From Unseen Fire

Pub Date:   |   Archive Date: 17 May 2018

Member Reviews

This is a wonderful starter to a new series! The novel boasts a strong female protagonist! It is full of magic, history, and political intrigue! The only downside to this book was a little drawn out, and the world-building was a bit confusing! Still, it is one of the best fantasies that I have read this year! I highly recommend it for fans of The Mists of Avalon!
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From Unseen Fire takes place in an alternate Rome where magic exists and is part of the political and class system. After the city’s dictator dies, the exiled and favoured politicians quickly assemble to form a new government. Latona and her sisters must navigate the political and romantic landscape that unfolds around them within their limited social sphere.

It’s unusual to read a novel that takes quite so long to get to the narrative hook as From Unseen Fire does. There’s a reason for that – if you can’t pique the reader’s attention early, you risk them putting the book down and never coming back to it. I struggled through the novel, unsure of why I was meant to care or what the book was really attempting to do until about the midway point.

In the first half of the novel, the most interesting elements are the references to the fallen dictator Ocello – how he ruled and what Latona did to survive. I wanted Morris to stop teasing me with hints at potentially interesting stories. It would not have been difficult to leverage this interesting past, especially when the imagination and story were clearly there. Morris could have included them as flashbacks, for instance, which would have added life to an otherwise very flat narrative set-up.

In creative writing programmes, they often tell writers to write the kind of book they want to read as your passion for that subject will seep onto the page. I have to wonder if From Unseen Fire was really the kind of book Cass Morris would want to read. For the most part, it is a blow-by-blow account of political machinations – an area I often find incredibly interesting. But the novel is dull. Both prose and dialogue are there to recount events in the driest possible way. This book is all ‘tell’.

The only time the prose comes alive is when Morris delves into the developing relationship between Latona and Sempronius. Admittedly, I’m a sucker for a good romance, but it did make me wonder whether Morris was even interested in the politics of the situation she had established given the difference in the quality of the prose when sexual tension was present.

For such a reported, detail-oriented style (this happened, then this, then…) it was surprising that the magic wasn’t given a clearer set-up. Interesting magic systems, for me, require a source of power, something that is finite, and a clearly defined scope for each power. Otherwise, the abilities of the magically-endowed appear limited only by the needs of the plot. That is very much the case here. Other than being heightened by emotions, the limitations of the powers were not clear, giving the author a get-out-of-jail-free card for whatever plot shenanigans she wrote the characters into.

Verdict: The reported prose style delivers a flat narrative, with little to compel the reader on until long after many would put the novel down.
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Cass Morris’ debut novel FROM UNSEEN FIRE is an accomplished epic fantasy novel that introduces complex characters, politics, and magic.

The Republic of Aven, an alternate ancient Rome, has been smothered under the tyrannical rule of the Dictator Ocella. With the Dictator dead, there is a power vacuum in Aven…one that many people are eager to fill, and not all of them with the best intentions. Who will be the next leader of the Republic, and what will become of Aven?

It’s impossible to do justice to all the characters in review format since they’re all well developed and fascinating. There are at least a dozen POV characters and I was interested in each and every one of them — not once was I tempted to skim a character’s POV chapter. But of course, some characters are more compelling than others, and protagonists Latona and Sempronius stole the show.

Latona is a daughter of the Vitelliae, an important and well-respected patrician family that suffered greatly under Ocella’s rule. Latona suffered more than most, forced to use her magical gifts given by Venus to please the Dictator lest he kill her family. Now that Ocella is gone, Latona is finally free to live the life she chooses. The only trouble is finding out what exactly it is that she wants… Latona is the perfect example of a strong heroine who isn’t physically tough: her Fire and Spirit magic is incredibly powerful, and she’s committed to helping the women of Aven escape the sexual exploitation she herself was forced to endure. She’s sassy and passionate, but she also knows how to play the political game. Latona’s clearly just coming into her own in FROM UNSEEN FIRE and I can’t wait to see where her storyline goes in the sequel.

