Wicked Like a Wildfire (Hibiscus Daughter #1), by Lana Popović
Publish Date: August 15, 2017
Published by: Katherine Tegen Books
Genre: YA Fantasy
My Rating: ★★★☆☆ (3 out of 5 stars)
**I received this as an egalley from the publisher through Edelweiss in return for an honest review.**
All the women in Iris and Malina’s family have the unique magical ability or “gleam” to manipulate beauty. Iris sees flowers as fractals and turns her kaleidoscope visions into glasswork, while Malina interprets moods as music. But their mother has strict rules to keep their gifts a secret, even in their secluded sea-side town. Iris and Malina are not allowed to share their magic with anyone, and above all, they are forbidden from falling in love.
But when their mother is mysteriously attacked, the sisters will have to unearth the truth behind the quiet lives their mother has built for them. They will discover a wicked curse that haunts their family line—but will they find that the very magic that bonds them together is destined to tear them apart forever?
I was so excited to read this book, but I am not entirely sure it was what I was hoping for. I believe I came across it after reading The Secret of a Heart Note , which I absolutely loved, and thought it would be along similar lines, and while in some parts it was, for the most it was not. And what it was, was kind of disappointing.
While the writing style and descriptions are exquisite and beautiful, the plot felt a little all over the place at times, with a lot of false advertisements about what everything actually was in terms of the magic and reason for all the stuff that happens to Iris and Malina. Throughout the first two thirds of the novel, it’s just a bunch of clues piling up that don’t really seem to connect to one another, and then finally, at the two-thirds point, we get a full explanation. Only to have that be revealed to be false and that there is actually another explanation. Only for the ending to reveal that, nope, definitely not what you thought it was, guess again! It was just adding on one too many layers of mystery and magic that felt like they were only there for the plot-twist shock-factor than actually affecting the characters and their choices. And really, there were an awful lot of instances of “withheld information” because someone thought they were protecting someone else, when in reality their lies were just making everything worse than it had to be and leading to mistakes that could have been avoided if they had just explained things. I am getting really tired of that being a plot device in books.
The characters were interesting, and had good depth, but weren’t ones that I really felt any connection to in any way. As the narrator, Iris was very self-reflective so it was very easy to understand her, but at the same time she was completely oblivious about goings-on around her (particularly her own twin sister and how she was obviously in a relationship with their friend Nikoleta). The relationship between Iris and Malina, however, is what drives most of the story, and despite Iris’s blindness to Lina’s sexuality, it is still a strong one. But then you have other characters like Luka who, once I got used to him and understood who he was, did something that felt like a complete one-eighty to his personality and had me convinced someone was magically masquerading as him in a certain scene. But no, it was him and I felt utterly confused. Then there is the issue of Iris’s strained relationship with her mother, which is discussed often throughout the book but actually exists on the page for all of one scene. Otherwise, it is only mentioned second-hand, and for the longest time to me it felt like just a regular mother-daughter relationship where the daughter is just pushing her limits (only for it to turn out to have started with Jasmina, the mother, having sudden random bursts of unprovoked anger that were, again, only mentioned and never shown). I couldn’t understand why their relationship with their mother was apparently so awful for Iris and Malina, and even when the explanations started to come, I just didn’t really feel like anything Jasmina did justified her acting so awfully towards her daughters, nor did it ever feel realistic to me, possibly because I never really saw it actually on the page.
Sadly, I think the only thing for me that really made this book was the writing and the descriptions. I would have been fine with the plot up until the end of the epilogue, which kind of added one too many plot twists and ruined it for me. And the characters and the relationship between Iris and her mother just did not work for me in the overall spectrum of things. There was just something missing that made me annoyed and frustrated at not understanding the fundamental reason why they had such unfounded anger towards each other, and since it was such an integral part of the plot and character development, it affected the majority of the novel for me. Overall, a highly anticipated read that left me feeling a little bitter.
ARC August | Books Completed Toward Goal: 4/12