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Radiant Shadows


Arson - Estevan Vega With intriguing-sounding characters and a plot full of potential, my hopes were high for Arson. Where I found the characters to be less than compelling, and the plot's potential was never truly reached, I am walking away feeling slightly disappointed but hopeful for Arson's sequel, Ashes.Arson is a spinelessly pathetic protagonist. Having been belittled for most of his life by his ailing grandmother, he has very little self-confidence. He harbours guilt over his mother's death, due to his grandmother's insistence that it was his birth which caused her passing, and his fear of his ability causes him to distance himself from others his age. He is unable (or unwilling) to stand up for himself, letting others push him around and call him names like 'freak,' and he's constantly berating himself for being different. He spends the majority of Arson wallowing in self-pity, reliving a particularly traumatizing moment where his ability to create fire resulted in harming a little girl. If I had been able to relate to Arson in any way, I might have felt pity for his situation but I couldn't get over his whininess.I felt similarly about Emery. Having been disfigured by fire during a childhood accident, Emery chooses to wear a Michael Meyers-like mask to cover up her scars; so instead of people staring because of her disfigurement, they stare because of her "disgusting" mask (as her mother calls it). Her home life is dysfunctional - with her parents dealing with alcoholism, infidelity and divorce - and she spends most of her conversations with Arson complaining about it. If I had been better equipped to understand Emery and her choice to wear the mask, I might have felt more of a connection to her. But her strange behaviour and emotional instability ended up giving me reader's whiplash as I tried to make sense of her breakdowns.A lack of understanding is the root of my problems with Arson. Did Arson's grandmother also possess some sort of ability, or was she becoming senile in her old age? Had she always mistreated him, or was her emotional abuse the result of a more recent tragedy? Why was she so concerned with Arson being near water? If Arson has had his abilities his whole life, why did he wait until he was in his later teen years to begin to learn how to use it? What was the point of Arson's relationship with Mandy? Why did Emery insist on wearing her mask? I actually also found myself wondering why Arson had been written as a paranormal/fantasy novel, as the root of this novel is a contemporary coming of age story about two damaged teenagers who begin to heal after being brought together. It wasn't until the last ten percent of the story that we actually get to see Arson use his powers - and then Arson ends on a cliffhanger!But even with the issues I had with Arson, I still kind of enjoyed it. I liked watching Emery force Arson to interact with his community, and some of their moments together came across as completely genuine. I was fascinated by Arson's grandmother, which is why I think I'm so frustrated that her role was given such little explanation. I also waited in anticipation for Arson's powers to unleash themselves, only for it to happen just as the story was ending. With how Arson ended, I'm hopeful for it's sequel Ashes as I think the answers and excitement I was looking for with Arson will finally make an appearance.Find this review on my blog, Radiant Shadows!