Ash is descended from a long line of gladiators, and she knows the brutal nature of war firsthand. But after her mother dies in an arena, she vows to avenge her by overthrowing her fire god, whose temper has stripped her country of its resources. Madoc grew up fighting on the streets to pay his family’s taxes. But he hides a dangerous secret: he doesn’t have the earth god’s powers like his opponents. His elemental gift is something else—something that hasn’t been seen in centuries. When an attempted revenge plot goes dangerously wrong, Ash inadvertently throws the fire and earth gods into a conflict that can only be settled by deadly, lavish gladiator games. The fights put Madoc in Ash’s path, and she realizes that his powers are the weapon her rebellion needs—but Madoc won’t jeopardize his family, regardless of how intrigued he is by the beautiful warrior. But when the gods force Madoc’s hand, he and Ash uncover an ancient war that will threaten more than one immortal—it will unravel the world.
I heard gladiators and gods and was ready to read this book that instant. And the more I learned about it, revenge plots and magic and cruel gods, the more I wanted to read it. I actually haven’t read any of Kristen Simmons books and only one or two of Sara Raasch’s, but I’ve heard great things about both of them and this book sounded awesome enough that I didn’t really care haha. Trigger warnings: gore, grief
This book was good. It delivers on everything that I promises, but there was also a good number of things that I wasn’t the biggest fan of. I enjoyed it, though I did find myself getting frustrated at times and not quite understanding why the plot went in certain directions.
Alright, to start off, I’ll talk about the things I loved, since I really, really loved certain parts. The world was incredible. There are different kinds of magic, or energia, and they’re all element-like. They’re all ruled over by a different god, on a different island, and they all reflect the gods powers. For example, the fire god’s island is hot and they’re buildings reflect that. The people run hot because of their fire power, ignia. The small details were so in order and it created a world that was endlessly fascinating. We only get to see a small part of it, but it feels so expansive. It is so throrughly crafted and just so, so cool.
Though, I did feel like I was just thrown into this world like I had prior knowledge of it. I found myself confused at the beginning because I was getting hit with all these new terms that I didn’t quite get yet. Because of this, there were a few plot twists in the beginning that I felt were sort of just dropped in there. They kind of felt way too casual. There was also very little explanation as to how or why things worked they ways they did. I eventually got the hang out it, but I would have liked a little bit more exposition. I think the authors were trying to avoid an information dump, which I think could have very easily happened (so props to them for avoiding that!), but they went too far in the other direction.
I also really liked the characters. Ash is filled with heat. She is a descendant of the fire god, but it’s more than that. She burns to brightly. Madoc was adorable. He’s fiercely protective and just wants to help his family survive. Speaking of his family, I loved his found family. Their dynamic was fantastic and I loved seeing them interact.
While I loved the characters, I think they could have been delved into a bit deeper. This book is definitely plot and world driven, which I enjoyed, but I wish the characters weren’t left behind so much. I think Ash and Madoc had so much potential and their wells as characters went so much deeper than what was shown. There could have been a great parallel between how Madoc views the world and how Ash views, instead of a something muddled that only came to fruition for like a page towards the end. I feel like their development could have been a lot deeper and their emotional state could have been explored more.
I also wasn’t the biggest fan of the romance. It went way too fast for me. There connection felt more like the beginnings of attraction, but it jumped right into something resembling a romance (it’s complicated haha). It could have been a great slow burn, it just moved at a really fast rate. Nevertheless, the two characters work together really well and their connection is striking.
The gladiator fighting was also something that I really liked. I mean, it’s gladiator fighting and the way it was written was brilliant.
Something else that I really liked was how confusing the plot was. Ash is trying to muddle her way through a mystery and the the clues were just as confusing to me as they were to her. I liked trying to figure things out along with her. It felt satisfying when things were revealed.
All in all, this book has an incredible world. There are plots that are hidden both to the main characters and to the reader, which I think makes for something really cool and really interesting. Ash and Madoc were strong main characters. The emotional development could have been stronger and the romance could have burned a bit slower for me, but I still enjoyed reading this book. It should make for a very interesting duology!
Set Fire To The Gods comes out August 4, 2020! You can add it on Goodreads and pre-order a copy in the meantime!
Thank you for reading!