Sempronius, while just as likable as Latona, is considerably more devious…and much more prone to operate from a place best described as “morally grey.” He’s just as ruthless – and frankly, criminal – as the politicians jockeying for position, but his actions stem from a genuine desire to protect Aven and her people. To make his ambitions reality, Sempronius hides his magic from all but a close few…for a mage were discovered in the Senate, the fury of Aven would fall upon him. But Sempronius’ passion for Latona, a married woman, may lead to his downfall long before his magic does…

FROM UNSEEN FIRE’s magic system is impeccably crafted, with the power of the Aventine mage bestowed by gods like Jupiter and Minerva and their gifts directly linked to that god’s dominion. Mages harness their power in unique ways; for instance, Sempronius, a mage of Shadow, uses actual smoke and mirrors to accomplish his ends. Latona uses Spirit to influence people, and her sister Alhena uses Time to see the future (with admittedly spotty results). There are also other cultures, gods, and magics in FROM UNSEEN FIRE, most notably the blood magic used by the Lusetani, a group who begin rising up against Aven’s colonial efforts. I’m sure we’ll be seeing more of them as the series progresses!

Some readers may struggle with the book’s overarching plot, as its less of an action-packed story and more of a slow simmer. But never fear, what with all the political scheming, personal backstabbing, and greedy warmongering, there’s plenty to keep you interested! Those of you who enjoy quiet genre books like THE BEAR AND THE NIGHTINGALE will be more than satisfied with all the goings-on in FROM UNSEEN FIRE. It’s one of the most impressive debuts I’ve read in ages, and I’m very eager to see what Cass Morris comes up with next.
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DNF at 50%.

If I had known this was written in 3rd person omniscient, I never would have picked it up in the first place.

I was really attracted to the premise: a cruel dictator has died, and a somewhat broken nation has a chance to set its course straight again. But rival political factions make unity unlikely, so it becomes a question of which vision for the country will prevail. Unfortunately though, there's no big "but," no complication or terrible thing that will befall them if they make the wrong move, no stakes.

The main characters: Latona, a noblewoman trying to master her mage abilities and Sempronius, a politician hiding his magic in order to achieve his political ambitions, have goals but their goals are all about serving the city, too vague and lofty to be urgent and keep the pace up. I'd been trudging through this for weeks until I realized, "Wait, this isn't a plot," and because I couldn't think of one thing I was anticipating or invested in, I stopped reading.

I liked the worldbuilding and the magic system, especially the laws surrounding it, like that magically-inclined people can serve in the senate, but cannot seek high office. The world was immersive and compelling, and I did quite like the characters. But it's just so slow and I have a ton of other ARCs weighing down my bookshelves and Kindle. And life is too short to spend it reading things that just aren't for you.
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I can't lie, it was the cover that first caught my attention for this book.  It made me want to read the synopsis, which made me want to read the book- which led to one of the best fantasy books I've read in quite some time.  A book that lives up to its potential, From Unseen Fire takes place in an alternate, fantasy, version of ancient Rome.  The cruel dictator who governed the empire and terrorized its people is dead and now it is time to pick up the pieces- socially, politically, personally, and militarily.  

Latona of the Vitelliae is one of those who suffered under the dictator in order to protect her family.  Now freed from his shadow, she finds she cannot fit easily back into the life she led before.  No longer can she hide herself or her talents, or her wish to do more to rebuild the Republic and help its people.  All her life Latona has been held back by other people: her parents, who worried that unscrupulous men would use her and her magic; her husband who wants only a quiet life in the country focusing on his business; and Aventan society itself, which says that a woman who is not a priestess should focus her life and her magic only on her family.  Then she meets Sempronius Tarren, an ambitious man who hates to see talent wasted, and sees in Latona huge potential- if only she can find the courage to reach for it.  Sempronius is the first person to see Latona as she is, not as he wants her to be, so it can be no surprise that their friendship grows into a magnetically compelling attraction.

Sempronius is among those who want to rebuild Aven, and he joins the political clash on what the Republic should look like.  He hopes to break down barriers and allow people to thrive as their talents allow, without being trapped by class or citizenship restrictions.  Others want to return to the glory days of the old Aven, and the ways of the city's founders hundreds of years ago.  Some want to focus only on home while others worry about growing disturbances in the provinces.  Iberia becomes a hotbed of chaos with Aven's allies threatened by a new war-chief determined to protect his land and his people.  

