Series: Hibiscus Daughter #1
Published by Katherine Tegen Books on August 15th 2017
Source: Publisher, Edelweiss
Genres: Contemporary, Fantasy & Magic, Romance, Mystery, Young Adult
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All the women in Iris and Malina’s family have the unique magical ability or “gleam” to manipulate beauty. Iris sees flowers as fractals and turns her kaleidoscope visions into glasswork, while Malina interprets moods as music. But their mother has strict rules to keep their gifts a secret, even in their secluded sea-side town. Iris and Malina are not allowed to share their magic with anyone, and above all, they are forbidden from falling in love.
But when their mother is mysteriously attacked, the sisters will have to unearth the truth behind the quiet lives their mother has built for them. They will discover a wicked curse that haunts their family line—but will they find that the very magic that bonds them together is destined to tear them apart forever?
While there were parts of Wicked Like a Wildfire that I enjoyed, there are also many parts that just plain didn’t work with me. I can definitely appreciate the pretty writing, magical story, and quaint setting that the book is set in, but at the same time I can’t deny that I found myself bored (mostly within the former half of the book) and a bit uncomfortable with some stuff that happened. Let’s just say that the highlights of the story – including themes of beauty and greed, selfishness and deception – are all wrapped around the love that the sisters Malina and Iris have for each other. With that and the increasingly-complicated plot towards the latter half, I did manage to enjoy parts of this book. I’ll discuss what I appreciated, and then head to what didn’t quite capture me as much.
I divide Wicked Like a Wildfire in two parts. The first half is focused on the mystery that happens when Lina and Iris, gorgeous twins with as much differences as they have similarities, find their mother attacked yet not dead – only trapped in a state where she can’t function. With that, they take clues into their own hands as they explore the charming little town they live in to discover what exactly happened to their mother. The story takes place in a very quaint and atmospheric town located in a small European country called Montenegro. I like the fact that the author uses actual folklore and legends to go along with the mystery that she enshrouds Lina and Iris’s family in. However, I didn’t really find myself captivated by the mystery nor the legends that the sisters discovered. The writing, as lyrical as it was, sometimes got downright grating at times for me. I can only count this as a personal preference, and really hope this particular opinion does not detract readers from picking this one up. The second half of the book is when everything starts picking up, and I found myself enjoying it much more.
The word for ‘witch,’ veštica, meant ‘deft one,’ and that was what we’d been” deft in beauty, versed in its tastes and sounds and textured as it wove like a ribbon through our fingers.
Readers get introduced more into the magical background of Lina and Iris. They have special powers that for some reason their mother discouraged them to use, causing for a rebellious nature to rise up in Iris. I admit, I wasn’t a big fan of Iris in the beginning of the book. She has a bit of a caustic personality and does not have a good relationship with her mother. Since we’re given a first person POV of Iris, we really get to see how edgy and strong-willed she behaves. Lina provides a foil to Iris’s animosity as being the nice, calm one. While Iris’s power contains beauty in fractals and imagery, Lina’s focuses on the beauty of sound and singing. I thought that this magical aspect of the book was quite original and refreshing. After a while, Iris’s personality started growing on me and I could see reasoning behind her behaviors – mistakes and all.
Where Lina was sweet-tempered and tender, I was stark and sharp, fashioned of edges.
An interesting point to note is that two of Iris and Lina’s best friends are these Romani siblings from their small town. I can’t say anything for the representation of them (especially as many books still use “gypsies,” derogatory as it is), but I did appreciate the fact that the author brings their characters to life and addresses certain stereotypes surrounding their lifestyle. Luka and Nikoleta are really sweet and supportive friends of Iris and Lina, especially as their love both continue past friendship. I really hope for more page time with them and developing their relationship with the sisters in the next books, as they were quite pivotal points of this book as well.
One thing I was really disgruntled about was the romance. There are romances happening, but I never really connected to this part of the relationship between characters. There’s one focusing on Lina and her significant other (who the book takes time to reveal, although becomes quite obvious within the first couple of interactions). As this book focuses on Iris’s POV, readers see two potential love interests for her. While I understood why she did the things she did with a certain person, as well as the way this would change the course of the plot, I was rather uncomfortable by it. She does not heed her sister’s warnings and goes against her own gut feeling for this particular greasy person, and I’m not about that life. When she does settle on the caring, compassionate person who’s been by her side since the beginning, I also could not bring myself to care that much. The romances just seemed cold to me and more like a side add-on than anything important going on.
‘Sometimes that’s what real love takes, I guess. A sacrifice on both sides, doing for the other person what they can’t do for themselves.’
The importance placed on the sister relationship, as well as the mystical magic that Iris and Lina discover in their lineage, were the biggest parts of the book that allowed me to continue reading. The author does a good job in feeding information in increments so you have to continue reading to figure out what’s going on – talk about unpredictable! And yet, the mystery part in the former half of the book rather bored me while the latter half started picking up as more magic got involved.
Wicked Like a Wildfire is definitely a pretty book. How is it not, when the author stresses how beautiful the sisters are (and their whole family. And most of the characters in the book, for that matter), adds such a charming little town setting with legends to surround it, and has such lyrical writing? And yet, this left me with a bland taste in my mouth. This may have been made up by the flaws of the characters and their growth in relationship (if not characterization themselves), but the absolute focus on it got a bit tired. The ending does leave a great message about being bound and the consequences of selfishness and having freedom and will taken away from a person. With the cliffhanger, I do believe I’ll pick up the sequel to see how the story ends up – especially with the unexpected added dimension by a certain greasy character. Anyhow, although this book did not “wow” me as much as I wanted it to, I would still recommend readers who love magic to perhaps give it a go. Don’t expect much on the romance front, and expect more on the familial dynamics, especially between the two contrasting sisters. I also think many readers will enjoy the writing more than I did, and really appreciate the “wicked wildfire” delivered in the title of the book.
Rating: 2.5 out of 5
Thank you Edelweiss and HarperTeen for the review copy!