Cover Image: Cast in Firelight

Cast in Firelight

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Member Reviews

Unfortunately this was one of the few books I couldn't get into. The cover is a beautiful rendering by Bowater, but the story didn't fit the bill.
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What an amazing adventure!  Cast in Firelight was an exciting story that took my breath away.  I loved the rivalry between these two characters and how they both adopted secret identities to fight the threat before them.  This was a great story and I’m excited to see where book two goes from here.
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I absolutely loved this book. The slow burn romance between Adraa and Jatin, the magic system, and the mystery plot just kept me reading. Great for readers who enjoy novels like Six of Crows, I can't wait to see what happens in the next book and how Adraa and Jatin continue to grow.
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The story is a solid YA fantasy. The characters are interesting,  the magic and world building creative, and the budding romance is sweet. I felt the mistaken/hidden identity went a little long into the book, but it's a good way to have the characters fall for one another.
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Beautiful and. unique story. Hoping this is going to be a series!  Excited for more from this author.
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Cast in Firelight was an enjoyable start for a fantasy duology. I liked the story enough to want to keep reading. However, I also felt that the book wasn't much different from other YA stories.

At the center of Cast in Firelight is a political storyline which was somewhat intriguing. The tension between the countries led to a lot of mind games where the motives were fun to guess at. However, there wasn't much of a resolution in this book so I was a bit frustrated at that.

I liked Cast in Firelight but thought it was a rather predictable story. Nothing surprised me. The characters didn't make me want to get to know them. I was more interested in learning about the magic system. That was fun to see in action! I liked that they were identified by colours. So beautiful and easy to visualize.

I hesitate to say I loved the romance between Adraa and Jatin because there were elements I disliked but also parts I thought were meaningful. Without giving too much away, both parties weren't truthful in the beginning. It irked me a lot. Yet, as much as I did not enjoy the deception, their lies led to an undeniable positive relationship- a strong and solid one rooted in trust. Adraa and Jatin were equals and worked well together.

All in all Cast in Firelight was a nice debut novel. Even though the story and characters didn't stand out, I enjoyed the world, its magic system and the questionable but low drama romance. I hope book two will feel more distinct and deliver more twists.
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I have been anticipating this book since I first heard about it back in May of 2019. I waited for months, the whole time worrying that I was getting overexcited. I was not. This book was even better than I ever imagined that it could be.
I really loved how the characters progressed. Their growth was incredible and also very believable.
All in all, I would highly recommend this one for both fantasy lovers and those who are new to the genre.

Rating: 5/5
Language: N/A
Romance: a kiss or two
Spiritual: N/A
Violence: a bit, never descriptive
Note: talk about periods and cramps

*I received a copy of this book from the publisher. All thoughts are my own and a positive review was not required.

Quotes:
"'And if I hat her? Or she hates me?' Maybe I should tell Father about our letters. 'Because she does hate me a bit. She's not avoiding me because she's shy.'"

"'She doesn't hate me. She hates Jatin, or at least the idea of him. Thinks he is arrogant and cold.'
'Where did she get that from?' he asks, deadpan, and raises and eyebrow in case I don't catch his meaning."

*Quotes taken from arc and subject to change.
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This book brought me out of my reading slump. I really enjoyed the building romance between Adraa and Jatin. Cast in Firelight was the perfect mix of magic, action, and romance for me. The worldbuilding and magic systems were intricate and thorough, fully immersing me into the story. While I did enjoy the story, as I'm not Indian, I cannot say whether or not the portrayal of this world was accurate as it was not written by an Indian author. One complaint I have is not with the book itself but with cover art. Adraa is described multiple times throughout the novel as dark-skinned and even as the darkest one in the room, but the illustration makes her a lot lighter than anticipated.
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*eARC provided by NetGalley in exchange for an honest review*

Wow, I did not expect this book to be as amazing as it is! It really blew me away, and I had to stop myself from staying up all night to finish it. 

The relationship between Adraa and Jatin is much like the relationship between the main characters in The Swan Princess, the "This Isn't My Idea of Fun" part. For most of the book, they are unware that the person they are falling in love with is the person that they have disliked and been betrothed to for years. While not enemies to loves, maybe rivals to loves? Annoyance and irritation to attraction and love. 

