Out of all of the books included in this month’s TBR, A Promise of Fire by Amanda Bouchet was the one that I was the most hesitant to read. When paired with the synopsis provided on Goodreads, some of the reviews that I have seen of the book made it seem like there were a lot of problems with it. Many people criticized the nature of the relationship between Cat and Griffin and the final line in the synopsis made me question whether or not they develop a real relationship. I was worried that it would feel forced and that Cat would be manipulated into loving Griffin, something that is never okay.
Although up for the battle, Griffin would prefer for Cat to help his people willingly, and he’s ready to do whatever it takes to coax her…even if that means falling in love with her.
I was genuinely intrigued by the synopsis for A Promise of Fire and decided that it would be one of the first books of the month. I am so glad that I bought this book and I feel bad for doubting it, because, ultimately, the wording of the synopsis might have driven me away if it wasn’t an alternative pick for the Vaginal Fantasy Book Club.
Needless to say, I fell in love with this book almost immediately. All of the reservations that I had going in vanished as I got deeper into the book. I had a hard time putting it down and read the majority of it in a single sitting. In fact, I bought the sequel, Breath of Fire, immediately after I finished it. That’s how much I liked it.
This review contains spoilers and quotes from the book
A Promise of Fire is exactly what fantasy romance should be. It’s detailed and beautifully written. There’s a ton of world-building. Going in you have a ton of questions that might or might not be answered, which leaves you with anticipation for the remaining novels in the series. The characters are charming, witty and likable. There’s actually a romance. Not only does a relationship begin to develop, but we get all of the cute moments that lead up to it. Plus all of the intimate and passionate scenes that go along with it. Furthermore, Bouchet takes it one step further by including mythology as one of the main components behind the lore in A Promise of Fire. It’s a wonderful touch and brings an immense amount of depth not only to the world that we are presented with but the characters as well.
The main character, Cat, is the highlight of A Promise of Fire, as she should be. Bouchet writes in the first person and does so in a way that allows you to see into Cat’s head. Completely. You know her every thought, and it really comes in handy when Griffin is involved. Not to mention she is a character that is clever, witty, cynical and has a feisty attitude. Cat’s badass attitude is a great addition to the story and has you smiling, even when the novel makes you believe that something devastating is going to happen.
There are times, however, when you get a little too into Cat’s head. And, as much as I hate to say it, it gets a little annoying. Her inner thoughts are always loud and clear, and as much as she wants to trick herself into thinking otherwise, her denial about her attraction to Griffin is downright frustrating. When Cat’s denial is at an all time high, the reader gets used to seeing words like Gah! Gag! and Yuck! embedded into her thoughts and it becomes a little annoying. As much as I loved reading about what Cat was really thinking, there were times where I became incredibly frustrated and annoyed. However, it definitely gives you an idea of what Griffin is going through in his attempt to romance Cat; it’s not an easy job.
As the novel progresses, the vast scale of the world comes into focus. Here’s where the mythology and incredible world building come into play. The role of the Gods is very strong in A Promise of Fire. There are references to mythology everywhere. The Gods also play a very prominent role in Cat’s life. Poseidon, in particular, has a very strong connection to Cat. It is implied that she received some kind of power from him. He appears to her, offering help and giving her demands in order to put her on the right path multiple times throughout the novel. Furthermore, she has a thing for water and the cold. A number of other Gods are hinted at having a connection with Cat as well, including Zeus and Hades. In short, the Gods are everywhere and they are watching. It’s a great touch that adds depth to the world and is unique in that respect.
The novel centers around Cat and her role as the Kingmaker. Not only does she have a feisty attitude, she has a mysterious past. She has secrets and there are a lot of them. A Promise of Fire begins with Cat’s life at a circus, where she has been hiding, disguised for many years. That is until Griffin shows up and takes her. Yes, he does forcibly take her. Is that wrong? Yes. But there’s a reason for it that fits in with the lore of the story.
The novel hints around Cat’s true identity quite often, but without giving away any theories or hints at who she actually is, in short, she is the Kingmaker. She holds powerful and ancient magic.
There’s magic in spoken language. It’s binding. There’s a reason people ask for someone else’s word. Every sentence a person utters can be a promise – or a betrayal.
The woman who divines the truth from falsehood? The most coveted diplomatic weapon in the realms? The Kingmaker?
She is able to tell whether or not someone is telling the truth, which is a great asset for any person of political power to have. Words are binding and Cat is able to tell the truth from lies. Truths ring loud and clear in her mind and carry words of their own. Just by listening to others, Cat is able to hear the truth behind their words, even when they are lying. Speaking of which lies bring about incredible pain. When someone lies around Cat, even if it’s just a small lie, her insides burn. Her role as the Kingmaker is both a blessing and a curse and has caused her much pain. In fact, that’s why she’s in hiding from the start. She has no blood family. At least, not in her own eyes. Her mother tortured her, betrayed her and taught her not to love. Cat has trouble trusting. She lives in fear that her mother will find her and kill anyone she has affection for. She lives a truly haunted life and it’s heartbreaking to see her struggle when she finds affection and a family in Griffin.
Speaking of Griffin, let’s go back to the abduction. Having just taken over one realm and gained power without the use of magic, Griffin is in search of Cat without knowing who she really is. He doesn’t covet her like every other corrupt person of power that exists in this world. He seeks out her out with peace and purpose. He was led to her in fact, as a gift from the Gods, by means of an oracular dream for the purpose of healing. So yes, he does initially abduct her. He binds her to him. But only because he knows that they were meant to be together. While fate might seem a little cliché here, it brings them together. At first, he does everything to keep her comfortable. He offers peace, compassion, and trust. And, in all honesty, Cat doesn’t hate him. Of course, she doesn’t like being captured, at first. But as she learns more about Griffin and his team, she realizes that he is a great leader. He’s strong, passionate and good. He’s not corrupt like other leaders and wants to unite the realm peacefully. He wants to provide for the weak and promote goodness. And as much as Cat initially denies it, she likes being in his company. He offers her warmth, protection, and compassion that she has never experienced before.
You might think that this makes Cat a weak character. Trust me, it doesn’t. She is one of the strongest female leads that I have seen in a fantasy novel. In addition to her bold attitude, she knows how to fight. She knows how to survive. She’s not afraid to put herself in danger to save others. In fact, she goes out of her way to do so. Yes, she has magic, but she also knows how to wield a weapon. She’s not afraid to kill and her thoughts demonstrate her power. Furthermore, she is given the option to leave multiple times throughout the story. She chooses not to.
Full of secrets, battles, and action, A Promise of Fire is difficult to put down. You constantly find yourself wondering what is going to happen. What happened in Cat’s past? Who is after them? Does Cat’s attitude change? To make matters worse, there’s a budding love story going in amid all of the action. As the novel progresses, Cat and Griffin become closer to one another. There’s tension there, and it pushes you to keep reading, just to know what will happen with their relationship.
Bouchet writes the romance plot perfectly. Just when you think things are going to take a step forward, they move backward or stall. And while that might be frustrating for the reader, it’s a wonderful form of torture. By writing in that way, we learn more about the characters and experience their tender moments of compassion. It’s frustrating and adorable at the same time. Not to mention passionate. There are so many moments of sexual tension in this novel.
Overall, A Promise of Fire was a pleasure to read. It fuses the strong characters, story building and magic of fantasy together with the tender and passionate moments of romance. There’s pain, action, and fighting, but there’s also compassion, friendship and family. There’s love and sex and romance. Bouchet definitely brought something new and exciting to the fantasy romance genre, and I can’t wait to see what will happen in the rest of the series.