It’s a sign of how hard up I am for good fantasy romance that I’m willing to overlook stuff that would normally make me abandon a romance novel. I really wanted to loveÂ A Promise of Fire, and I did like some aspects of it a lot, but there were some elements that I really didn’t care for at all. Will I read the sequel? Probably, when my hold finally comes up on the library’s digital collection. But that’s mostly because I really want romance novels in fantasy settings, not because this particular fantasy romance did it for me.
The worldbuilding is probably my favorite part ofÂ A Promise of Fire. The fantasy world is built on ancient Greek mythology and actually takes a lot of it from Greek myth wholecloth. The gods are the same ones we all learned about in school and the creatures are mostly familiar. It’s the way that Bouchet adapts the familiar into a magic-infused setting that works for me. The Magoi, magic users, draw their power from the ice plains in the north, while the Hoi Polloi, or non-magic-using regular people, toil under the Magoi nobility’s cruel ruling power.
Cat, our protagonist, is a Magoi, though she keeps her true identity and the extent of her power secret for as long as she can. Griffin, the warlord whose Hoi Polloi family has deposed the Magoi rulers of Sinta, discovers Cat’s ability to tell when someone is lying and abducts her so that she can help his family’s effort. For a kidnapper, though, Griffin and his little band of warriors are awfully nice.
And thus begins the stuff that got on my nerves. I get that Griffin kidnaps Cat for political purposes, and Cat, being a young loner, is absolutely not happy about this. I probably wouldn’t be either, but while I’m glad that Cat takes a long time to warm up to Griffin and his fellows, I thought she was downright obnoxious about half of the time. Her little asides in the text made me grind my teeth. If I had to read her thinking “EW GROSS”Â one more time while she attempted to deal with her growing attraction to Griffin, I was going to throw my Kindle across the room. She does grow, thankfully, though I did still find her somewhat abrasive at the end of the novel.
The romance is steamy, which is nice, but it’s also built pretty heavily on “You’re resisting but we’re meant to be together, and you’ll give in eventually if I press my manly body against yours often enough!” I get that that’s a common romance trope, and that it’s popular. It creeps me out, though, particularly when the heroine is literally telling the dude to get off of her and he refuses. Persistence can work in romances, but for god’s sake, I don’t want to read about a hero who’ll ignore what the woman he supposedly loves is telling him because he knows what’s best for them.
In general,Â A Promise of Fire is a decent fantasy romance. The created world is interesting, and I am interested to see where the plot is going to go in the series. But I can only recommend it with reservations; Cat’s abrasiveness and Griffin’s pushiness put a damper on my enjoyment of an otherwise good book.