This is a book heavily inspired from Indian culture, but it is not #OwnVoices. In the words of the author, "I know some readers may be disappointed that this story isn’t #OwnVoices. You may look me up and see my pale skin (and one of the most English names in existence) and wonder why I tried to craft a fantasy in which none of the main characters look like me. And for me the answer is simple: because these characters will look like my children.

I was honored to be accepted by my husband’s family. And as a result of their generosity in teaching me about their culture and incorporating them into their family, I began, as fantasy writers tend to do, imagining a world that encapsulated my experience. Thus, Cast in Firelight was born as a blend of both my worlds (with a heavy dose of imagination stirred in, of course)."
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Thank you, NetGalley and Random House Children for this eARC!
This was the most anticipated read of 2021, and I was not let down. Cast in Firelight was impressive. From the relationship and the character development to the plot, nothing was lacking. 
I thought Adraa and Jatin's relationship was adorable and at times, extremely funny. I love how they both tried to hide their identity from each other and yet somehow ended up falling in love with each other. Jatin was such a wonderful person through and through, I thought that it was too good to be true. Adraa was a strong, determined, and passionate person for everything she does. Adraa running her business, helping her mother, and dealing with the illegal trading of the firelight all showed her to be a congenial character.  Their relationship was beautifully written, but I can't but feel as if Jatin's emotions were slightly sugar-coated.
The plot also surprised me in a good way as well as the world-building. It was not at all what I had expected and the unexpected plot twist at the end was welcome.
When I first started the book I was expecting more South Asian culture in the writing, however as the book is not a #ownvoice book, the amount that was already there was adequate and I was fine with that. I cannot wait for the second book to come out and I thoroughly enjoyed this!
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I enjoyed this books story line but I did feel like the Indian influence should have been stronger. It was there but was obviously not written by someone in that culture. Otherwise I enjoyed the book.
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While reading Cast in Firelight by Dana Swift, it tool me MAYBE 2-3 chapters before I knew this story/series is going to be something BIG. It is not only fantastically written with such well developed characters that you cannot help but become immediately invested in them. The magic systems are a really cool, fresh take on elemental type power and I am on the edge of my seat waiting for the second book to see just how Adraa's powers grow. I will be recommending this book to every person that I can possibly get to listen to me!
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Something to note before I start this review: I am white, this is an Indian-inspired fantasy written by a white woman. The author's reasoning for writing this seemed a little iffy to me. It seems like she is taking up space in a genre that doesn't get all that much representation. I did like this book, though I will be looking for own voices reviews.

TW: mentions of assault/sexual assault, violence, drugs, and drug addiction

I'm going to split this up into what I liked and what I didn't like

What I liked:
• Okay I really really liked the romance in this one oh wow. I think this might be counted as rivals to friends to lovers and I love it so much. I thought Adraa and Jatin were really cute together and I'm really glad that we didn't have to wait until the very very end for them to actually confess to each other.
• I loved the double mistaken identity oooooh it was so good, and I think that's part of what saved this book for me.
• I loved the twisting turns it took to figure out who the real villain was. And I'm happy that the real villain was who it was and not someone that I thought it was going to be.
• The reason for all the firelight being taken????? Loved that twist


What I didn't like:
• Again the fact that this was written by a white woman, and I am white too so I'm not sure if she messed up any of the cultural aspects in the book. 
• Adraa spoke in a more modern way than the rest of the people. She would often say things we say now while everyone else pretty much spoke like you would in a high fantasy world. 
• This ties in with the last one (and is technically part of what I loved but still). It felt weird and off to call the menstrual cycle, a period in this book. It's a fantasy book, and yeah I know it's not that big of a deal but it felt weird haha. I guess I'm just used to them saying monthly or something like that.
• this book has exactly one shown and talked about gay person and it's brought up once and then never again. She's a pretty big character too so that's a little weird. And the whole book is kinda heteronormative, not super obvious but they always talk about how Adraa needs to marry a man and all that jazz. But there's one line where another woman fighter briefly brings up Adraa and Jatin's personae in the Underground and says "all that heteronormative crap". I don't know, it just felt like the author was trying to act like she had all this great lgbtqia+ representation by adding one gay character and adding that one line.
• they use male and female so so often, it was aggravating. There are more than two genders in general, but I know that South Asian cultures recognize genders beyond the binary so this sucks even more.
• I felt like the ending kept dragging on and on and on. I thought it would be over and then boom another chapter.
• I did feel like the romance was a little rushed (not in general because they had been kind of pining since they were kids, but it wasn't shown all that much)
• The magic system was a little confusing at first because it's not really explained, so you have to pick up details throughout the whole book.

