Review: Wicked Like a Wildfire

Posted: August 8, 2017 by in Books We Like (4/5 single_star) Meta: Lana Popovic, Urban Fantasy, Young Adult

Twin sisters Melina and Iris aren’t your typical teenagers. For one, they are half-Japanese (a father they never knew) living in a village in modern-day Montenegro. They’re exceptionally beautiful and talented, Melina with music and Iris with color and art. And they have magic.

Some might call them witches. Their mother calls it the “gleam” and when they do magic together it’s called “eating the moon.” Whatever it is, they are otherworldly women living in a village where they hopefully won’t get too much attention.

However, after accidentally exposing their magic in front of a neighbor their mother Jasmina forbids the girls from doing their magic–especially Iris, whose flashy magic is the most noticeable. And they must never, under any circumstances, fall in love.

But why? Unfortunately Jasmina is tight-lipped, and after a stranger appears in town and someone kills their mother, the girls must use their own wits to search out the real story. Is it true that their grandfather threw Jasmina’s mother and sister over the cliff when he found out about their magic? Why does their mother never talk about their father? They believe that if they find out their mother’s real past, they’ll find her killer. But they never bargain for the truth of where they come from.

Told from Iris’ PoV, WICKED LIKE A WILDFIRE tells her what seems at first like the story of an angsty teenager; but the more the reader learns the more we really begin to understand Iris and why she does what she does. Iris tells a story that uses all the senses, because that’s what their magic emphasizes: the beauty of sight, sound, and taste (Jasmina bakes food that makes the eater imagine a place they’ve never been). Since the ability is inherited through their maternal line it makes one wonder what other abilities have come before. Could there be gleams that accentuate scent? What would that be like?

Twin sisters Melina and Iris aren't your typical teenagers. They're exceptionally beautiful and talented: with music, color, art... and magic.

As the girls learn about their past and what it means for their future, along for the ride are their good friends Luka and Niko, whose Roma heritage make them more open to the existence of magic than the general population would be. The girls quickly discover how true these friends are, and how they couldn’t succeed without their help.

This is a book about relationships: about the relationship between mothers and daughters; about the relationship between sisters; about the relationship of friends; and about the relationship between lovers. The primary relationship explored through the story is that of the mother and her two daughters, and even though their mother is absent for the majority of the story, everything she’s taught her daughters hangs over their heads. Some of the stories Jasmina told them dissolve as the girls discover they were lies that covered the truth; while other issues become more weighty as the girls begin to understand their origins. There are a few holes in the story, so by the end of the book I was left with questions, but they’ll hopefully be answered in sequels. Another problem is that I had a hard time feeling connected to Iris, her angsty behavior made me annoyed with her, but her character arc was satisfying.

The novel starts out slow, and the pace never really picks up, but that’s not necessarily a bad thing because we need time to absorb the prose’s details. Lana Popovic’s writing is lyrical in a way that mimics the beauty of the magic inherent in the sisters–their magic is beauty realized by the senses on a level deeper than one could ever experience otherwise. It’s also via the prose that we come to know the beautiful setting in Montenegro, in a village on the coast of the Adriatic. We learn about local flavor and surrounding areas; and it’s in the mountains where Iris and Melina learn about where they come from and their destiny.

I wish I could tell you more about the book, but I wouldn’t want to ruin the shocking ending. The incredible revelations makes the story feel like an old-fashioned Grimm’s fairytale: part magical but the other part is a nightmare. It’s a book about what beauty means and who’s meant to witness it, but at the same time it’s about the sacrifices family will make to save their loved ones from suffering.

  • Recommended Age: 16+ (marketed to 14+, but beware the alcohol use, smoking, and sexuality)
  • Language: Maybe a dozen instances
  • Violence: Some death and blood, but not frequent
  • Sex: A few detailed scenes that lead up to but don't show the actual act; a F/F relationship

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