Taya has risen from humble roots to become a fire seer in the Coalition of Mages. Eager to prove herself, she arrives in the town of Hrappa to locate a “jackal” – a mage operating outside the Coalition’s authority – who has murdered three people.
But in Hrappa, she discovers that the man assigned to be her bodyguard is Mandir, her nemesis from years ago. When she and Mandir were students, he bullied her so severely he was sentenced to a year of penance and moved to another temple.
When Mandir sees that he’s been partnered with Taya, all his old torment comes rushing back. He’s had a crush on Taya since the day they began their training, but he pushed her away, ashamed of his attraction to someone so far beneath his social class. He regrets that now and intends to make an honest attempt to win her heart – if she can forgive him for his past sins.
But first they must find the murderous jackal, before the jackal finds them.
*Blurb taken from Goodreads
Thoughts on the heroine:
Marlene: I like Taya. I understand her concerns and worries about performing well on her first assignment, and can sympathize with her desire to finally spread her wings and do well. Her memories of Mandir’s behavior when they were at school together chilled me to the bone. I enjoyed that she was from a different background, and wasn’t the traditional noble. Her farmer upbringing and her everywoman’s perspective gave her a lot of empathy into the situation around her. She reminded me a lot of Talia in Mercedes Lackey’s Arrows of the Queen (a long time ago). Taya is chosen for special tasks by her talents, and is taken from her background. She feels like a fish out of water, but her normal childhood gives her insight into people’s everyday lives.
Has: I really liked Taya’s character, and her determination to do things right as well as her empathy towards the people she encountered. I also liked that her background helped to give her insights especially for the people she was investigating and the murder mystery that surrounds them. I have to agree that I really felt for Taya when she was forced to team up with Mandir who was her tormentor and bully during their days at school. Her flashbacks going back to those days were horrible and I was was in two minds to see how she could redeem Mandir’s character who was basically a creep to her during their student years. And how Taya would deal with her feelings for him from being an antagonistic bully to someone she would develops feelings for. While I think, it worked for Taya’s forgiveness, I still think there needs to be more time for her her to develop romantic feelings for him even though she was initially attracted to him despite the bad blood they had shared.
E: Taya was intriguing. She came from a small farm out in the country and was transplanted to become one of those with power. Sadly instead of the school being a place of safety and learning the students quickly became stratified based on their family’s prestige. Taya unable to read or write, not accustomed to wearing complicated robes and headdresses became a victim to the highest class. Their bullying almost led to her death but after successfully graduating and believing in role of the Coalition of Mages she was off on her first assignment. Taya was so innocent and naive in certain ways but also knowledgeable in others which came in handy.
I had mixed feeling with how she dealt with Mandir on one side but on the other I could understand why her first reaction was to mistrust. However, I wanted the mistrust without doing things just because Mandir said not to. In that regard Taya struck me as being immature but as the story continued she developed and grew into someone capable of thinking for herself and handling things the best way for the area and maybe not exactly by the rules.
Thoughts on the hero:
Marlene: I had a difficult time liking Mandir as the hero. While it was clear that he had changed a lot and for the better from the boy that tortured and nearly killed Taya in school, I just couldn’t buy a romance between them. His redemption yes, but the kind of emotional scars that he left her with don’t go away. I could see that he had reformed more than enough to deserve a happy ending, just not with her. As much as I wanted her to be happy, the two of them together skeeved me out more than a bit.
Has: I have mixed feelings about Mandir too. I did like how protective he was towards Taya and how his awful actions made him regret his behaviour in the past. But I think Amy Raby did a great job in developing his redemption arc and he was a changed man from the insecure boy who bullied others to hide his own past from his peers to keep his status and caste level. However, I did think the romance was rushed from the bitterness and suspicions that Taya had against him and I don’t think it was believable at that point. But I do think there was enough of a spark and development for a romance between them and I will try not to go into spoiler territory that a revelation about Mandir’s past action towards was made known to Taya much earlier which will help to evolve their relationship to that point.
Nonetheless, I do think Mandir was a good person and had learned from his mistakes as well became a better man from his year of penance. I also think Amy Raby made a good point about how hard and unforgiving the caste system for this world which led people to make some drastic and desperate decisions.
E: Like the other two I thought the romance developed a bit too fast. I liked seeing Mandir’s growth and hearing him talk about his background along with how painful it was for him to change his thinking. I did like him as a foil and a hero despite his very unheroic actions because he had to do a lot of work to redeem himself and then to get Taya to believe he was truly different. I thought he took his job seriously as her protector but still displayed his lack of interpersonal skills with how he went about trying to accomplish certain things. However, his actions usually followed his words and his intentions which said a lot regardless of Taya’s reactions. I am looking forward to seeing his future interactions to find out if he has figured out how to work more effectively with Taya as well as how their romance is working out.