At first glance, these seem like too many different story lines to work, but Morris weaves them together into a brilliant, seamless novel.  From Unseen Fire kept me on the edge of my seat the whole time, wondering what would happen next, if favorite characters would succeed in their personal quests. I was constantly worried that the book would end on a cliffhanger and I'd be left waiting desperately to find out what happened next.  True, the book doesn't wrap everything up in a neat bow- this is the start of a series.  But neither does Morris leave her readers yelling "How could you end it there!?" when they reach the last page.  I was struck throughout the entire book by how each of the characters believes completely that their actions are for the good of their land and their people.  Looking at it like that, none of them can be really considered 'villains', although some are more willing to take questionable paths to reach their idea of the greater good.

Although a debut novel, From Unseen Fire reads like it was written by a veteran author.  I greatly look forward to Cass Morris' next Aven book, both to keep following these characters and this world, and to see if Morris can keep to the high bar she set for herself here.
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My family is chock full of history buffs. My father’s a history professor, my brother works at a museum, my sister gives talks at conferences about historical monuments, and I was an art history student once upon a time. So my excitement wasn't very surprising when I first heard a book being described as ‘ancient Rome plus magic’. And that was exactly what we received in From Unseen Fire by Cass Morris.

From Unseen Fire is a fantastic fantasy book set in a word reminiscent of Ancient Rome. The book follows Latona, along with her sisters and several others, as the city of Aven is left leaderless following the sudden death of the Dictator Ocella. On one hand, the people no longer live in fear of his iron fisted rule and mad grab for the magic he was born without. But the people are still livid over the conditions they’ve lived in for so long now, war is brewing on one of Aven’s boarders, and elections will be held sooner rather than later. Two ambitious men strive to lead Aven into this new age – one who clings to the old ways, another determined to bring Aven into the future and hide the magic he has which would bar him from office.

This book is steeped in Ancient Roman history. Though names of places are different, it is unmistakable that this world is supposed to be an alternate Rome, one called Aven after the Aventine hills. It is a Rome much like the one we know. This does extend to naming conventions, city landscape, villa layouts, etc. While there is a character page at the start of the novel and a rather detailed glossary at the end, keep in mind that getting this as an ebook might be helpful if you know nothing of ancient rome. That dictionary search function may come in handy, though even terms that might not be unfamiliar are normally identifiable based on context. Magical abilities are very common in this society, but suppressed. One unfortunate ruler has lead to magic being outlawed in government positions, and those who bear these powers to stay out of the way, hidden, at least within the social circles of the upper classes.

Political intrigue is a large part of this book. Yet it isn’t all politics, rebuilding a damaged Republic, and dealing with a war brewing along their border. This is as much about the lives of the characters are the politics. Latona is the character through whom we experience the majority of the story. She is a grow woman and married to a man who addresses her with either cold indifference or views her as a threat. For Latona has magic, namely Fire and Spirit magic, and is capable of much more than she seems to realize. I loved reading about Latona, and her sisters.

I loved reading about sisters who weren’t at one another’s throats, siblings who genuinely care about one another, and friends who aren’t busy stabbing one another in back or sabotaging their good efforts. This book is just chock full of good, kind, heartwarming sibling relationships and deep friendships. Not everyone is kind – that would make for a boring book, after all. People are still enemies. Some government factions are more dastardly than others. But the characters we follow and care about try their hardest. Siblings tell each other when they simply can’t deal with the attitude or words they know they have.

The magic in this book is widely varied. A person normally is gifted with one or two types of magic. Each of these magic’s are associated with one of their gods. Temples are places for learning as much as worship or healing. Yet, magic is suppressed in many ways. While not outlawed, those with magic cannot hold any major positions within the government so as not to. Thus, magic gets a bit of a poor reputation among the upper echelons of society.

