Fire Lines – Book Review

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Title: Fire Lines
Author: Cara Thurlbourn
Release Date: 26th September 2017
Genre: YA Fantasy
Publisher: Bewick Press
Format: Paperback
Rating: 4.5 Stars
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Amazon Link


When your blood line awakens, how do you choose between family and freedom?

Émi’s father used to weave beautiful tales of life beyond the wall, but she never knew if they were true. Now, her father is gone and Émi has been banished to the Red Quarter, where she toils to support herself and her mother – obeying the rules, hiding secrets and suffering the cruelties of the council’s ruthless Cadets.

But when Émi turns seventeen, sparks fly – literally. Her blood line surges into life and she realises she has a talent for magick… a talent that could get her killed.

Émi makes her escape, beyond the wall and away from everything she’s ever known. In a world of watchers, elephant riders and sorcery, she must discover the truth about who she really is. But can the new Émi live up to her destiny?


An advanced copy of this book was provided to me digitally, for the purpose of an honest review, as part of the blog tour. This has not influenced my opinions, as stated in the following review.


It’s been a long time since I’ve felt this strongly about a fantasy novel, and I mean this in the best possible way. This book had me totally gripped right the way through, with an action packed plot and some really great character development. I was interested by the summary, but there is even more to love about this book than first meets the eye.

The world building in Fire Lines is interesting, because we are following the perspective of Émi, a person who has been isolated in a walled city her entire life, with only whispered stories of outside. This means that we learn about the world, and experience everything for the first time right along with the protagonist. I found this made the world feel more special and impressive, as the descriptions were entangled with the emotions of someone who has been kept in the dark. I also really liked the variety of settings that are visited in this book, and the different atmospheres that they had. It’s definitely something I’m looking forward to seeing more of in future books.

Fire Lines is very plot driven, with the story being very fast paced, taking place over only a couple of weeks. This kept me engaged in the story, and saw the pages flying by, but this did not hinder the character development in the slightest, with each of the main characters getting back story and development in a way that made me really care about them. In Fire Lines, there is a really great balance between the plot and the characters, that really gives the best of both worlds. The relationships between the characters were also something that I enjoyed reading about, and watching how they develop as new characters are introduced.

Émi is an incredibly strong and likeable female lead in that she is a survivor, she has not had an easy life but she keeps going, and I love that. At the start of the book she is working multiple jobs to pay rent and get by, supporting her mother at the same time. The are living in squalid conditions in a heavily controlled city where they are terrorized by frequent inspections and anti-magic propaganda is everywhere. She keeps working, she tries to keep her mother safe and she tries to do the right thing. I loved seeing her come to grips with her powers, and history while forging relationships with the characters over the course of the book.

There are a number of well-developed side characters that really add something to this story. There’s Tsam, Garrett and Alyssa, a group of young watchers, winged guardians tasked with getting Émi to safety. These three have a long history together and it shows in the dynamics of their relationships. Then there is Kole, a strong, stoic warrior and elephant rider. What I really liked about this book is how all the characters played off each other. Also I really appreciated that for most of the book there is only the barest hint of a romance plot line, by the end it’s starting to develop, but it still takes a back seat to the much more important mission. This is something I love to see, as I prefer slow burn romances that complement the plot, rather than overpowering it.

My only minor issue was that I wanted to see more of the villain. For most of the book he felt more like a looming but distant presence. I didn’t get to see much of his personality and wanted to see a little more development for his character. However since this is the first book in a series, there is time for this to be covered in future books.

All things considered this was a refreshing young adult fantasy read with some unique and interesting twists and turns that kept me gripped until the very last page. There is a lot to like about this book, with its expansive world building and interesting, layered characters. I really enjoyed it, and am really looking forward to seeing what’s in store for the characters in book two. This was a 4.5/5 star read for me. If you’re looking for a young adult fantasy novel with magic, adventure, and a strong female lead, then I would definitely recommend checking this out. 

About the Author

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Cara Thurlbourn writes children’s and young adult fiction. ‘Fire Lines’ is her first novel and it’s a story she’s been planning since she was fifteen years old.

Cara has a degree in English from the University of Nottingham and an MA in Publishing from Oxford Brookes University.

She lives in a tiny village in Suffolk and has worked in academic and educational publishing for nearly ten years. Cara blogs about her author journey and in November 2016 she crowdfunded her first children’s book. 10% of its profits are donated to animal rehoming charities.

Cara plans to write at least two more books in the Fire Lines series, as well as a young adult mystery series, and has lots more children’s stories waiting in the wings.

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