That is fine. I like it when characters have that. But I would also like seeing inner strengths or motivation to counterbalance those negative aspects. All I see are negative attitudes around the Effigies, and it’s extremely disheartening. I never felt like we got a victory from any of these girls. I never felt like they were a team when they were doing missions. I appreciate what the author tried with making each girl her own self and full of idiosyncrasies, but she tackles so many potential problems with loose ends hanging that it just left a jumble of undeveloped characters. Everyone in the book – including adults – behaved like they were 12.
“In that one haunting moment, I realized that I would never have stood a chance against the creature. That despite whatever insane, heroic delusion had compelled me to stupidly risk my life during a Category Three attack, there was just no comparison between the two of us. No comparison at all between Belle Rousseau and the ridiculous Maia Finley.
Even though we were both Effigies.”
With repetitive dialogue and actions that amount to a whole lot of nothing (it felt like the plot was just going in circles at one point), the writing was something that didn’t help. To top if off, let’s talk about the – HAHA – worldbuilding. Wait, what worldbuilding? I’m guessing this is an alternate reality where Phantoms exist yet everything else does too. Apparently they were introduced in 1865 and yet somehow they haven’t been as much of a threat as to stall humanity’s progression. In present day, we’re still using mobile phones, Jurassic Park references are made, and people fly in jet planes. I don’t think there’s a United Nations organization though. Speaking of organizations, the basis of the “Sect,” the organization that supposedly takes in Effigies and agents to battle against Phantoms, was full of loose strings. Are they a private organization? I’m guessing so since the media is constantly lashing out on them. Who are they owned by? Where are their bases? What qualifications does this organization have to be the ones to dictate how Phantoms are exterminated? How are they working in conjunction to other countries’ governments to mediate this threat? Why aren’t they working with other governments, NGO’s, or organizations? HOW ARE THEY TRUSTWORTHY?
On another note, I never felt like the Phantoms were a threat the entire time while reading. Apparently they attack cities and there is some antiphantom technology to draw them away in major areas. Maia, our residential cardboard main character, is too disinterested to learn about phantoms and thus the readers as a result are left in the dark on these things. Regarding how they came to be, the only thing she can explain in the beginning is:
“But where did they come from?
It didn’t matter anyway. Phantoms existed. The entire world had found ways to deal with it, so who cared about the rest?”
What a faulty line of thinking! That’s like saying, “But why is Donald Trump so ridiculous? It didn’t matter. He existed. We can deal with it, so who cares?” Okay girl lemme tell you how utterly ignorant and apathetic you sound right now. People need to be educated for a reason, and her lackluster explanations on possible theories on why these Phantoms were there clearly shows why. Even when she gets the chance to discover more information, she’s hesitant in taking it. If you’re not going to do it, DO IT FOR THE SAKE OF US READERS. Maia is clearly not science-oriented, because once a character starts to explain something important about the plan and goes into the logistics and science-y bits, she cuts the person off in confusion. Now readers are just watching these things happen without knowing why, just because the main character was too slow to want to actually try to understand the things happening around her. Not a great trait in a character. Maybe the author was saving these explanations for the next book, but having these non-explanations seems a bit lazy since having a character cut off someone’s explanation is also a reason not to have one in the first place.
The only thing that readers really learn is that people who become Effigies have a level of some mineral in their pituitary gland in them. That’s pretty much it. I have a feeling we’ll learn more about how Phantoms and Effigies came to be later on in the series, but the hints that I got from reading this book made me hesitate even more. It all sounds so foolish and vacuous in the end, which is why I’m not planning on continuing this series.
“Finding my footing, I backed away. ‘This is stupid! You know what? I’m… I’m telling Sibyl!’”
The attempts on character development didn’t help my non-enjoyment of this book, especially when they were all negative aspects. The use of social media was utterly unnecessary and frivolous in this story. It just added extra pages when there wasn’t a need. At first the cliche premise was okay with me because I was here for the action and fun. WHAT ACTION? WHAT FUN? I guess I had fun rage-reading it at some point, but most of the action were from the forgettable side characters, and the equally forgettable main character refuses to learn anything that could save her life. Maybe the next books will have her grow physically as well, but I won’t be sticking around for that.
“Shutting my laptop, I laid my head on my pillow. None of us were really talking about it: the lose, the loneliness, and the pain. Why wasn’t there anything I could do?”
Oh and there was romance, too. With some caricature male-savior type character. Who likes to wear hipster clothes. Meh.
As I was reading this book, my rating for it gradually began to lower until it went up to a whopping 1.5 stars. I’m not giving it just one star though because from all intents and purposes, the author did seem like she was trying to go out of the box for this one. Mary Sue and Special Snowflakes these characters are not. Yet, they are also not characters I enjoyed reading about, if only because of their constant pessimism and reactive attitudes. The ambiguous world-building, which includes the Sect and phantoms and Effigies left much to be desired. And finally, I can’t stand another scream, cry, or noise of frustration coming out of this character’s mouth. Perhaps if there were scenes that showed her inner strength – all I’m asking for is one! – or an aspect of hope FOR HERSELF (rather than from other people) I would have been okay. But there were not, and all I got was this bland character Maia who had less powers than bread, which can at least fuel humans as food. Maia was just a waste of breath, and in the end a waste of my time to read about.