Billed as The Outsiders meets the Illiad, I can definitely see elements of both in A Thousand Fires. But this story and the writing just doesn’t resonate with me like either of those pieces. Set in modern day San Francisco, the story is about one girl’s desire to enact revenge on the gangs that have taken a part of her family away.
Valerie is bent on joining the Wars after her brother was struck down in the crossfire two years ago. Against her parents’ wishes, she drops out of high school and accepts the offer to join the splinter gang, The Stags. The Red Bridge War started when a collection of young techies banded together to consolidate power and ideas, but as their money and influence grew, another group called The Boars stepped forward to oppose the Herons. The Stags is a gang that ventured off from the two after much history and political maneuvering.
Jax is the attractive and magnetic leader of The Stags. Valerie is drawn to him but thinks she must stay true to her ex-boyfriend who has now joined The Herons, but may still keep up contact. Jax sees it as his mission to expose the truth about the Herons to the world, the fact that they have manipulated real estate deals to change the landscape of the city. He says that he will do it through peaceful means but the players don’t always play by the rules.
Part morality play and part ode to teenage rebellion, I just felt like the book lacked in so many ways. There was a lot of waiting around in the gang’s house in the plot and much of the exposition was done through info drops. Another thing I found frustrating was that several of the minor character just aren’t fleshed out very well and as the story progresses they have an impact on the book but those events don’t have the weight they should have because of the lack of characterization.
I was excited about the premise and the setting to begin with, and was even allowing to suspend disbelief for many things… but this one just fell flat for me.
2.5 out of 5 stars.
Thank you to NetGalley, Tor Teen, and the author for an advanced copy for review.