by Josephine Angelini
To be published on September 2, 2014
by Feiwel and Friends
Source: ARC sent by the publisher for review
Synopsis from Goodreads: 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?
My take: I really enjoyed Josie Angelini's first trilogy -- the Starcrossed series published by Harper Teen. While the first book in that series opened with some very familiar PNR (paranormal romance) tropes -- an awkward girl encounters a mysterious boy who seems to violently hate her; he has a large, equally mysterious family; and the two learn that they absolutely can't be together -- as the trilogy moved away from this familiar set-up, I came to appreciate its imaginative, mythology-based story world and unexpected humor.
As I read the opening chapters of Trial by Fire, I must confess to feeling a bit of PNR deja-vu. Lily Proctor is -- wait for it! -- awkward and out of place. Her severe allergies make it hard for her to live a normal life. When she attends her first high school party, trouble ensues and she wakes up in a strange version of her hometown of Salem -- one she doesn't recognize -- and is faced by, among other people, a young man who looks at her with unadulterated hatred.
At that point I thought the book would be time travel, with Lily sent back to seventeenth-century Salem. (I hadn't read the synopsis before starting.) But no-- the story is far more interesting and unexpected. As the synopsis above indicates, this is an alternate universe(s) book. Lily has been sent to an alternate Salem, where she meets her alternate self in that universe. (I'm not an expert on quantum physics, but I think I remember from Back to the Future that doing this makes the world explode or something, though Doctor Who seems to have no problem with it...)
As I kept reading, I really fell in love with Trial by Fire. While many first books in trilogies choose action over world-building, this book features some of the most imaginative and interesting worldbuilding I've read in YA in 2014. I also loved the way that the magic in the book is grounded in science. (I'm no scientist, so I can't attest to the workability of the magic, but I was impressed by its creativity and thoroughness.) Finally, I was charmed by the book's humor. The Starcrossed series showed me that Angelini has a wacky and unexpected sense of humor, and that shines through in this book. Yes, Lily is in danger much of the time, but her attempts to explain her world to the residents of alternate Salem resulted in some truly funny moments.
The one thing about this book that made me a little uneasy was the romance. The love triangle was my least favorite part of the Starcrossed trilogy, and alt-universe books always open up the possibility of some very messy romantic situations. That's the case here. With two Lilys, a love interest who only exists in alt-Salem, and tqo versions of guy friend-who-could-be-more, there's the potential for a lot of romantic angst. (Then again, there are also enough people to get most everyone paired off.)
Overall, I loved Trial by Fire, which has gone on my list of Favorites of 2014. It has a little something for everyone: romance, danger, science, humor. It's a book that I had a hard time putting down, and I book that I highly recommend picking up!
Have you read this one or are you excited to? I'm on vacation this week, so if you leave a comment, I will do my best to respond and return it when I'm back :)