Mini Review: Trial by Fire by Josephine Angelini

Trail by Fire
Josephine Angelini

Feiwel & Friends
I received a copy from the publisher in return for an honest review:
Released September 2, 2014
374 pages
YA / Magic / Witches

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This world is trying to kill Lily Proctor. Her life-threatening allergies keep her from enjoying experiences that others in her hometown of Salem take for granted, which is why she is determined to enjoy her first high school party with her best friend and longtime crush, Tristan. But 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 cruelest of them all is Lillian . . . Lily's other self in this alternate universe.

What makes Lily weak at home is what makes her extraordinary in New Salem. In this confusing world, Lily is torn between responsibilities she can't hope to shoulder alone and a love she never expected.

Trial by Fire is an interesting mash up between science fiction and more traditional witch fantasy. Lily Proctor is seemingly allergic to everything in this world, constantly having to fear going into anaphylactic shock and possibly dying just for going out and experiencing life. When she’s invited to a party by her best friend who she has long since had a crush on, she tempts fate only for fate to punch her in the face repeatedly. Embarrassment after embarrassment eventually leaves her hating everyone and wishing that she could be anywhere else.

Then she wakes up to find herself anywhere else and she just wants to go home. Funny how things work that way, huh?

After landing in an alternate version of her world where a coven of witches rule the government and monstrous science experiments haunt the vast forests, Lily discovers that what makes her allergic to everything in her world acts as a conduit to magic in this one. She, of course, meets a boy who can train her and protect her from this crazy unfamiliar land until she’s able to help his cause in defeating the evil witches, who just so happen to be led by Lily’s doppelganger from this world.

I really enjoyed the alternate Salem that Angelini developed along with the complex magic system she embeds within it. She’s conceptualized the magic system around physics, making the rules tied to science as much as you can when creating magic. Instead of just hand-waving the differences between Lily’s world and this alternate magical one, Angelini tries to ground the entire thing in realty and it works without getting in the way of the fun.

Lily grows quickly into a dominant character that is driven more by her own will even when she’s placed into the hands of caretakers after landing in an unfamiliar world. She doesn’t make too many stupid choices to assert herself either, which is a rare occasion in a story like this. She’s cautious, but headstrong and incredibly determined to do what’s right even when it’s hard.

This is a solid introduction to a world of magic that leans heavily on a pseudo-scientific basis. There’s a lot hinted at, especially regarding motivations, that aren’t fully explored, so many doors are left wide open for subsequent sequels. Angelini created an interesting world with plenty of world-building rules that make the characters and surroundings jump off the page and breathe. I’m normally not one for witches, but this is a series I’ll be following.