Trial by Fire by Josephine Angelini Review: Witches in alternate universes

September 22, 2014 by Jeann @ Happy Indulgence | 4 stars, Books, Reviews

Trial by Fire by Josephine Angelini Review: Witches in alternate universesTrial by Fire by Josephine Angelini
Series: The Worldwalker Trilogy #1
Published by Pan Macmillan Australia on August 28, 2014
Source: Publisher
Genres: Fantasy & Magic, Science Fiction, Young Adult
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The exhilaratingly seductive new series from the author of the bestselling Starcrossed series

Love burns. Worlds collide. Magic reigns.

This world is trying to kill Lily Proctor. Her life-threatening allergies keep her from enjoying many of the experiences that other teenagers take for granted...which is why she is determined to enjoy her first (and perhaps only) high-school party. But Lily's life never goes according to plan, and 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 cruellest of all the Crucibles is Lillian . . . Lily's identical other self in this alternate universe. This new version of her world is terrifyingly sensual, and Lily is soon overwhelmed by new experiences.

Lily realizes that what makes her weak at home is exactly what makes her extraordinary in New Salem. It also puts her life in danger. Thrown into a world she doesn't understand, Lily is torn between responsibilities she can't hope to shoulder alone, and a love she never expected.

But how can Lily be the saviour of this world when she is literally her own worst enemy?

Jeann’s Thoughts

Witchcraft, alternate realities, high fantasy and epic world building – Trial by Fire is a book like no other, and it really made me fall into a different world ruled by magic.

With all of the talk of alternate realities, it is less sci-fi than I imagined, as we only really get a glimpse of present day Lily who is allergic to everything and in love with her playboy best friend, and the alternate reality of Salem where she is a powerful witch. The different Salem is ruled by magic and witches, where Lily’s alternate self is the evil ruler who is on a mission to eradicate all science from their land. Seeing a world ruled by science (Lily’s present day) and then magic presented a really interesting contrast, as they both present different issues such as nuclear power, the imbalance of power between individuals, and people wanting to explore different options for hope of an alternative.

Here, in this universe, what differentiated science from witchcraft was that scientists had fewer resources and couldn’t magically manipulate the natural world by will alone. They had to fumble around until they found a chemical or developed a machine that achieved the same results….Witches were much more efficient at tackling the challenges of biology, chemistry, and physics, so why even try to be a scientist? 

Lily’s character really shone in the new Salem, where she wields powerful magic, translating ‘energy’ into her own and can communicate in mindspeak. Although she resembles the enemy, she becomes a powerful ally for the war, with her unmatched magical ability. I liked Lily because she was strong and brave, and focused with helping people and harnessing magic, and there was no angst or anything. I did find her difficult to connect to though, she barely even questioned what was happening, didn’t really think about the world she left behind AT ALL and become powerful so quickly.

The world building is intricate and well developed, with the relationships between witches and mechanics dominating the world. Everyone wears a willstone, which allows them to use magic, but makes them vulnerable to being controlled. Witches pretty much rule the world in salem, and they use powerful male ‘mechanics’ to do their bidding, and the mechanics get influence and power from witches. I loved the gender role reversal here, but there were still a few times where Lily needed to be saved by strong males.

She made his bed and though about how he had treated her last night. Like he cared about her. It was misleading of him to rub her back, tuck her in, and still think she was evil. 

Rowan was a great strong warrior character who trains Lily to harness her magic, but tries hard not to get close to her, due to his previous ties with Lillian. He was caring, patient and strong, and I loved how the romance developed slowly without being too mushy or taking over the story. There’s a very light love triangle which I didn’t have any problems with because nothing really developed with Tristan. And for once, the romance wasn’t the focus of the story.


There’s a lot of hype surrounding Trial by Fire and I can see why. I loved being whisked away into a world ruled by witches, magic and willstones, and a glimpse of alternate realities. With the intricate, amazing world building around witchcraft and Salem, and strong powerful characters who undergo great growth during the story, I think fantasy and paranormal readers will love this book. Warning though, there’s a cliffhanger in the end. The possibilities of this series are endless and I can’t wait to see what comes from the series.

Rating: 4 out of 5

Thank you to Pan Macmillan Australia for sending me this book in exchange for an honest review! 


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Jeann is an Aussie YA blogger and mum who loves to read and recommend books! You can usually find me fangirling about books on my various social media channels including Twitter @happyindulgence, Instagram and Youtube.