Okay, I know I had way more disliked things than liked, but I still really enjoyed reading this!
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I absolutely loved the first 100 pages, but then it started to drag on just a little bit. 

I loved the relationship between the two main characters. I thought they were lovable and complimented each other perfectly. 

I wasn’t a huge fan of the ending, but that is just my personal preference. 

I’d recommend this to fans of fantasy romance and enemies to lovers!
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I really liked the concept of this book, and I’m generally a fan of the enemies-to-lovers types of stories, so CAST IN FIRELIGHT definitely has that going for it. I liked Adraa and how quirky and awkward she is, too.

There were a few things I struggled with, though. One was the magic system. It’s nine different types and coordinating gods/goddesses and colors. That made it a lot to keep track of, but also characters that then could use most or all types of magic seemed almost too powerful?

I also had a hard time understanding some of the structure of the royal family/palace. Like, I couldn’t understand if the palace was just really small, with a really small staff? (Was the kitchen maid the same girl who styled Adraa’s hair?) Sometimes things happened that seemed strange, like when a guard takes Adraa to his room to speak with her privately. Wouldn’t that be a huge breach in propriety? And with the prince’s fiancé??

They were small things, so it wasn’t hard to kind of just shrug and move past them to see where the rest of the story was going. I liked that it had a lot of twists and turns, and I definitely wanted to know where Adraa and Jatin’s relationship would head, so I was definitely invested in the story.

I also appreciated the author’s note at the end of the book explaining that while it’s not an #ownvoices story, she wrote the book for her children, who will be Indian. That and the nod to her husband’s family was really sweet.

I feel like this book would be a good one for middle school readers. It’s solidly a young adult book, but not really dark or gritty, so a great fit for readers who need something a bit lighter– readers who read and enjoyed The Lunar Chronicles, for instance.
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Cast in Firelight is an interest entrant into the world of teen SFF - it feels unique in its setting and use of Indian/Pakistani (sorry if I offend one by assuming the other) culture interspersed with good writing from multiple character's viewpoints.  Swift is able to clearly delineate between her two protagonists' voices, and the jump from one to another is always fascinating; their takes on the same situation really drive one of the novel's central premises home.  All in all, Cast in Firelight sets a nice tone and feeling for an easy-to-read series that, as long as it continue on the same path, should be read by any teens (or adults) who enjoy SFF.
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I don’t know what it is, but something about this book totally appealed to me. something about the storytelling just gives off this down-to-earth and easygoing vibe. It feels like the author wrote this book from his heart, to have fun, not to hit up all the items on some imaginary checklist of what makes a YA novel successful. The magic centers on the aspect of color and Swift adds a refreshing twist to this concept.

Dana Swift's approach is very straightforward and uncomplicated; it doesn’t feel like she’s sacrificing her vision to adhere to a fixed set of conventions, nor does it feel like she's out to subvert any norms. At the heart of it, I just see an author telling a story about characters that she obviously cares a lot about. For that, I can overlook some of the novel’s weaknesses, such as the simplistic writing style and on several occasions where it felt somewhat skewed towards younger audiences like Middle Grade. The writing is perhaps my only big issue I had with this novel, which I felt could use a fair bit more polishing, but this is not an area I’m overly concerned with when I read YA.
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I received an e-ARC copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review!

Cast in Firelight captured me from the very beginning. I could tell from the prologue that I was going to love this book. The writing was flowing and the plot and world interesting. I wasn’t sure where the book was going but I kept wanting to read more. Frankly, I didn’t want to put the book down.
Some of my favorite tropes took part in this book and I was LIVING for it. Enemies to lovers, marriage of convenience and secret identities all took part of the plot. The chemistry and interaction between Adraa and Jatin kept me hooked until the very last page.