From Unseen Fire wraps up very well. There is a clear conclusion to the book – no major cliffhangers to be found here. I am hooked nonetheless. I will absolutely be continuing with this series. Because it is more than a historically bases society with magic. This is a story about family. It is a story about marriage, about healing, about finding yourself, about courage, and doing what you feel is right no matter what the laws or societal norms may say.

If you are a fan of fantasy who is looking for a very different sort of magic system to read about, check this book out. From Unseen Fire would also probably greatly appeal to readers of historical fiction despite its fantastical elements. Either way, this is a fantastic series with wide appeal which everyone should read.
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This is a fantasy set in an alternate Roman empire with magic. Some people have one of eight types of magic and use it with their day to days lives. Not everyone is a priest of a god or goddess with the magic but it does tend to run in families. The only thing you can’t do if you have magic is run for the Senate, politics is barred to magic users.  Latona and her two sisters each have magic, but her magic was so strong she was wed to someone not that interested in politics to hide her from the dictator. Now that he is dead, factions are vying to take control of the Senate and the future of the Empire.  The action of the book swings between to Latona and Sempronus, a leader of one of the factions and Latona’s brother who is far away with the legions fighting to protect distant lands. 

This is certainly book one of a series and even with good conclusion to the voting at the end of the book there is so much more to explore in future books.
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Thanks Berkley Publishing Group and netgalley for this ARC.

I can't wait to read the next installment of this series. Cliffhanger does not come close to describing how this one left off but I'm excited to read more. If you love ancient Rome, fantasy, fighting, and good fiction then this one is for you.
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A subtle reworking of Rome, with a very large cast of characters, an interesting magic system based upon the elements and their relationship to the Roman pantheon, and a whole lot of politics. This book is DENSE. I enjoyed it a lot, but it took a while to get through. 

The characters are absolutely the strongest part of the story, with an excellent trio of sisters at the core, along with many other women with strong convictions and men with many motives. It's definitely a good thing that a cast of characters is included in the book, as is a glossary of terms (there are many Latin/faux Latin terms used liberally throughout). Not the easiest to use in an eARC, but definitely great in a fully formatted ebook or physical edition. 

The political motives all make sense, perhaps most especially the wife of the barbarian warlord. She's a practical gal who is fed up with men thinking only about glory, and I like her a lot. 

The way magic is used throughout the story is well explained, and it's also thankfully not too overpowered. It's also clear that the author thought a lot about how magic would impact the cultures of her world, with the prohibition on men with magic being elected to the governing structures of Aven. It also provides a nice way to level the playing field between classes, which I appreciated. 

I loved the bit of romance that burns throughout basically the entire book, although I'm still a bit baffled at a choice Latona makes in relation to this. Hopefully that choice will be justified better in the sequel. 

Great for folks who enjoy sprawling political epic fantasy like Kushiel's Dart, Game of Thrones, or Black Wolves. Also great for people who enjoy historical fantasy.
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I liked the setting and the characters as well as all the political drama & conflict going on however it really struggled with pacing. There were long stretches were all people did was talk. I also found the ending to be pretty unsatisfying. I understand it's a series but you gotta hook me. Make me gasp or interested in coming back and that really did not happen.
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Like historical fiction in ancient Rome, but with magic. YES, please. The only thing I didn't like, and this is my own fault, is that I'm pretty sick of series, or books that at least aren't standalone novels. If I had realized this was the first of a series, I might not have requested it because now I want to read the rest of the series and I'll forget about it by the time the next instalment comes out...
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This was an example for me of not judging a book by it’s cover. The beautiful cover art and description made me think this book would be something I would love. I liked the basic ideas of the story, but it fell flat for me. Latona and the other characters are okay, but just okay. I didn’t care about them or what happened to them. The magic was interesting, but I didn’t get caught up in it. The world building was decent but not so great that I got lost in another land. In fact I wish the names had simply remained the same as the places they were based on, the changes were distracting not enthralling. The book wasn’t bad, it just wasn’t very good. I would be open to reading something else from this author because I do see potential, but I doubt I would continue with this series.
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This was soooooo complex! It was hard to get into at first, just trying to get a good grasp of the world and it's nuances, but I loved it! I'm a romance lover so I wish the romance had been a little less understated, but  I did love the relationship between the sisters. All in all, I LOVED this story AND Latona as a character, even though she made some decisions that I don't agree with.

