Danny Caulfield doesn't know how he ended up at a mysterious academy called Wilsons. A few of the students are pretty scary. Someone is trying to murder him. Even the ravens that haunt the school seem to be against him.
Yet he also finds friends: Les, an exceptional thief; Dixie, who has an unsettling talent; and Vandra, a physick with special powers.
It turns out that Danny is destined for a terrifying mission. As he embarks on his training, he is shocked and secretly thrilled to discover that he seems to have all the natural gifts of the perfect spy -- most importantly, the ability to betray.
The Ring of Fire is the first book in a brilliant new trilogy by the author of The Navigator. Eoin McNamee's background as an author of adult thrillers informs this exhilarating, atmospheric adventure, which is full of surprises as well as fascinating questions about loyalty, destiny, and what it means to be a spy.
~Print copy (library), 345 pages
Published: 2010 by Wendy Lamb Books
First of all, let me start out that I don't know the Navigator series they're referring to in the summary there. This is important, because (shameful though it is) previous books I've read by an author can color how I view this one.
That being said, there is no other-book-ly influence on this story for me. I happened to enjoy it, for the most part.
(And did I mention? The author's Irish. Irish people are so awesome. The author of the Artemis Fowl series -- one of my most favorite series of all time -- is Irish. Weird coincidence -- AF's author's first name is Eoin, too.)
Les, Dixie, and Vandra all seem like lovely friends. I kinda wish I had such friends in real life. Danny is a bit iffy, but I liked him, too -- he wasn't evil and he wasn't good, but a mix. Like all the best people are.
The people are a bit strange. A good strange. Les is a winged Messenger, sort of like an angel but living and down to earth. He likes flying, even though most of the Messengers have given up flying as a "vulgar activity." Dixie is... what Dixie does, I suppose. Kinda daydreamy, can disappear and reappear at will. And Vandra is a vampire healer, who can suck the sickness out of any wound and get infected with it herself. (She can fight it off, though; she's a tough girl.)
That being said, the mysterious, magic-y aura in this book makes me happy. I love magic-y books. That's why I read so much fantasy. Though this book isn't really fantasy... it's more thriller, or mystery, or something...
Back on topic. (Genre technically is on topic, but it's subjective in my view. You want to know what genre it is, read the book.)
The writing itself was kind of iffy. One thing that stuck out to me was the redundancy. Not repeated words -- rather, he repeated information. One character says something that's happening, and then it's followed with a "It was true. The.... [insert already-spoken event here]". That sort of thing. And sometimes things like reactions or emotions were stated instead of implied, but I don't really fault for that.
That stuff's easily written away, though. Right there in the summary, we know this author does adult thrillers; this book is either MG or YA.* So, the difference in age groups could easily have thrown someone off. Not that I imply the author would write terribly obvious because he thinks less of the YA group, or that he needed to "dumb it down", but perhaps the difference in writing style itself between the age groups** caused a few minor shifts in (writing-wise) modern-esque manners.
Overall, I did enjoy this book. The characters are good, the setting is solid (think of the magic-y aura! Meep!), and... I don't know... just that quality that makes you smile. The writing style showed some error that distracted my gaze, but I think it was definitely a worthwhile read for.. any age group, really. It took me longer than usual to read a book this size, but more because it's been a stressful week than because I had to drag myself through the book. I recommend it; 4 stars.
*My library has this book under YA, so I assume it's that. But I see so much romance in YA, and this book has none, that I don't know whether perhaps it was shelved in the wrong section. But rants on YA's increasingly homogenous nature at a later date.
**I could write a blog post on that. (That is how you know you're a writer/blogger -- when the first thing that pops into your head when you read "differences in writing styles across age groups" is whether you can write something on it.)