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The Flame in the Mist
3 Stars: A Good Read
Hardback: 464 Pages
Publication: April 9, 2013 by Delacorte Press
Fiery-headed Jemma Agromond is not who she thinks she is, and when the secrets and lies behind her life at mist-shrouded Agromond Castle begin to unravel, she finds herself in a chilling race for her life. Ghosts and misfits, a stone and crystals, a mysterious book, an ancient prophecy—all these reveal the truth about Jemma's past and a destiny far greater and more dangerous than she could have imagined in her wildest fantasies. With her telepathic golden rats, Noodle and Pie, and her trusted friend, Digby, Jemma navigates increasingly dark forces, as helpers both seen and unseen, gather. But in the end, it is her own powers that she must bring to light, for only she has the key to defeating the evil ones and fulfilling the prophecy that will bring back the sun and restore peace in Anglavia.
Jemma believes that she has a weak constitution and is an utter failure to her family. She has been raised to believe so by the Noxes, a family specializing in the dark arts that has raised her since she was a little babe. However, right as she is preparing for her Initiation, which is to happen on her thirteenth birthday, Jemma learns that the Noxes are not her true family and, worse, plan to sacrifice her to strengthen their dark hold over Anglavia. Frightened, she escapes from Agromond Castle on a quest to find her real parents and get Initiated into the Light before the Noxes steal her powers for themselves.
Jemma is what I look for in a middle-grade protagonist. She's at the tender age where she still wants to believe in the adults she's grown up thinking were always in the right. Upon finding out that they aren't perfect after all, she must struggle on her own to find her way in the suddenly very big and scary world. She does depend on greater powers a lot in the story, and it was conflicting to me because I really wanted to see her do more on her own. In the end, however, I'm okay with it because she is still a child, and it's very realistic for her to need to depend on others before reaching the end goal, where she must stand on her own to protect those she cares about.
The supporting character were a joy. I have an especial place in my heart for the rats. I had one that I was very fond of as a child, and I was so sad when she died. I haven't had a rat since, but they're warm, intelligent critters. I have a soft heart for mammals, generally larger ones but these rattusses are special. Digby is strong, pure-hearted, and very supportive of Jemma. I wish that there was more of him in the story. He isn't present as often as I thought he'd be given the synopsis. Marsh is someone I'd love to have as my aunt or grandmother even. She's a bundle of warmth and someone I imagine would be fierce to face off against. (In short, don't.) To my surprise, I ended up sympathizing with a couple of the Noxes, though I wouldn't change their endings. They deserve what they get in the end.
The plot was predictible, but that is to be expected when there is a prophecy about good defeating evil. I knew from the beginning that Jemma would be the one to defeat the Noxes, and she must do so on her own without outside help. The heart of the story lies in Jemma's journey to finding her powers and the strength to defeat the Noxes. It was a bit frustrating that it took Jemma two parts of the book to escape, as the synopsis hadn't suggested that she'd be alone for so long. It bogs the story down, though it does provide context and developments that help pull the story together in the end.
What didn't work for me is how lucky Jemma is. When she gets into bad situations, all she needs to do is call upon the crystals for help, her rats will help her, or some other lucky coincidence will provide aid to her. Jemma does have to raise her fighting spirit in order to get out of scrapes, but I would have liked to see her work out more things for herself. This is a coming-of-age novel about a girl coming into her powers that were always meant to be. Not to mention that she is the prophesized Fire One who will defeat the evil residing in Agromond Castle. There needs to be more of her struggling to fend for herself for me to believe in her story.
Overall, this is an enjoyable fantasy read with epic elements that will delight upper middle-grade readers. While there are predictable elements and lucky coincidences, and the pacing is slow, the characters are a joy and the overall writing is strong for a debut work. This story is very light on the whole and a good fit for younger readers seeking to start reading larger books.
A copy was provided by Random House for review.
Kit Grindstaff was born near London, and grew up in the rolling countryside of England. After a brush with pop stardom, she moved to New York and embarked on her career as a pop song writer. Kit now lives with her husband in the rolling countryside of Pennsylvania. She is a member of the SCBWI. The Flame In The Mist is her first novel.