2023 Reading Challenge

2023 Reading Challenge
Jill Elizabeth has read 5 books toward her goal of 265 books.

Book Review: Fire and Vengeance by Robert B. McCaw

I didn’t realize this was the third in a series when I agreed to review it. It is, and I get the sense that there’s a bit of history to the relationships herein that might have enriched my read by giving the characters more depth and resonance – but I give McCaw tremendous credit for the way he wove the essential bits of backstory into the narrative. It was, without a doubt, one of the most skillful “here’s what you need to know” explanations woven into the story that I’ve seen, and it is what made me keep reading after I realized this one occurred mid-series. (I have a well-established rule that I don’t like to read books out of order; the author writes series books in order on purpose, it seems to me that to ignore that order is to miss out on what the author is trying to get across.)

I started this one and had that immediate “there’s more here than they’re telling me…” feeling, and did a little research to learn this was book three. I almost put it down then and there, but I was intrigued by the way McCaw threw me into the action from the very opening sentences, and so kept going to see if I could read it anyway. In short order I came across his explanatory text, and from there on I felt like I knew enough to keep reading. As I said, I may have missed some of the intricacies, but I never felt lost – that’s something I almost never get to say when I pick up a book mid-series, and is a tremendous credit to McCaw. (And it makes me want to pick up the first two books!)

This is a horrifying tale of greed and entitlement, with the most vulnerable – school children – paying the largest price. It was hard to read at times (most of the victims were in first grade; my daughter also is in first grade), but the writing sucked me in. I haven’t read a lot of books set in Hawaii or focusing on volcanic activity; I found both fascinating, and McCaw’s descriptions intrigued me and held my attention throughout. The characters were a great mix of personalities, quirks, and foibles. Good or bad, they were presented warts and all, and I enjoyed the detail because it really brought the story to life for me.

My only issue was the way things all came together a little quickly – and they did so across the three major conflicts in the story (the school, Koa’s integrity, and Inkaika). Each started as a slow build, but once the revelations came out, things catapulted into action and it felt a little rushed and out of sync with the pacing of the majority of the book. It was a bit runaway train for me, and while I still enjoyed the book, I did occasionally stop while reading to see if I was missing something or if things really were just wrapping up in a bow as they seemed (they were). Still, I was intrigued enough by all of it to look up the earlier titles and would pick up a future installment to see how Koa’s story continues (most especially because I’m dying to see how Inkaika’s tale works itself out)…

Thanks to the publisher and FSB Associates for my obligation-free review copy.

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