What did you like about the book?
Marlene: I absolutely loved the worldbuilding on this one. Partly because I can see so many possibilities for future stories that I can’t wait for the author to explore. But this society is interesting; I love the three-part structure of farmer, artisan, noble, with specific duties and responsibilities for each. I also think that exploring the way that the Coalition of Mages both does and probably mostly doesn’t work for the benefit of society is going to be cool. If power corrupts and absolute power corrupts absolutely, and magic seems like an ultimate power, what’s going to happen with the people who control magic and the mages?
Has: I totally agree! I thought the worldbuilding was excellent and seamless in the way it was laid out and explained. I think the flashbacks that Taya had helped to explain the magical and religious system without verging into infodump territory which I really liked because this was a complex and interesting world. I also felt the caste system would also provide an interesting dynamic to the magical system as well and probably more cause of tension for the people who inhabit this world. It will be intriguing to see how it evolves.
E: I really enjoyed the worldbuilding. So many possibilities and conflicts set up between the caste system, the Coalition of Mages, the common folk, and how things are supposed to be versus how things are. I have a feeling there is a growing tension which will only make Taya and Mandir’s jobs more challenging as they travel around the country.
I also liked how Raby was able to demonstrate character growth on and off screen even if I wanted more time before the transition to a full romance between Taya and Mandir.
What were your favorite scenes?
Marlene: The scenes where Taya invoked her magic were excellent. They conveyed both her wonder at the powers she invoked and her acceptance of the power and responsibility that her abilities gave her. The scene where she remembers realizing that her fire-starter ability was a power was also good.
Has: I loved the scenes involving Taya and her fire seer gift. The descriptions and tone really was vivid and underlined the worldbuilding. I also liked the scene towards the end which I wont go into full detail because of spoilers. But I really liked how both Mandir and Taya dealt with something that touched on their past origins which brought an interesting twist to the story which I enjoyed.
E: I think my favorite scene was when Taya decided she was going to rescue Mandir and how she went about doing it. Her actions demonstrated she wasn’t going to be forced by anyone and also that Mandir wasn’t her enemy. This made me actually think they had a chance in a romance as well as forming an efficient working partnership in the future.
What were your dislikes?
Marlene: I found Taya’s memories of her school experience absolutely chilling. I have a problem getting past the way Mandir treated her to her falling in love with him. He’s portrayed as too evil in his youth to get to them falling for each other. His behavior was possessive stalking. While he does find redemption, I can’t get past her believing it enough to fall for him. Friendship would have felt more realistic.
Has: I kind of agree, although I do think the romance was realistic but it needed more time to develop and evolve because it would have been more believable for me. I also wished that an action that Mandir committed in the past would have helped Taya’s feeling of betrayal and victimisation much more easily if she had known before instead of just being told later. She held on to those feelings for so long and it would have taken time for her embark on a relationship with him. But I am curious to see how their relationship fares in future books.
E: I was horrified at the actions of the students in the school, how long they went on, and what they escalated to. I thought Taya was rather strong to be able to work with Mandir at all given her last memories let alone develop a friendship. As a result like the others I have my doubts about the romance and would have preferred to see it develop slower.
Summary and grade
Marlene: Overall, I enjoyed The Fire Seer a lot. I would like to have either seen the romance take longer, or have the resolution of the relationship between Taya and Mandir be a friendship/work partnership rather than go all the way to romance. Or at least a romance so fast. He has redeemed himself, but that doesn’t mean she would be ready to forgive everything that happened in their past to this extent.
The worldbuilding here is awesome, and I can’t wait to find out more about the Coalition of Mages and the way that justice and magic are aligned (or possibly not aligned).
I give The Fire Seer a B-
Has: I really enjoyed the worldbuilding and the societal system which was well thought out and explained. While I had my issues with the romance, I did like the idea of Mandir and Taya as a team as well as a couple and the mystery did keep me guessing right up to the last few pages. I also loved the twist at the end which caught me by surprise. The Fire Seer is an intriguing mix of mystery, fantasy and even historical elements that kept me entertained. Amy Raby has a real gift in her world-building and characters that totally immerses you into a rich and vivid world and I am definitely on board for the follow-up!
I give The Fire Seer a B
E: Regardless of my issues with the transition to romance I really enjoyed The Fire Seer. It had Raby’s trademark complex vivid world-building and memorable characters facing difficult situations. I was kept guessing about the overall culprit and motivation along with what Taya and Mandir would come up with as a resolution. I am looking forward to the next installment and hope to see a deepening of the base friendship between Taya and Mandir as their romance grows.
I give The Fire Seer a B