The writing style was descriptive and I really enjoyed it, and the magical twist to a familiar and much loved historical setting.
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Unseen Fire is a unique take on magic and fantasy within a Roman society. Although not quite a historical fantasy, the author is clearly a big fan of hellenic and roman studies because the first hundred or so pages painstakingly lay out the government, magic system and patrician/plebeian classes. The magic system is tied closely to roman gods but is also very subtle throughout the book.

I found Latona and her sisters very likable but could not connect with any of them outside of perhaps some feminist ideas. Latona's counterpart in politics and love, Sempronius, fell a little flat for me despite his ties with Hades and his gift of prophecy. Nevertheless that did not prevent me from finishing the book. I also liked the tension that the rising revolution lead by Ekialde added. I found myself hoping to see more chapters with him toward the end.

Overall 3.5-4 stars for Ms. Morris' debut. I enjoyed reading it and look forward to the sequel.
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This book is a lesson in tempering expectations. One would think that, being a fan of the video game industry, it's one I've learned backwards and forwards by now, but nope--not when it comes to books, it seems. I came into the story wide-eyed and giddy. Months and months before, I'd feasted my eyes on the gorgeous cover, read the words "alt-history" and "rome" and "magic," and thought "holy hell, this is made for me," then fell headlong into hype town. But alas, reality is a cruel mistress. Because while it's not a bad historical-fantasy story, it's a mediocre one--which, to me, is the ultimate kiss of death.

The premise of the story is based around one question: what would the fate of the Roman Republic have been if it'd had mages at its disposal?

First of all, the story suffers from a bit of an identity crisis. It's mainly set in a city called Aven. And pretty much everything about Aven (minus the magic), from architecture to social and political structure, to its dictator, is identical to Ancient Rome.

Well, okay, so it's a fantasy world inspired by Rome!

Well, no. Because Aven gods are Roman gods--Jupiter, Juno, Mars, and the like. And the protagonist mentions "Remus" at one point, so Romulus and Remus and the legend of how they founded the ancient city obviously exists in this world (though it makes no sense then as to why the city would be called "Aven" rather than "Rome").

Then it' alternate history with a dash of fantasy!

No, not quite! Because while Aven does have its own Julius Caesar equivalent, his name of "Ocella," and he dies not of an assassination but an illness. Also, the Mediterranean Sea is called the "Middle Sea" and Lusitania (known today as Spain and Portugal) has been ever so slightly altered to "Lusetania." It's as if Aven is your white friend, Adam Smith, who'd one day decided he would get dreadlocks and call himself Swift Flowing River and sell vaginal cleansing moon water at $69.99 per bottle. It's all just so weirdly dressed-up and unnecessarily inconsistent. There are too many changes made for it to be alternate history, yet too similar to history for it to be an original fantasy world.

Secondly, let's take a look at the magic system, which I thought was full of potential. There are nine types of elemental magics in this world and each has its own patron gods--Spirit mages, for example, are said to be blessed by Jupiter and Juno. When charted all out like this on paper, it looks really neat. Nothing too original, but familiar and cool. My problem is that we don't get to see many of these magics at work in the story itself. There are throwaway comments here and there about a certain mage doing this or that, but Fire and Shadow are the only ones that the story (sporadically) focuses on.

Moreover, Aven feels like plain Rome, with little to indicate that it's a city of mages. There are so many ways that the magic could have been incorporated into the setting. Architectural inventions that rely on magic. Elaborate fashion designs that are reflective of specific patron deities and their powers. There are so many cool possibilities that the story just doesn't explore, and I was left gnashing my teeth in frustration and disappointment.

The characters are a hit and a miss. Latona is a fine lead character. She's a Spirt and Fire Mage, which means that she can influence emotions and blow shit up, respectively. She's independent and fiercely protective of her loved ones, but she's also dealing with trauma from her time at the Dictator's court, where she was manipulated and kept under leash. I loved how she channels all the guilt, rage, and helplessness from that experience into helping other vulnerable women.

