Trial by Fire (Worldwalker #1) by Josephine Angelini (2014)
YA Fiction | Paranormal Fantasy
“This world is trying to kill Lily Proctor. Her life-threatening allergies keep her from enjoying experiences that others in her hometown of Salem take for granted, which is why she is determined to enjoy her first high school party with her best friend and longtime crush, Tristan. But after a humiliating incident in front of half her graduating class, Lily wishes she could just disappear.
Suddenly, Lily is in a different Salem—one overrun with horrifying creatures and ruled by powerful women called Crucibles. Strongest and cruelest of them all is Lillian . . . Lily’s other self in this alternate universe.
What makes Lily weak at home is what makes her extraordinary in New Salem. In this confusing world, Lily is torn between responsibilities she can’t hope to shoulder alone and a love she never expected.” -Goodreads
pooled ink Review:
Trial by Fire was everything and more. I must have a faulty radar or something because I somehow was living on this planet totally unaware of the Worldwalker Trilogy until I had the great fortune of meeting Josie Angelini herself for the release of the second book Firewalker. When she talked about her book I knew I knew I was definitely intrigued and as I got to know a bit more about her I was convinced that this was a book to be reckoned with. I bought it without even Googling reviews or anything at all (when you live on a strict budget you tend to be very picky with how you spend your money). I am so very glad that I did and I only regret that I couldn’t buy both Trial by Fire and Firewalker at the same time.
This book contained many of my book weaknesses (aka faves). I’m from Massachusetts so anything set there instantly has my favor (but hopefully doesn’t lose it). I’ve always had a fascination with magic and I always chose the Salem Witch Trials as my school project in my history classes. So yeah the fact that this book was set in Salem, Massachusetts and had inspirations from the Salem Witch Trials had me all but sold and then Angelini tosses in the main plot point of parallel universes (yes physics! I’m also a bit of a physics buff…) and doppelgangers and I was beyond sold, I was ecstatic.
Over-bubbling with giddiness I can report that this book far from disappointed me. It not only lived up to my expectations but it surpassed them in all of the best ways.
Constantly surprising, constantly new, constantly changing. Angelini never let you see too far ahead before the woods took another unexpected and dire twist.
Her character construction was so well done I could hear the different timbres of their voices, I could see them, I could sense their realness and feel their emotions. I also love how complex Angelini made her characters by not only making them realistically complex human beings but by presenting them constantly with tough choices where maybe neither option is preferable but a choice must be made.
Lily constantly battles literally against herself and while you see the wrongness of Lillian’s actions and the rightness of Lily’s you also see the reverse. It makes this book so conflicting as the reader but that’s precisely what pulls you in. You want it all to be so black & white and simple: good vs evil. But life isn’t always a tidy divide and the battle between Lily and Lillian shows us just that. Neither are right in their actions but neither are wrong either.
Is it a matter of a means to the ends? Is it a matter of the greater good? Is it a matter of a few for the many? That’s up to you, but each choice has consequences somewhere somehow because life is far more complicated than we’d like it to be and there is no wholly good choice that will save and please everyone and cast the world in rose-colored glasses forever.
This not only breathes life and intrigue into the characters but into the world itself. Angelini’s world building skills are immaculate and I could so easily picture every inch of city and forest she drew. Beyond that she took such particular care to provide reasons for everything as the story goes along that you can’t help but second guess whether this is fiction at all or if it just might be real out there somewhere. You know it’s just a story but then some small voice in the back of your head perks up and at Angelini’s suggestions it can’t help but whisper “What if?”
I admire the detail and the amount of purpose put behind this New Salem that Angelini has created. It’s new and imaginative and fascinating. But beyond that it’s fun to see how she includes science into this world ruled by magic. Whether it’s the Law of Thermodynamics, basic rules of electricity and conductivity, herbal medicines, or even the principles of nuclear energy she puts it all in its place and it fits into this witchy world with humble understandings. It’s endlessly fascinating to contemplate this world so dominated by magic and the underground fiddling of science which is the utter polar opposite to our world that is dominated by science with obscure tampering with magic.
The only thing, the only thing that didn’t thrill me was Lily’s obsession with, well, all things “green” (which sounds crazy because it’s not like I hate trees or anything!). It’s just all her anti-Nuclear, anti-meat, anti-this, anti-that blah blah blah made her a person I wanted to roll my eyes at (because even if she had good points about all of these things in our world we have no better options available to us on a large-scale practical level quite yet but of course I’m desperately hoping (and yes I know we’re probably not quite there yet because of politics and corporate America ugh)!
Anyway, but I’ve never been one to tolerate extremists (haha I guess I’m a bit of a boring liberal conservative then, huh?). That being said I completely understand the need for Lily to have such extreme convictions in this book. It makes total sense because you can’t have a face-off between two ho-hum doppelgangers, now can you? Boring. You need two strong leaders with polar opposite but firm convictions. All the action, the tension, the power, the motion, the thrill, the rush…it all stems from two very beautifully stubborn people faced with all but no good choices and it’s fantastic.
Trial by Fire is the start to a blood-thrilling trilogy where magic and science collide and history has taken a different path. Filled with witches, physicists, doppelgangers, and fire this book will paralyze you in your seat from start to finish and leaving you breathless and starving for the sequel.
Purchase here: Trial by Fire
Read the Q&A with Fierce Reads authors Leigh Bardugo, Josephine Angelini, Leila Sales, & Emma Mills (Decatur, GA)
Similar recommended reads: Shadow & Bone by Leigh Bardugo, Red Queen by Victoria Aveyard, Lichgates by S.M. Boyce, The Waking Land by Callie Bates, City of Bones by Cassandra Clare, Shatter Me by Tahereh Mafi, Under the Never Sky by Veronica Rossi
Meet Josephine Angelini!
Josephine Angelini is a Massachusetts native and the youngest of eight siblings. She graduated from New York University’s Tisch School of the Arts in theater, with a focus on the classics. She now lives in Los Angeles with her husband.