Before She Ignites by Jodi Meadows (Fallen Isles Trilogy #1)/ ★★★★☆
Summary: Mira Minkoba is the Hopebearer, and the treaty that brings peace to the Fallen Isles, her home, is named after her, and she’s spent her whole life serving it. When Mira discovers a secret that gets her sent to prison by the very people she’s spent her life serving, she’s put to the test by a guard who will do anything to find out what it is she knows.
I was in control of me. No matter how much others insisted, they did not direct my arms and legs. They did not determine what words came out of my mouth. The only reason they’d succeeded for so long was because I’d let them.
Genre: Fantasy/Young Adult
I really enjoyed this slow-paced fantasy, and after months of not really being in the mood for fantasy/not reading any really good fantasy, this was perfect to get me right back into it. Before She Ignites is a very slow book, alternating between present and past, and the plot takes its time to unfold. There were times that I wished it would speed up a bit, but overall I really enjoyed being in the world and with the characters. The world-building was great, and like the plot, it was revealed to us in bits and pieces, and I loved the vibrant atmosphere of it- that is, when we see it in the flashbacks, as most of the present scenes are set in prison. Honestly, I thought this book was going to bore me, with most of it set in prison, but those were my favorite parts because they had the most plot development, the most action, and was where met the best characters. Even the atmosphere of the prison was written with a sort of dank intrigue.
Something that I found simultaneously refreshing and frustrating was the fact that Mira is not your average clever-girl protagonist. She’s idealistic, she’s a peacemaker, she assumes people will do the right thing, she listens to the wrong people, she trusts too easily and thinks that she’ll win by simply “doing what is right.” She suffers severe anxiety and she did not understand ulterior motives by cleverer characters, and she fell into traps easily. This frustrated me to no end, because a lot of trouble could have been avoided and perhaps the whole plot of this book could have been shorter, but on the other hand, it was SO NICE for this kind of story to be told by someone who isn’t wickedly clever or scheming and knows how to use a weapon. It was great to read from the point of view of a girl who is soft and scared and mourns the fact that she doesn’t have pretty soaps on prison, and doesn’t believe in her own intellect.
Overall, I really enjoyed being in this book, I loved the whole atmosphere of it. I loved its world and its characters more than it’s actual plot, I think, because if I do have one major bone to pick with it, its that the simplicity of it was made into something more complicated and drawn out than it needed to be. But again, perhaps that has to do with the fact that we weren’t seeing this book through the eyes of a Kaz Brekker or Katniss Everdeen, so it was unique in that way.
OH YEAH, and there are dragons. They don’t have a huge presence, but they’re fun and interesting, from what we learn of them in this book. I expect we’ll learn more in upcoming books in this series.
A major reason I enjoyed this book so much was the characters, because without them, I don’t think I would have cared for the plot so much. In addition to what I said about Mira above, she was a fantastically developed character, and undergoes so much change by the end. As for the rest of the characters, I have to separate them by prison characters and non-prison characters.
I loved the characters Mira met in prison. They were fully formed and fleshed out and developed, they had their own secrets and motives and personalities, and I felt like there was something to be gained by Mira knowing them. They’re the reasons I enjoyed Mira’s time in prison so much. Particularly Aaru. Both he and Mira are such soft little marshmallows stuck in prison instead of clever badasses and it is SUCH a refreshing romance to read. They’re like…if Kaz and Inej weren’t hardened murderer criminals.
The non-prison characters, Mira’s childhood best friends mostly seen in flashbacks, felt very stiff and one dimensional to me, and their only motivations revolved around Mira. Because of that, I didn’t really care for the flashback scenes, or any scenes with them really, because I just got no depth from them. It’s a shame, because of what I knew the author could do with the characters in the other half of the story. Hopefully there will be more to them in future books in this series.
The writing was so vivid and delicate. Descriptions, especially, were so well done. I could see and taste and feel everything around Mira, everything that was happening to Mira. The writing very high on the list of Things That Made Me Want To Stay In This Universe. The sun was SO BRIGHT and the dark was SO DARK and nothing was sloppy or half-done. If this book had been written in a style any less, it would have made its slow pace excruciating, but instead it’s one of the bigger reasons I enjoyed it so much.
Was I satisfied?
Overall, yes! I didn’t have high expectations for this book, for no real reason other than that it came in my Owl Crate subscription and I wasn’t immediately interested in it, but it was a very pleasant surprise! Ivery much enjoyed it and hope to pick up its sequel, whenever that should come out.
I got this book through the YA subscription box Owl Crate, which is full of really great stuff, so go check it out if you’re into YA! If you want to subscribe to get your own, you can use my referral link!