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47 responses to “Trial by Fire by Josephine Angelini Review: Witches in alternate universes

  1. I have heard quite a lot about this book but I'm still not sure whether I should pick it up or not! It does sound pretty appealing though – I love a book with good character development and all. In my opinion, characters are sometimes the most important part of a story! Worldbuilding that is done well is also essential, and not many people get this right.
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  2. This is now officially on my TBR, because 1) I love witches, and 2) alternate realities are the best, AND TRIAL BY FIRE HAS BOTH???? Ok ok, I need to get to this, because you loved it, Jeann, which means that it is good 😀

    Thanks for the lovely review Jeann!
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  3. You and Cait and twinsies. I'm so getting you too matching jackets. I live the look o Thu one and the cover is just so incredibly lovely, she seems very calm for some who's hair is on fire. Before both your reviews this week, this one was looking pretty dismal. The few reviews I'd seen weren't fans. It's so nice to see the flip side. From the character to world building, it definitely sounds like it's my cuppa. Thanks for the positivity Jeann, really excited to read this one now <3
    Kelly recently posted…Cooper Bartholomew is Dead by Rebecca JamesMy Profile

    • Oooh I'll have to check out your review, I really loved this book! I am actually reading The Jewel at the moment and enjoying it quite a lot, I'm glad because I wasn't going to read it until your review comes out. Hope you enjoy this one!

  4. Oooh how exciting to meet an alternate yourself. I've been seeing a lot of positive reviews for this book, so I'm really glad you loved it so much Jeann! I had to skim the review a little because I'm planning to read this book soon (hopefully), so it's great news that you enjoyed this one. Wonderful review lovely xx
    Joy @ Thoughts By J recently posted…Movie Review: The Maze RunnerMy Profile

    • Oh it was fantastic Joy, I'm always a bit hesitant heading into much raved about books because I have higher expectations but it met them here 🙂 Can't wait to see what you think of it!

  5. Ahhhh I'm so glad you enjoyed this one!! I have an ARC that I still need to read… I've heard nothing but great things about this book, and it sounds great to get caught up in the world of witchcraft and magic. I'm glad that there's not an emphasis on romance for once! 🙂 oh no, not another cliffhanger! I get anxiety XD Lovely review as usual, Jeann <3
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    • Thank you so much Rachel, I just love how the witchcraft has been approached here which is totally unique. Oh I know what you mean about cliffhangers, they don't bother me too much now because every single book has a cliffhanger these days.

  6. Thank you Charnell, I know I'm surprised she barely thought about her own world at all and was like RIGHT let's get to it, chop chop! I would have been freaked out too, and more of that would have made it a little more believable.

  7. Thank you Lily, I thought all the elements meshed together beautifully! Lily was a really great character, even though there were some things that annoyed me about her. Haha yes especially sharing the namesake of hot warrior guy in Heir of Fire XD

  8. SQUEEEE. I'm so excited to hear you say how much you enjoyed this one, Jeann. I'm starting it on my train ride this afternoon, and I've been excited for it for a couple of months now, but hearing such positive reviews from bloggers whom I trust just makes me even more excited. I'm so glad to hear that this novel is unique and the world sounds amazing!

    EEEK. This is the first I'm hearing of a cliffhanger though…but that's making me even more tempted to just pick it up right now!

    Thanks so much for a fantastic review, Jeann. 🙂
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  9. I've been really enjoying alternate reality books lately, and this was one of them! Evn though the sci-fi aspect wasn't too present, it still gave the premise an extra layer that I think fit great with the witch lore and story overall. I did find Lily fell into being a witch way too easily, and I wanted more as far as plot progression, but it was still a super entertaining read for me I just loved the world building especially! And I loved that it was not just about the romance, too, you know! Too many books are nowadays! Great review! 🙂
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    • I did appreciate that extra layer and how it wasn't too onerous or confusing! The world building was fantastic and it was refreshing finding a detailed one that was really fascinating. Thank you Giselle!

  10. Yay! *parties* I'm so glad that you enjoyed this, hun! As you know, I was the happiest person in the world to get it on Netgalley… although I didn't enjoy Josephine's Starcrossed trilogy. Alternative realities? Damn we hardly get those anymore! I normally don't enjoy witch books too much, but Rowan's character and your splendid review has captivated me! (That cover is b-e-a-u-t-i-f-u-l as well!)

    • Oooh I never picked up the Starcrossed Trilogy even though I have been meaning to. I wish we got more alternate realities because I have enjoyed every book that has explored or even touched on them hehe. I think you will enjoy it hun!

