SPFBO Review: The Fire Eye Refugee by Samuel Gately

36618050This one was a pretty good contender in the cover contest for this year. Because, I mean look at it. 😍

A spy must face her past or die in exile. 

As lanterns stream up towards the Fire Eye, a woman weaves through the crowd, eyes down. Kay is a fetch, a finder of lost children, and she’s been saddled with a case she couldn’t refuse. A child is missing among the refugees beyond the walls. Before she is found, Kay will face her past as an exile, the loyalties which divide her by heart and blood, and an enemy who would have his spy back on her leash or content himself to watch her hang. A killer has returned to the city, war looms, and, above it all, the Fire Eye hangs open, watching. 

There it was just above her. The light hit her eyes and burrowed deeper, filling her head with its song. She felt her body melt, become one with the perfect fire in the sky. Her dream, her savior. No one else understood the gift they’d been given. The fire she’d chased her whole life painted above, unafraid and beautiful.

This story takes place in the city of Celest, where the Fire Eye is best seen. It’s a massive phenomenon that is in the sky that looks… well, uh… like a fiery eye. The people of Celest, the Gol, hold festivals around the opening of the Fire Eye, which opens on the same day at the same time every year, and stays open for a week. The Gol send lanterns into it and what have you. It’s a big deal.

Outside the walls of Celest there are the refugees of Farrow, whose country was invaded and conquered by the country of Winden, with whom they have been warring for a while. They lost the latest war, and most of the survivors then fled to Celest. There is a fair bit of strife between the Gol and the Farrow, as racial tensions between them are always pretty high. They do not like each other, generally speaking. Even before the refugee crisis, mixed-blood people, or ‘wetbloods’ as they’re known, were pretty taboo. It’s up to the rulers of the Gol to decide whether to let the refugees in the city or to send them away, and various factions of the leadership structure of the city are for or against different ideas. There’s lots of political strife over the refugees. It basically comes down to the people who want them there for the economic growth that allowing them in will generate, and those who want to send them right back where they came from because hey fear that Winden will come for the Gol next, and sending the Farrow back will keep them occupied. That, and they just plain ol’ don’t like the Farrow, because skin color.

This story follows Kay, who is a fetch, among other things. A fetch is someone who finds missing children. She’s… sort of like a private detective, in a way. Kay is a pretty interesting character. She is of mixed-blood, and is an orphan. She lived in an orphanage in Ferris, the capital city of Farrow, until she was exiled. See, Kay has a… uh… a bit of pyromania problem. She starts fires, and it is, at times, a compulsion for her, and not necessarily something she just does just because fire is cool. When her pyromania got a bit out of hand in Farrow, she was exiled to Celest, where she has grown up, and learned to fend for herself and become good at what she does. Luckily for her, Celest is where the Fire Eye is, and looking at it is the only thing that really helps with the whole not burning everything in sight thing. Too bad it’s only there for a week every year…

Kay is given a case that she can’t refuse one day, to find a mixed-blood girl named Leah Jordene. As she searches for her, she uncovers all kinds of shady shenanigans are taking place behind the scenes in Gol in efforts to sway the vote on the refugee situation one way or the other.

This book was quite well written, with some lovely prose. I liked the dialogue as well. Kay doesn’t generally take too much crap from anyone, and she’ll tell someone off or drop some f-bombs if she feels like it, and I appreciated it, to be honest. Some of the people that Kay interacts with on a regular basis, like Abi, her employee, are interesting. Much of Kay’s dialog with Abi is quite informative, though it gets a bit infodumpy at times because it’s just a loooot of information to take in in a little bit of time. She also teams up with a Farrow man named Amos. He’s been helping her look for the mixed-blood girl, and seemed like a pretty cool guy. He’s got a bit of a backstory, and he’s got some scars to prove it, as he was a soldier in the war between Farrow and Winden.

I did find it a bit difficult to get really, really immersed in this one right at the very beginning, though I’d never actually consider it not a good book. Perhaps it just didn’t grab me. There’s quite a lot to take in right at first, but this is a rather short novel and so sticking with it is really easy, and sticking with it did pay off because I started really quite enjoying it around the halfway point.

The strife between the Gol and the Farrow was plotted out really well and was quite easy to imagine, as it is something that happens far too unfortunately frequently in our own world. It was a very believable situation to place the characters in.

The world wasn’t as fleshed out as I wanted. It obviously takes place all in one city (or in one city and then just outside of it, at times), but aside from it being a city, with a giant fiery eye above it, there wasn’t a lot of detail about the city itself or what it was like. There was some detail, definitely, but not tons. I got the feeling that this was more of a late 19th century sort of setting, though, and that was rather neat.

My biggest disappointment with this one was a rather forced and unnecessary-seeming romance just shoved in here. One minute Kay and the love interest are just working together, with perhaps some mild flirting going on between them, and the next minute they’re in bed together in what was actually kind of an awkward sex scene which ended with Kay rather creepily thinking about the Fire Eye and not the dude she’s in bed with. Then the next day it’s business as usual as if nothing happened, and the relationship between them largely stays exactly like nothing happened for the rest of the book. I was enjoying the book right up until this point and then this one scene threw me right off-kilter and I never got all the way back on-kilter, because I was expecting some sort of continuation of this romance or at the very least a change in their general relationship, and while I did get one paragraph of… something later on in the book, it wasn’t satisfying whatsoever.

The mystery itself however, did resolve itself in a satisfying way. Kay and company do in fact find out the deeper nitty-gritty of what is going on, and while it wasn’t a total surprise, it did resolve in a way that I wasn’t expecting. I hadn’t guessed what was going on, or anything, though it wasn’t overly difficult to guess the major players in the whole thing.

Anyways, all told I’d give this one a solid 7.5/10. It’s quite well written, and if so inclined, some people could definitely read it in a day. I think I might read the next book in the series someday, even just to see if there’s ever anything that comes out of that romance.

Hey, I know what I likes. 😀

You can see this book on goodreads here, and grab a copy of it here! 🙂

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