The same, unfortunately, can't be said for her male co-lead, Sempronius, and most of the supporting characters. Stories with large casts run the risk of uneven distribution of character development, and that's exactly the case with this book.

Sempronius is a Shadow and Water mage. Immediately following the death of Oscella, he scries a vision of two possible Avens: one of properity and strength like it has never seen before; the other, of ruin and dust--our Rome, basically. And so Sempronius is determined to do whatever it takes to prevent this second future from taking hold. We see very early on that he's a noble, charismatic, and ambitious man. And as the story goes on, he continues to be noble and charismatic and ambitious, and...nothing much more. Interesting, complex characters either shed layers or have layers added to them over the course of a story. But Sempronius at the beginning of this story is the same as the Sempronius at the middle and at the end. Bland and paper-thin, he essentially exists for the sole purpose of moving the plot forward (and very slowly, at that).

The supporting characters fare no better, with perhaps the exception of Aula, Latona's older sister, and Merula, Latona's handmaiden. Part of the problem is that we see so little of so many of them that it's hard to feel one way or the other about any. The other problem is that they're just not very interesting. There's nothing notable that distinguishes one from the other and they all kind of blend together after a while.

The story focuses on two plotlines: the upcoming election of Aven, which Sempronius is campaigning for, and the rising conflict in Lucenatnia, led by the 20 year-old war-leader, Ekialde. I wasn't really invested in either of them, and a lot of that has to do with uneven pacing. Nothing much important happens throughout a large chunk of the middle, and then there's a sudden flurry of activities in the last 70 pages. It also has to do with the the structure of the narration, which was very different from what I'd expected. Many of the scenes are written almost like vignettes: there's a lot of dialogue and exposition and description of actions, but no detailed descriptions of the setting (or any extraneous details) in between. It's very economic. Which makes it digestible but doesn't keep me deeply immersed in the world.

The bottom line is that I was bored. I was bored reading a story about Ancient Rome and political intrigue and foreign threats and magic influenced by the Roman gods. It's an exciting premise that fails to deliver. And I tried to like it. I wanted to like it badly. But for that to happen, you got to give me something to hook my interest onto, and all I found were smooth, flat walls.

Thank you to DAW Books and Netgalley for providing me with a review copy.
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From Unseen Fire is a beautifully written and nuanced work of historical urban fantasy.  The focus here is not on the magic so much as the interpersonal relationships and politics of a pseudo ancient Rome.  Accomplishments are through intellectual decisions rather than random actions - a rarity in this age of 'tell and forget to show' fiction.  I appreciated that we have a mature set of main characters who are navigating a tricky world and situation but also triumphing above adversity.

Story: Latona is the daughter of privilege but at the mercy of a vicious Dictator who has ruled Aven with greed and decisiveness.  Her family has suffered, as has she personally, under the Dictator; his final death after years of subjugation means freedom but also challenges.  As the politicians jockey for position, exiled aristocrats return, and a new threat emerges in Ibera, Aven is an empire in turmoil.  Latona will find herself siding with the quiet and shrewd senator Sempronius Tarren - her contribution to his campaign to become the next leader of Aven being a very strong ability in fire and empathy magic.  

Since this is Rome by another name, it is fairly easy to understand the plot - Aven standing for Rome, Iberia for Spain, and the Roman political structure.  The magic is understated - aristocrats downplay the ability due to its potential for abuse and most with magic abilities seek to hide it if they are in politics.  Especially in patrician women, it is a detriment rather than a benefit.  There are darker, more forbidden magics, of course, and even more 'spiritual' magic in the pagan lands outside of Aven.

Main character Latona is a woman protecting her family members while also attempting to affect change quietly.  Her struggles are nicely drawn and she triumphs or fails based on her intellect rather than random chance or deus ex machina abilities. This type of heroine is so rare in fiction lately - and I appreciated her characterization all the much more for it.

At its heart, it is a romance - the developing relationship between Sempronius and Latona.  I was greatly reminded of Pride and Prejudice in several areas - not directly but more as an inspiration.  Especially since we have a lead male character with a watchful sister and a lead female character with a large family in straightened circumstances.  There are no great misunderstandings but the depth and strength of these characters were very reminiscent of Darcy and Elizabeth Bennett - as well as many of Austen's protagonists.

