Smokeless Fire (Fire Spirits, #1) - Samantha Young 1 very generous star.

This book got a lot of five stars and enthusiastic commendation. I delved in expecting to like the book. I mean, it's about Jinn—something that I haven't read about yet! So why such a low rating? What is wrong with me?



I know, I’m sorry. But I was so very annoyed with this book that only the catharsis of expelling my frustration into this review could give me some peace.

There were so many problems with this book. From the editing, the sluggish plot, lack of credible myth building, and character un-development, the book got worse and worse as I turned the pages.

Synopsis

There are beings called Jinn in the world, and Ari, our protagonist, is somehow related to their existence. Of course, Ari does not know about Jinn until her 18th birthday, when she gets a surprise visit from one of the Jinn. The rest of the story revolves around Ari coming to terms with her own destiny while dealing with teenage problems typical to YA novels: estranged relationship with parents; dealing with a friend who's lost his path; and of course the irrevocable love triangle.

A fairly interesting concept, right?

But wait. Here are some of the major problems I encountered:

1. Annoying protagonist: When we are first introduced to Ari, she’s portrayed as a lonely yet caring girl. She lives with a detached father whose business takes him away from his daughter months at a time. Ari’s only solace is a close childhood friend who has spiraled down into a dark depression filled with drugs, alcohol, and sex after the death of his brother.

At first, I sympathized with Ari’s constant efforts to get things back under control, especially since the two men in her life keep pushing her away. But here’s the thing: despite all of Ari’s efforts, they still hurt her purposely, and you know what? She repeatedly takes their crap. To top it off, she lashes out at other people and emotionally hurts them after suffering such numerous setbacks. My reaction towards Ari's reactions slipped very quickly from sympathy, to disbelief, to annoyance, and finally to wanting to pound her face in.

For example (one of many, really), Ari has a huge crush on Charlie and so deep in love is she that she keeps taking his crap after (1) dragging him out of his druggie friends’ house only to have him crawl back for another high; (2) demanding that he get a medical exam to ensure he’s STD free—yes, he is THAT much of a manwhore; and (3) catching him having sex on her dad’s bed during her birthday party. That Ari not only opens her arms for the creep but also continues to be his emotional crutch and whipping post after all of that astounds me. Even worse, despite her complaints about how lonely she is, she basically abandons her friends again and again to be with Charlie.

2. Hazy myth building: Jinn are beings not dealt with much in paranormal YA, and while I could see veritable effort in creating a new Jinn mythos, there were too many gaping holes in it for me to be convinced. The concept of different classes of Jinn was interesting, especially since the Seven Kings hold dominion not over land, but over a day of the week. Talk about separation of power! But unlike our executive, legislative, and judicial branches of government, the Jinn system does not allow for any interaction among the kings and conflict arises from the strict need to keep dominions separated.

However, the author’s way of streamlining this Jinn myth into the real world was highly unoriginal and unrealistic. Mainly, the magic system is, well, omnipotent:

“Jai insisted that she use her magic for everyday things. He said there was no one muscle that needed to be worked, no inner power that had to be tapped into or explored. It was all about believing. It was as simple as that. Ari had to believe that if she wanted a glass of water that she could conjure it. Or a bag of chips.”


Wait, what? All you have to do is believe and thou shalt receive? No tradeoffs? No consequences? No going to school to hone your magical abilities? So, if you believe in a billion dollars, a private island, and an endless supply of pina coladas, it will happen? Granted, the money and the island must come from somewhere, but for one person to have such a power with little limitations is unbelievable.

Ari’s own unique powers, which I won’t spoil, reach even more preposterous heights. All I can say is, Ari, girl, just take over the freaking world already because you are more than capable of doing so.

3. Sluggish plot: After the birthday party, things slowed down considerably. While there were some minor developments, things came to a standstill until her jaunt to Roswell, New Mexico. Isn’t Ari assigned a guardian because she is in danger of being kidnapped? Why is no one trying to attack her or harass her? Why did I just read an hour’s worth of her personal drama with Jai next to her, doing nothing but reading?

4. Quality control: I realize that the author is independently published, but this book needs serious editing. The language was very colloquial. There are better ways to display your character’s frustration than making them call someone an asshat or douchebag. Because, frankly, it sounds very juvenile. I understand teens say dumb shit, but seeing this in dialogue over and over again really made the characters unlikable.

Overall, I was frustrated with this novel. It has potential and an interesting premise. But the characters and plot were very under developed. Maybe this novel is intended for the younger audience, but I found everything overly simplistic and without substantial direction.

1 star and not recommended at all.