Before She Ignites by Jodi Meadows
Published by: Katherine Tegen Books
Release Date: September 12, 2017
Genre: YA high fantasy
Others by Author: Incarnate, The Orphan Queen, My Lady Jane
Mira Minkoba is the Hopebearer. Since the day she was born, she’s been told she’s special. Important. Perfect. She’s known across the Fallen Isles not just for her beauty, but for the Mira Treaty named after her, a peace agreement which united the seven islands against their enemies on the mainland.
But Mira has never felt as perfect as everyone says. She counts compulsively. She struggles with crippling anxiety. And she’s far too interested in dragons for a girl of her station.
Then Mira discovers an explosive secret that challenges everything she and the Treaty stand for. Betrayed by the very people she spent her life serving, Mira is sentenced to the Pit–the deadliest prison in the Fallen Isles. There, a cruel guard would do anything to discover the secret she would die to protect.
No longer beholden to those who betrayed her, Mira must learn to survive on her own and unearth the dark truths about the Fallen Isles–and herself–before her very world begins to collapse.
I received an e-ARC from the publisher in exchange for an honest review. Thanks, Katherine Tegen!
I really wanted to like this book. Dragons and POC representation? Sign me the hell up. Unfortunately everything besides the POC characters and the anxiety representation fell so far off the mark that the book could not be saved for me, beyond earning the 2 stars.
The book is told from two different time periods: before Mira went to prison, and after. This split time perspective was unfortunately more annoying than anything else, and did not help with the suspense. I didn’t understand why Mira was in prison, she didn’t understand why she was in prison, and nothing was clear until more than halfway through the book. And the revelation was so underwhelming that I was shocked Mira had not seen it earlier. And that’s where my main problem lies.
I don’t mind naive characters, but Mira was not just naive–she was also pretty dumb. Dumb to the point that she had to have been blocking or forcing herself not to see clearly. Mira’s individual traits don’t bother me, but she pretty much only had annoying qualities to her and I had a hard time rallying behind her because of this. Naive, meek, desperate for validation, dependent, kind of shallow, childish, etc. She acted more like a 13 year old than a 16 year old, and that would have been fine if she were 13. Her anxiety, her meekness, and her love of dragons pretty much entirely made up her personality and that is not a person I would put an entire novel behind, I’m sorry.
I liked that she had anxiety, and the words anxiety and panic attack were used frequently in a fantasy novel – that was pretty interesting. Sadly, this is not enough to hold her up as a strong enough character in the middle of court politics and dragon warriors.
Which brings me to my next point: where the hell are the dragons? I’m sorry but I was promised dragons and I got two tiny lizards, who were kind of cute, but still. And even those I mostly got from flashbacks and anecdotes. We get one large dragon and one medium dragon in the last third of the book, but until I got there, there was pretty much nothing past Mira waxing poetic about how much she loves dragons.
Most of the novel was spent inside the prison, while Mira was mistreated and badgered for information that did not feel relevant until the end, and nothing moved the story along. It did not feel like I had moved forward much when the book was done, to be completely honest. Like I was there in prison with Mira. Wondering where the dragons were.
I liked some of the side characters, but you know what may have helped? If we had gotten multiple POVS! Give us her friends from home trying to get her out, give us a POV from the asshole guard, give us more other than Mira being sad that none of her prison mates like her. I’m not even joking, she literally says that.
Anyways, I’ll stop now because I feel like this review makes it seem like I hated this book, when really barely have any feelings towards it. A resounding “meh” is probably the best description.
Have you read this book? Agree or disagree with my thoughts?
Let me know in the comments!