From Unseen Fire is written in a literary style that lets the plot unfold slowly and smoothly.  It's not a book for those expecting huge drama points or excess battles over characterization.  As such, it's a book to slowly savor rather than quickly consume.  It's also a book that stays with you longer for that reason.  Reviewed from an advance reader copy provided by the publisher.
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The ancient country of Aven has been the victim of its Dictator for decades. When he dies of a chronic illness, the capitol city and the entire country is thrown into chaos. Those who were exiled under the previous regime flock to the capitol. Politicians scramble to capture power. Enemy countries make plans to attack. The lives of a trio of sisters and their historic family are turned upside down. 

I was excited to be sent a copy of From Unseen Fire. I'd seen it marketed on Twitter by the author and a number of different book marketing companies. The cover looked fascinating and once I read of the summary, I knew I had to read it. As I've mentioned in a few previous blog posts, I studied Latin for many years and, since this book appeared to be based in Rome or a similar setting, I was excited to learn more. 

I wasn't far off in my initial guess of the setting. While the city isn't exactly Rome, there are strong elements of Roman and Latin culture sprinkled throughout, including togas, the republic political structure, furniture and religion. It is implied that the city of Aven exists in an alternate world in which Remus (rather than his brother Romulus) founded the city. Regardless, I enjoyed the explored and learning more about the setting. It was an exciting change of scenery from many of the urban or medieval fantasy stories I've read so far this year. 

The plot of this novel was complex and detailed, if this wasn't clear from my summary in the first paragraph. There are at least five moving pieces of the plot, all equally important and interconnected. As is the case in any novel with multiple story lines, I was more interested in some character's point of views than others. The plot I found most compelling was of Latona, a mage of Fire and Spirit, from the prominent Vitalliae family, who fights the expectations put on her by her society, her family and her husband. 

The cast of character is absolutely immense. The first couple of pages of the book have a detailed directory of characters. While it was important and ultimately helpful as I went through the story, I was exhausted reading through the summary of the families and characters within them. I often times wondered if many of the characters could be cut out or combined to help the flow of the story and make things easier of the reader, but with such a complicated plot, each character does become necessary so it's difficult to say who I would get rid of. Instead of negative aspect of the book, I think it's more of a warning to any readers who are more interested in light or leisurely reading. 

Fans of Game of Thrones and myths, will love From Unseen Fire. The first book of the upcoming Aven cycle is a complex and compelling story. The setting is unique and fun, plus readers who are have studies Roman culture will get a kick out of many of the references. There is a large, somewhat daunting cast of characters, but the author does a good job of making sure they're all necessary and relevant to the plot. 

From Unseen Fire will be available on April 17th. In the meantime, you can pre-order the book on Amazon or through your local, independent bookstore.
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FROM UNSEEN FIRE is filled with complex imaginings and political magical machinations in a slow building reader's trap.

FROM UNSEEN FIRE is beautifully written and descriptive novel thrusting the reader deep into the Roman error…well a magical Roman error.

You have a woman, Latona, fighting for the best outcome. She is basically doing whatever it takes to keep her family ahead. While, Sempronius Tarren, he wanted the best outcome for his family but also seemed to have a grasp of the land as whole and the ability to effect everyone around him. 

Political machinations, religious beliefs, personal experiences, magical power and gender all play a part Aven’s future. Reading FROM UNSEEN FIRE gives the reader an upclose and personal look as it unfolds.

I received this ARC copy of From Unseen Fire from Berkley Publishing Group - DAW. This is my honest and voluntary review. From Unseen Fire is set for publication for April 17, 2018.

My Rating: 4stars
Written by: Cass Morris
Series: Aven Cycle 
Sequence in Series: Book 1
Hardcover: 400 pages
Publisher: DAW 
Publication Date: April 17, 2018
ISBN-10: 0756412242
ISBN-13: 978-0756412241
Genre: Epic Fantasy

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This is not my type of read.  No rating or review.  Thank you for sending the book anyhow.
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