Wednesday, February 12, 2014
Review: Flame by Amy Kathleen Ryan
Author: Amy Kathleen Ryan
Rating: 4 Stars
I find I don't have very much to say about Flame. From the moment I put down my copies of both Glow and Spark, it was as if my fingers were possessed, desperately needing to type, to crow in glory, to shove this series into the hands of every unsuspecting bibliophile. After Flame, however, I remember sitting. Simply sitting, soaking up the lingering words in my mind. I was - and still am - very much shocked by the brilliance of this concluding installment. While I may not have much to regale about this novel - not without giving away spoilers, at any rate - Flame has been one of the few satisfying conclusions I've read in a very, very long time and I suspect it might remain that way for awhile to come.
Compared to its predecessors, Flame is a much slower novel than Glow or Spark were. And rightfully so. After the bitterness of violation, the anger of rebellion, the closed fist of anarchy, and the open strike of betrayal, these characters are exhausted. Kiernan and Waverly are now on the New Horizon, back under the influence of Anne Mather. Or are they? When Waverly meets an old doctor on board the New Horizon, she agrees to help him take down Anne Mather but, soon enough, she begins to question just who is the true enemy aboard the New Horizon. Meanwhile, Seth is - once again - a fugitive aboard a space ship, only this time it's the New Horizon. While he receives help from a small group of rebels aboard the New Horizon, his health is slowly deteriorating. All aboard on the same ships, friends and enemies alike, these teens don't know where - or who - to turn to. Despite having their parents back, they have been brainwashed by Mather and follow her blindly. Which means that, once again, Waverly, Kiernan, and Seth are alone. Only, this time, if they don't stop the evil aboard the New Horizon once and for all, they might not get another chance.
What makes Flame such a spectacular sequel is the fact that it stresses ideals such as redemption, friendship, and love. After writing such a bloodthirsty, violent series, Ryan comes back to these core values in a manner that never feels jarring but one that, rather, slips into the story line perfectly. Waverly and Kiernan, despite the differences they've shared, learn to set those aside and work together for the first time since their break-up. While they, along with Seth, try to infiltrate the New Horizon from within, though, they are no longer as convinced of Mather's cruelty as they once were. As they learn, Mather is not the only tyrant aboard the New Horizon. Escaped convicts from the prisons of the Empyrean have made it back to the New Horizon with the intent of wrecking havoc and Waverly's doctor has a following of adults who don't seem wholly trustworthy. Although these multiple villains may seem to overwhelm the plot, in reality they paint a picture of different kinds of evil. Mather has always been a villain with an extraordinary amount of depth and her gray matter is explored in even more detail within this installment. Although the other "villains" in this conclusion do not share the same degree of depth that Mather does, they nevertheless contribute to the slow, but constant, build-up to the climax of this tale.
As far as the plot goes, Flame is impeccable. It forces Waverly, Kiernan, and Seth to reach new heights as characters - areas from which they are able to look past the injustices done to them and the anger they feel. Ryan has truly made these teens transcend their barriers and the bumps they experience along the road are realistic. Additionally, this novel wraps up perfectly too. Ultimately, there are sacrifices that must be made and bittersweet separations as well, but I ended this novel utterly satisfied. While Flame is the most romantic installment to-date, its love stories never overwhelm the focus of the story. Although these romances remain minimal, they are heartfelt, equal, and true which I appreciated. Moreover, and perhaps best of all for me, is the fact that every loose thread is tied up, albeit not always in ways we want. Seth, Waverly, and Kiernan don't find the answers to all their questions, but they find enough to live by. Ryan has always been impeccably realistic, to the point of harshness, in this series and I loved that her stance on realism was never compromised in this finale.
Ever-so-slightly bittersweet, achingly romantic, heart-pounding action, and an influx of complex moral situations made this a conclusion to love. Amy Kathleen Ryan: write something else amazing! Quick!