  11. Great review! I'm glad you enjoyed this one, I really enjoyed it too and am very excited to see what happens in the next book. Completely agree about Lily and how quickly she accepted everything, I would have been freaking out for quite some time if I'd just been taken into a different world.
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  12. I'm so glad you also enjoyed this one Jeann! I read it two weeks ago and loved the parallel universe angle of the story and the wonderful world building. Lily was also a very strong character and I can't wait to further explore Lillian in the sequel. Also…ROWAN! Yes I sort of loved him 😉 haha! Great review 🙂
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    • Woah Carmel I literally just commented on your blog, we totally comment twinned! Oh gosh there was so much more here than just the witchiness and they were far from cliche. I would say give it a shot, but then again I'm biased.

  13. Very happy to hear you loved this one too, Jeann!

    I wasn't entirely sure at first about the book cause I sort of expected a historical fiction book and when starting more as a contemporary I got taken by surprise! But I loved the alternative world/parallel world settings and the different takes on science and witchcraft!

    The ending was one hell of a cruel cliffhanger, and I cannot wait for the next book to come out!
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  14. I'm really happy more notice about this author is getting out, but this book was a little disappointing in areas for me, but still, a good book (3 stars). I'm just really glad people are enjoying it, Angelini is a fantastic author and I can't wait for more people to love her work! Great review Jeann! 😀
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  15. WOOT! The role reversal was my absolute favourite element. I mean, a matriarchal society? I was hooked from thereon in. And I totally agree about the whole love triangle thing. I liked how nothing developed out of her relationship with Tristan. That way, the whole romance doesn't detract from the fabulous plot.

    Great review, Jeann! <33 xx
    Jess @MyReadingDress recently posted…The 5th Wave #2: The Infinite Sea by Rick YanceyMy Profile

    • I'm so glad you mentioned the role reversal, it was awesome! I love how the witches hold all the power in Salem. Yeah, the thing with Tristan already turned out horribly in real life, so I'm glad she didn't go there. Thank you Jess!

  16. I'm picking this up from the library today, and am wondering…since this is set in Salem and deals with witches, I'm assuming this deals with the Salem Witch Trials, right? (For some reason the SWT are morbidly fascinating to me, so that's what intrigued me about this in the first place; so I want to be sure I'm not getting the wrong expectation). I'm just confused because no review has mentioned that, so maybe I'm interpreting the blurb wrong? Anyhow…glad to hear you enjoyed it Jeann, and I can't wait to dive into it for myself! Thanks for sharing, and, as always, BRILLIANT review! <3
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    • Ohhh great to hear! Yup, it is the Salem Witch Trials, but things happen completely differently in the alternate universe. I think you'll really enjoy it if you love witches and the twist on that time period. No problems Zoe!

  17. OMG I SERIOUSLY JUST PUBLISHED MY REVIEW ON THIS TOO!! Wow. Bookish-reviewing-twins tonight, Jeann. 😉 But yes, I completely agree with your thoughts! Totally ditto in my review, lol, even the rating. I loved the world-building and the characters and Rowan and Lily's relationship. I was a bit disappointed there wasn't more of Evil Lilian though. She seemed a bit insipid as a villain…if she was a villain?! I don't even know! Still. SEQUEL: I need it.
    Cait @ Notebook Sist recently posted…Trial by Fire by Josephine Angelini || burn all the things!My Profile

    • Haha we totally are Cait, your thoughts on it were great and it made me so happy how you made a mention of the pickles. Foodies for life lol! Yeah, evil Lillian was evil, but then she was wishy washy. I don't know, but I guess it doesn't really make sense if that isn't really her personality in all worlds. It showed that she was made like that based on situation, not personality.

  18. I haven't read Starcrossed, but I came across this author when I was researching Pan Macmillan. This is high up on my list, and I can't wait to read it. Witches are one of my fav supernaturals 🙂 Not sure how I'll go with the alternative reality, though. That's never been my thing. I get confused too easily 🙂
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    • I haven't read Starcrossed either, but yes this was definitely up my alley with the alternate universes and the witches. The alternate reality is a very small part of it – most of the emphasis was on the world building of the new world which was very high fantasy 🙂

  19. Yay, I'm glad you liked this one, Jeann! 🙂 I, too, am so looking forward to where the series is going to go, because I honestly have no idea what will happen next. There are so many directions that the novel can go. And I agree, I'm glad that the romance wasn't the focus of the story — I do like novels that have SOME element of romance, but it's just so overbearing when it's the focus of the story. (Unless it's a contemp. romance or something; that's understandable.)
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    • Thanks Kara, it's kind of exciting seeing where the author will take it next 🙂 I do like some romance, or even no romance, but when it becomes all about the romance under false pretenses that's when I get annoyed lol.