Adraa and Jatin were such wonderful characters to read about. They disliked each other for nine years and yet they were also the same people that drove one another to succeed. They drove each other to improve by constantly competing. The tension and animosity that brewed from those nine years, created some interesting developments and interactions between the two and their thoughts of one another. I loved their competitiveness and sass and confidence. Their personalities worked so well with one another and their power as a team really showed.

Their romance progressed slowly but surely, with lots of setbacks and lies and deceits but also lots of insecurity and tenderness. They both tried to refrain from gaining feelings for one another since they did not know each other’s identities, and knew they were betrothed and promised to another. They were both under the impression that the person they are interacting with are just commoners. While gaining feelings for those same “commoners” they still held on to their dislike of one another- believing they have not met each other. This drove me the best kind of crazy. I was frustrated. I kept screaming at the book that they’re falling in love with their intended. That they did not, in fact, hate their betrothed. It was amazing.

The magic system was so intriguing. I loved that it was religion based with their gods and each of their magic type combines with the color each represented. It was complex and yet very easy to understand.

Overall, I loved this book! It was just so FUN. I enjoyed the plot, loved the characters and their chemistry. It was a real fast read too! The pace was great and it definitely made for a good binge read!!
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I really loved this story. The magic system was so different than anything else I have read recently. Add in the enemies to lovers but secret because they don’t know who the other really is. It really just makes for a page turning read.
If you haven’t put this one on your list now is the time!
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Cast in Firelight: Fantasies Don’t Have To Be Violent

Despite the title of this review, Cast in Firelight does have a healthy dose of violence involved but I promise you, this isn’t some form of clickbait! And, I will get to that in a bit but first, I have to say I was incredibly delighted with Cast in Firelight despite my misgivings about it. After all, seeing a white author’s name attached to a book that is clearly about Indian culture and characters is rather frustrating and I was completely prepared to obliterate the book. But after a quick Google search, Swift has addressed these concerns in a Goodreads post which I truly appreciated and now completely blame Delacorte Press for not being more upfront with their marketing — it isn’t that hard to mention that Swift wrote these books for her children!

Plot, Prose & Pacing: It Grows On You!

Cast in Firelight drew me in instantly with the cutest chapter title, “I Meet the Love of My Life and Slap Him in the Face” and we haven’t seem chapter titles in a long time. (All of the chapter titles are all so fun and so witty!) But, I did feel that there was a bit of a slow moment in the beginning as readers try to gain their bearings and immerse themselves in the world. I’m a little biased as I was busy fuming over what I believed was cultural appropriation but once we hit meat of the plot, it gets very intense, very quickly. And this also applies to Adraa and Jatin’s slow-burn relationship!

Told from a dual first person point of view of Adraa and Jatin, Cast in Firelight is more than a story of mistaken identities and romantic shenanigans. Although they have been engaged since childhood, the two deemed the other a rival despite having never met since the fateful day of their engagement and, are not looking forward to marriage. In a series of fortunate circumstances and mistaken identity, Adraa and Jatin are thrown together to investigate the case of missing firelight, Adraa’s invention, which takes them deeper and deeper into the dark, seedy underbelly of Belwar. As the investigation becomes more dangerous, it also becomes harder for the two to protect their royal identities from the criminals as well as each other. But, the people they are up against are determined at all costs to protect their cause and Adraa and Jatin have no choice but to trust each other, despite the web of lies the other has woven. At the same time, Adraa and Jatin are battling their own internal conflicts with their own magic and royal heritage.

The book blurb does not do Cast in Firelight any justice because there is so much depth and detail to the book! The banter is incredibly witty and natural and while mistaken identities is not my favourite trope, their romance is believable and rather enderaring. I loved every second of it. Everything made sense!

But, what I loved the most about Cast in Firelight is just how light and fun it is for a YA fantasy. Like the blog title suggests, there is a marked lack of violence for gratification and cruelty even though the book deals with darker subjects including drugs, illegal fighting and torture. But, it all felt necessary and part of the story, even though I felt some of the fight scenes got a tad bit long and overly descriptive. But too many YA fantasies these days find a need to make their books as bloody, gory, triggering that Cast in Firelight felt so whimsical, colourful and such a delight to immerse myself into.

