Review: Firebug by Lish McBride

Saturday, September 20, 2014
Title: Firebug
Author: Lish McBride
Genre: Supernatural Fiction
Series: Firebug #1
Pages: 368
Published: Expected September 23, 2014
Source: Publisher via NetGalley
Rating: 3.5 out of 5

Ava can start fires with her mind . . . but is it a blessing or a curse?

Ava is a firebug—she can start fires with her mind. Which would all be well and good if she weren't caught in a deadly contract with the Coterie, a magical mafia. She's one of their main hit men . . . and she doesn't like it one bit. Not least because her mother's death was ordered by Venus—who is now her boss.

When Venus asks Ava to kill a family friend, Ava rebels. She knows very well that you can't say no to the Coterie and expect to get away with it, though, so she and her friends hit the road, trying desperately to think of a way out of the mess they find themselves in. Preferably keeping the murder to a minimum.

Reviewed by Danielle

I described Firebug to my husband as, "like Sookie Stackhouse, before the fairies, but well written and intentionally funny." World building wise, I’ll stand by that. There are vampires and weres and a supernatural war happening under the nose of average humans.The plot is more action driven, but there is a mystery and interesting politics. It made me remember why I used to love the supernatural genre. Unfortunately, it took a while to get there.

Firebug is set in the same world as Ms. McBride's other, popular series, and I think that's to the detriment of new fans. The world building is confusing and information on the supes is doled out in a spotty and inconsistent manner. The book almost lost me right off the bat by dropping us into lovey-dovey time with Ava and her boyfriend, and catty, girl-fighting with his best friend. This doesn’t represent the rest of the book, but I started off with such a bad taste, it was hard to invest at the beginning. Additionally, every time the plot would start to pick up, we’d be treated to an exposition filled flashback. I’m not sure that was the best way to deliver the world’s information, because I felt disconnected from the main story.

Areas where supernaturals live are either ruled by the Coterie, a sort of vampiric mafia, or a Council, which is probably in the Coterie’s pocket. Most supes have no choice but to work for the Coterie in exchange for magic to pass as human, protection, or to pay off family debts. Ava hates the Coterie, but she’s been drafted into service as a soldier for her mother’s sins. She serves as hitman and intimidator along with her BFFs, Ezra the werefox and Lock, the half dryad. Firebugs, like Ava, are rare and Venus, the head baddie, isn’t going to let her leave the fold without a fight.

This book has a lot of fun elements and I enjoyed it, but beyond the world building, I have reservations. Duncan is introduced as Cade, Ava’s guardian’s, foster father and Ava’s adopted grandfather. He’s been one of a handful of constants in her tumultuous life. Which makes it weird that she’s so ready to turn her back on him and mistrust him. Approaching the climax, she spends more time mad at him than Venus.

Speaking of the climax… It wasn’t all I wanted. It’s a big scene with a lot of action and supernatural powers flying all over the place, but the actual writing didn’t communicate that enough. Major events felt skipped over, take place off screen, or just didn’t carry enough emotional weight. Even Venus’ death had the wind taken out of its sails by Ava’s heavy reliance on Lock and his constant whispers of “cupcake” while his sort of girlfriend burns their boss alive. I found that a very strange stylistic choice.

Firebug hasn’t replaced the Croak-shaped hole in my heart like I was hoping it might, (snarky teenager in the death business with fire powers, can you blame me?) but it very well may respark my love of supernatural fiction. I’m hoping with world building out of the way, the next book can focus more on the present mysteries and less on the flashbacks.

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