Worldbuilding: Colour and Whimsy

Colour plays a big role in Cast in Firelight as the magic system is based off a rainbow of colours that took a little getting used to such as red for a fire affinity, white for a snow affinity and pink for a healing affinity. But despite experiencing a little difficulty remembering what colour goes with what powers, it didn’t detract from enjoying the book. Clothes, buildings and even food are given beautiful and vivid descriptions of colour, allowing readers to fit themselves into the shoes of the character.

However, I found it a little disconcerting that magical practitioners are called wizards and witches which tended to bring me out of the immersion as these are rather Eurocentric words and did not rather fit with an Indian/South Asian setting.

But underneath this whimsy is a more complex association with colour as depending on the country like Belwar and Naupure, colour also denotes your rank in society depending on how many of the colour affinities one could master. This also ties in to the concept of Touch which are the god-bestowed marks that a witch or wizard wears on both their arms, marking how many colours they have mastered. For example, Adraa and Jatin both wear marks showing them having mastered nine colours which only a rani/raja is able to do. This leads to having those without any magic called the Untouched and while I loved this magic system, it felt very much like a caste system whereby the lowest caste in Indian culture are colloquially referred to as Undesirables. It was the only thing that bothered me.

Characters: A Labour of Love

Swift’s intentions to write the Wickery series for her children proves itself in how easy it is to love these characters; in fact, they almost seemed too perfect with surface-level flaws! But, it added to the fun, whimsy and fantastical nature of the book. Contrary to popular belief, Swift would not classify Adraa and Jatin as enemies-to-lovers and neither would I! To be an enemy is to know someone enough to classify them as the enemy but having never met each other since the day of their engagement, Adraa and Jatin do not know enough about each other to be enemies. Rather, they are rivals but is there even such a trope as rivals-to-lovers? Perhaps, we should create one for them!

Adraa is tough-as-nails and incredibly take-no-nonsense. As the royal heir, she is incredibly serious about the role she has to play in protecting her family and her people. At the same time, she is badass and incredibly Mary Sue-level powerful, demonstrating prowess beyond her years but befitting her status as a future rani. This seems a little bit too unbelievable, considering she’s demonstrated poor ability in her childhood and we did not see a “montage” of her getting better. Despite this, Adraa lacks confidence and has not been able to master the white element yet.

Jatin, on the other hand, is incredibly kind and generous, with his emotions and his selflessness. In fact, one of his biggest personality traits is that he wants to be out in the world, doing good with his abilities, but being the only royal heir stands in his way of putting himself in danger. After all, he has mastered all nine colours and is an all-powerful wizard.

It’s hard to find any sort of moral grey when it comes to Adraa and Jatin which in this case, I love because it just makes the book so hopeful and charming. You’re constantly rooting for the both of them, you never have to pick a side because there are no other romantic interests introduced (like, can we have more of these kinds of stories, please!) and their tension and banter is so, for lack of a better word, cute!

Themes: Social Justice and Inequality

I touched on this a little in the WORLDBUILDING section but I want to raise it briefly in its own section. A large underlying part of the worldbuilding is rooted in social systems. Adraa’s country, Belwar, accepts the Untouched as part of the society and colour mastery doesn’t play a big role in their society while Jatin’s country, Naupure, still puts a lot of worth into how many colours one can master and determines their rank in society based on that.

While it is not overt, Adraa and Jatin are driven by a need to see their people equal. Adraa created firelight and sells is extremely cheap to her people so that everyone can afford to have much-needed light and warmth in their homes. As Adraa also supplies firelight to Naupure, the same can be said for Jatin as they work together to uncover the darkness of the criminal world.

After all, it is not morally right to write a story based on Indian/South Asian culture and completely ignore the archaic caste system still in place as this is a real reality lived by Indians and South Asians all over the world. I only wish Swift didn’t call them Untouched.

To sum it all up, I cannot wait for book two! Cast in Firelight is both complex and simple, a rather difficult feat to achieve for a YA fantasy book! I hope it continues in this tone because this is all I could ever ask for in a YA fantasy!
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